The Eurovision festival is one of the most celebrated events in the month of May in all of Europe (as well as in Israel and Australia). The well-known contest gathers together all the European countries for a musical competition in which each nation sends a representative who will embody a series of values and will transmit a specific aesthetic. Of course, each of the participants has a different idea of how to reflect these aspects and, in the end, the night is full of performances of all kinds, with endless proposals with more or less colour and, obviously, people who want to celebrate music, diversity and fellowship among countries. Since it couldn’t be any other way, an event with these characteristics, is associated with the presence of a wide variety of languages, and, although the main languages of the contest are English and French, it is transmitted to each of the participating countries in their respective languages. This also goes for the spoken parts from each country during the voting process and, of course, the language into which the lyrics of each of the candidate songs vying for the victory has been written.

Due to all of this, Eurovision attracts a high interest for languages and for interlinguistic mediation, which goes hand and hand with the perception had about the linguistic capacities of each country. In Spain, for example, there is already a certain mocking culture in which the spectators see the participation of the Spanish jury communicating their votes as an especially relevant moment, and we even have a certain national and international fame for not mastering the English language. Thus, moments when our team have communicated votes and have felt somewhat exposed have gone down in history, either due to a lack of knowledge or being nervous while live on television. One of the most well-known greetings we have given was “From Granada of la Alhambra” in Eurovision 2019, which many compared with the already iconic Spanglish gaffe of “relaxing cup of café con leche en la Plaza Mayor”.

However, if there is interlinguistic activity that stands out during the broadcast, that is the interpretation. As we said before, the programme is broadcast live for each country and, therefore, it is common to have simultaneous interpretation services to know what the presenters, singers, jury, etc. are saying. The mastery of English is not assumed at any time, so everything possible is done to bring the festival to all kinds of spectators. However, not all the organisations of the different countries are as educated on this subject and, consequently, not all of them allocate the same budget to cover this need. For example, in Eurovision 2013, Spain caused a controversy when they did without interpretation services and left the programme’s famous commentator, José María Íñigo, to be responsible. Specifically, his lack of preparation for this task became painfully clear during Germany’s voting segment, when the member of the jury made a mistake and gave points to Denmark when they were really meant for Norway. He started to apologise and J.M. Íñigo, who had stopped “interpreting” for a few seconds, asked out loud what had happened and why he was apologising. You can see this moment in the following link (03:01:17). The commentator had correctly conveyed parts of the event (prepared scripts distributed to be translated) and, in general, described everything that happened. However, we can see that the lack of trained professional interpreters causes significant information to be lost which does not let all spectators enjoy the event equally. In fact, the Asociación de Intérpretes de Conferencia de España (Association of Conference Interpreters of Spain) issued a statement in which they condemned and criticised this decision made by RTVE and summarised other mistakes that the Spanish presenter had made. Since then, in the interpretation cabins of the festival we can hear more precise translations of the speeches made in which the whole content of the message is conveyed.

In fact, these efforts made to bring Eurovision to all kinds of languages have increased over time. One of the most recent and applauded additions was the inclusion of a sign language interpretation service by the country of Estonia. In 2015, the Swedish sign language interpreter Tommy Krångh became famous for his exuberant interpretation of the representative song and, since then, sign language interpretation started to have a stronger presence in Eurovision, whereas before it had only appeared on occasion. This is why, for this year’s edition, the video platform EER has created a page in which 20 professionals interpret each of the Eurovision 2021 songs into sign language. A praiseworthy task!

All in all, Eurovision is a multicultural and plurilingual celebration that needs to transmit information in a large number of languages in the context of artistic creation and music. This task is complex and requires able professionals who are capable of transmitting all the content in a precise manner and with the requirements imposed by a live event, which is why it is necessary to invest in quality linguistic services, a trend that we see more of every year of the festival and each time it is being made more inclusive.

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