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English song dominance on the decline at Eurovision 2018

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English song dominance on the decline at Eurovision 2018

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It’s the song contest that likes to celebrate diversity but which has the awkward distinction of being almost monolingual.

Only four Eurovision entries in Ukraine last year were sung in a language other than English.

But, the times, are they a-changin’?

This year 13 entries have ditched English for another tongue — the highest number for five years.

So far we’ve had Albania singing in Albanian, a touch of Spanish in Cyprus’ entry and Estonia harmonising in Italian.

When the song contest first started in the 1950s, countries could only enter songs in their official language.

The policy was abandoned in 1999, but instead of heralding a golden age of diversity, it’s seen the majority of songs being sung in English.

Some say principles of the contest — cultural and linguistic diversity — have been abandoned for the sake of globalisation.

But Norway’s entrant, Alexander Rybak, who won the contest back in 2009, told Euronews he thinks it’s the right policy in Lisbon.

The singer, part of a new generation of Eurovision winners who grew up watching an event where the majority of entrants performed in English, believes it’s good to give countries the freedom to choose.

Many artists and producers agree, but the truth is freedom to choose has actually seen a narrowing of diversity.

Yanna Terzi is Greece’s representative at Eurovision. Her song was performed entirely in Greek but it failed to make the final.

She told Euronews the national broadcaster, ERT, had made the decision to send a song in Greek.

“We accepted it because Greece hasn't sent a real Greek song in years so I think it was the right decision to do it this year," she said.

Tiago David, a digital journalist for SAPO, one the largest news content providers in Portugal, said: "I think each country should send its song as it wishes. I think Portugal usually makes the right option by sending songs in Portuguese, because people expect that and the truth is that we do have some good Portuguese music."

But, he added, other options could also be exploited.

"We do live in a globalised world and sending a song that is not in Portuguese should not be seen as something bad," he told Euronews.

Last year's winner, Portugal, sent a ballad in Portuguese, while the winner from 2016, Ukraine, sang in Crimean Tatar.

But, from 2008 to 2015 all winners sang in English.

Serbia won after singing in its national language in 2007, but we must go back to 1998 — when the rule about singing in a country’s official language still applied — to find another winner singing in a tongue other than English: Israel.