List of languages in the Eurovision Song Contest
The following is a list of languages used in the Eurovision Song Contest since its inception in 1956, including songs (as) performed in finals and, since 2004, semi-finals.
The rules concerning the language of the entries have been changed several times. In the past, the Contest's organisers have sometimes compelled countries to only sing in their own national languages, but since 1999 no such restriction has existed.
From 1956 until 1965, there was no rule restricting the language(s) in which the songs could be sung. For example, in the 1965 Contest, Ingvar Wixell of Sweden sang his song in English. However, in 1965, a rule was imposed that a song must be performed in one of the official languages of the country participating. For seven years, this new language policy remained in place until 1973 when it was officially revoked from the official rules of the Eurovision Song Contest.
From 1973 to 1976 inclusive, participants were allowed to enter songs in any language. Several winners took advantage of this, with songs in English by countries where other languages are spoken, this included ABBA's Waterloo in 1974 for Sweden and Teach-In's Ding-a-dong for the Netherlands in 1975.
In 1977, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the Contest's organisers, reimposed the national language restriction. However, Germany and Belgium were given a special dispensation to use English, as their national song selection procedures were already too advanced to change. During the language rule, the only countries which were allowed to sing in English were Ireland, Malta and the United Kingdom as English is an official language in those countries. The restriction was imposed from 1977 to 1998.
From 1999 onward, a free choice of language was again allowed. Since then, several countries have chosen songs that mixed languages, often English and their national language. Prior to that, songs such as Croatia's "Don't Ever Cry" (1993), Austria's "One Step" and Bosnia and Herzegovina's "Goodbye" (1997) had a title and one line of the song in a non-native language. In 1994 Poland caused a scandal when Edyta Górniak broke the rules by singing her song in English during the dress rehearsal (which is shown to the juries who selected the winner). Only six countries demanded that Poland should be disqualified, and, with the rules requiring at least 13 countries to complain, the proposed removal did not occur.
Since 2000 some songs have used fictional or non-existent languages: the Belgian entries in 2003 ("Sanomi") and 2008 ("O Julissi") were entirely in fictional languages. In 2006 the Dutch entry, "Amambanda", was sung partly in English and partly in a fictional language.
The entry which used the most languages was "It's Just a Game", sung by the Bendik Singers for Norway in 1973. It was performed in English and French, with some lyrics in Spanish, Italian, Dutch, German, Irish, Serbo-Croatian, Hebrew, Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian. In 2012 Bulgaria was represented by the song "Love Unlimited" sung by Sofi Marinova, which mainly had lyrics in Bulgarian, but with phrases in Turkish, Greek, Spanish, Serbo-Croatian, French, Romani, Italian, Azerbaijani, Arabic and English. 1969 Yugoslav entry "Pozdrav svijetu" was mainly sung in Croatian, but also had phrases in Spanish, German, French, English, Dutch, Italian, Russian and Finnish.
On the other hand, as of 2021, there are only ten countries whose representatives have performed all their songs at least partially in an official, regional or national language: Andorra, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco and Morocco. In addition, former countries Serbia and Montenegro, Yugoslavia, and current countries Australia, Ireland, Malta and the United Kingdom, have only been represented by songs fully in an official language.
French legislator François-Michel Gonnot criticised French television and launched an official complaint in the French Parliament, as the song which represented France in 2008, "Divine", was sung in English. A similar incident occurred again in 2014, when Spanish artist Ruth Lorenzo was criticised by the Royal Spanish Academy after the Spanish national selection for singing her entry, Dancing in the Rain, with some lyrics in English.
Languages and their first appearance
Languages are fully counted below when they are used in at least an entire verse or chorus of a song. First brief uses of a language are also noted.
Winners by language
Between 1966 and 1972, and again between 1977 and 1998, countries were only permitted to perform in their own language; see the main Eurovision Song Contest article.
Since the rule change, only three songs in non-English languages have won: Serbia's "Molitva" in 2007 (Serbian), Portugal's "Amar pelos dois" in 2017 (Portuguese), and Italy's "Zitti e buoni" in 2021 (Italian). Also, Ukraine's winning entries in 2004 and 2016 combined lyrics in English with Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar, respectively.
In 2017 "Amar pelos dois" became the first Portuguese-language song to win the contest, the first winner since 2007 to both be in a language that had never produced a winning song before and be entirely in a language other than English. Among all Eurovision winning entries, only Ukraine's were performed in more than one language.
2021 was the first year since 1995, and the first since the rules were changed to allow the use of any language, that the top three songs were all sung in a non-English language: Italian (first) and French (second and third).
|33||English||1967, 1969, 1970, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004,[N 2] 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016,[N 3] 2018,[N 4] 2019||United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Turkey, Ukraine, Greece, Finland, Russia, Norway, Germany, Azerbaijan, Austria, Israel|
|14||French||1956, 1958, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1977, 1983, 1986, 1988||Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, Monaco, Belgium|
|3||Dutch||1957, 1959, 1969||Netherlands|
|Hebrew||1978, 1979, 1998||Israel|
|Italian||1964, 1990, 2021||Italy|
|2||German||1966, 1982||Austria, Germany|
|Serbo-Croatian[N 5]||1989||Yugoslavia[N 5]|
|Ukrainian||2004[N 2]||Ukraine[N 2]|
|Crimean Tatar||2016[N 3]||Ukraine[N 3]|
Entries in imaginary languages
Three times in the history of the contest, songs have been sung, wholly or partially, in imaginary languages.
Performances with sign languages
Some performances have included phrases in sign languages on stage.
|2005||Latvia||Latvian Sign Language||Walters & Kazha||"The War Is Not Over"|||
|2006||Poland||Polish Sign Language||Ich Troje||"Follow My Heart"|||
|2011||Lithuania||Lithuanian Sign Language||Evelina Sašenko||"C'est ma vie"|||
|2015||Serbia||Yugoslav Sign Language||Bojana Stamenov||"Beauty Never Lies"|||
|2019||France||French Sign Language||Bilal Hassani||"Roi"|||
Notes and references
- Serbo-Croatian is the name given to the pluricentric language to which Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian and Montenegrin belong. At the time of Yugoslavia's existence there was little distinction between the four standard varieties: the term Croatian came into use during the 1970s; Serbian and Bosnian evolved politically in the 1990s, and Montenegrin in the 2000s (see Serbo-Croatian for more details). Varying sources outline the language in which Yugoslav entries were performed differently, and another view is that the first entry performed by an artist from each Yugoslav constituent republic can be considered the first for their respective languages: "Neke davne zvezde" for Serbian in 1961, "Brodovi" for Croatian in 1963, "Život je sklopio krug" for Bosnian in 1964, and "Džuli" for Montenegrin in 1983.
- This song was partially sung in Ukrainian.
- This song was partially sung in Crimean Tatar.
- This song contained phrases in Hebrew and Japanese.
- Yugoslavia's 1989 winner "Rock Me" is alternatively considered to have been performed in Croatian.
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