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Lingua franca: why English and not Spanish in Eurovision?

The Oxford Dictionary of English defines the term lingua franca as a language that is adopted as a common language between speakers whose native languages are different. In the times we happen to be living this role has been undertaken by the English language in many fields: Science, Politics, Medicine, or Cinema, and it has been universally accepted as such.

English remains and is expected to remain the lingua franca for a while. As such it has become a successful and profitable tool in many businesses, music among them. Many (not all) music stars have met with international success when singing in English. ABBA did not gather worldwide attention with the version of Waterloo in their native Swedish. Julio Iglesias had his breakthrough with the album 1100 Bel Air Place, mostly in English. Céline Dion was put under the international spotlight with Beauty and the Beast. And the list goes on…

Yes, English is strong in the music industry. It opens doors and everyone should understand it. That is why I was struck by the outraged reaction of different personalities and institutions in Spain when Ruth Lorenzo and Barei represented Spain with songs whose lyrics were mostly (completely in the latter case) in English. Especially disproportionate was the statement by the Director of the Royal Spanish Academy, Mr. Darío Villanueva, regarding Barei’s bid. Complejo de inferioridad y papanatismo (inferiority complex and gullibility) he said of having and entry in English for Spain. Ruth Lorenzo did also have her share of criticism from the Academy in 2014.

Royal Spanish Academy - Picture: rae.es

Royal Spanish Academy – Picture: rae.es

I do not wish to question the authority of the institution in the safekeeping of the Spanish Language, but going as far as to insult the whole Spanish entry in those terms went beyond that duty. Spain might be expected to be represented in Spanish, true, but not having that is no tragedy, sir. If a song works well in English, why keep it from the public? Or better yet, why translate it?

Besides, Barei had already worked in English before, so having her representing Spain in English should not be that astonishing and certainly not a scandal. Those who scolded her had very little idea about her previous work.

English is broadly used by Spaniards in music and other arts. Why this outrage specifically towards the Spanish Eurovision entry? I have never read any complaints about Spanish movie directors working with English-speaking actors and directing and producing movies in English. Alejandro Amenábar, Juan Antonio Bayona or Jaume Collet-Serra have directed movie masterpieces in English. Should they be belittled like Barei was just because they did not direct those movies in Spanish…? Anybody…?

Mr. Julio Iglesias was never whacked because of his hits in English. True, he did sing in both, Spanish and English, but based on the line of thinking that drives the critics against Spain’s Eurovision entries in English he should be severely punished for having committed the sacrilege of singing in a language other than Spanish.

One thing remains clear: the Eurovision Song Contest inflames the spirit, even of those who are expected to keep some refinement. Not only the fans of the Contest are passionate about it. It must not be that old-fashioned… But that’s another story…

Regardless of passions, taste or preferences, the English language works quite well, and songs in English in the Eurovision Song Contest are more likely to gather the attention of an audience that grows every year. That is supported by fact.

I seriously suggest that we pay more attention to the quality of the entry, which is the point of the competition, and not to the language it is presented in, whether is English, Spanish, Dutch or an imaginary one.

All that being said, I still prefer Nessun grado di separazione over No Degree of Separation (I still love you, Francesca!)

Have a good one!

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