Every year, on the second Saturday of May, the world is graced with a delightful evening of song, dance and outlandish costumes from across Europe (and Australia). We get to see a celebration of culture from a patchwork continent of unique national identities. Whilst that is the case, there is still a long-held belief that singing in English will benefit the country’s performance in the final voting.
This theory certainly did not hold up in last year’s competition, Eurovision Song Contest 2021, for the two countries where English is an official language: Ireland failed to get further than the semi-finals and the United Kingdom scored a measly, *checks notes*, nil points. The great successes of the night came from acts singing in their native languages– four out of the top 5 countries who topped the leader board, performed songs in a language other than English:
- Italy: Mäneskin – Zitti e Buoni
- France: Barbara Pravi – Voilà
- Switzerland – Gjon’s Tears – Tout L’univers
- Iceland: Daði & Gagnamagnið – 10 Years
- Ukraine: Go_A – Shum
The 2021 victors have found staggering success and international fame since their time on Eurovision – appearances on US late-night talk shows, headlining the O2 Arena in London and performing at Coachella. Clearly, singing in their native-Italian did not hold them back.
They are not the only acts to make an impression on Eurovision viewers with a non-English song. One of the most iconic ESC performances was Ukraine’s 2007 entry: Dancing Lasha Tumbai by Verka Sedurchka. The lyrics were a mix of German, Ukrainian, Russian and English. As well as being an upbeat and catchy number, it was the metallic costumes and exaggerated dance moves that are so ingrained in our collective minds.
In past Eurovision years, many countries did not have the option to sing in English as a “language rule was enforced in the years 1965-1973 and again in 1977: “Entries must be performed in one of the official languages of the participating country”. Thankfully, this rule was abolished in 1978, and countries could even choose to sing in languages other than English or their own.
I believe that Eurovision Song Contest 2022 is going to be another unforgettable event, filled with culture, language, glitter and smoke machines. Let’s see how our foreign-language songs fare this year, will they come out on top again?
Mairi Maclean, Translation Project Manager
 Excluding 2020