// Eurovision 2012: Semifinal one review//

Hello. I decided to review Eurovision 2012 here. Semifinal 1 took place yesterday and here are my thoughts about it.

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1 · Montenegro · All I was thinking was “seriously?!”. What a way to start Eurovision 2012! Easily the worst performance of the night and nobody else had even performed yet at the time. I doubt it has accumulated more than 5 points in all honesty. Loved the part where he forgot the words though. There is justice. 0/10

2 · Iceland · A bit patchy at first but they sang it well in general. Jónsi did well but was obviously much weaker (vocally and judging by other things, like stage presence, confidence) than Greta, who was superb. Iceland really does have amazing females to send to Eurovision (Hera, Yohanna and now Greta). The performance was missing something, can’t put a finger on what exactly though. 9.5/10

3 · Greece · One of Russian commentators said that she reminded him of Kalomira. Puh-lease. Kalomira was WAY better. Elefteria lacked this spark greek/cypriot representatives usually have (even Ivi did!). But the song obviously appealed to Europe, plus I quite liked the performance as well, so I’m not in a position to moan. 8/10

4 · Latvia · Oh dear. My first thought was literally “Oh dear, class of ’78 reunion”. The whole thing was ridiculous and not even in a good way. The song itself is pretentious and not even that good. Probably literally the first melody composer could think of with a lyricist writing cheesy clichéd lazy man’s lyrics altered to fit Eurovision (à la Lithuania 2006 or Iceland 2007). The performance definitely did not add anything to the song at all as well, since it was basically just some 5 random girls walking around on stage waving Anmary and silently telling her how amazing she allegedly is. 2/10

5 · Albania · I didn’t even have words to describe how incredible Rona was last night until today. Holy mother of Christ. Now that the initial effect wore off, I can say that she was stunning. Everything about her was too. The hair, the dress, the staging. I don’t even mention flawless vocals, TONNES of emotion and unsurpassed professionalism. Got my only vote of the night as well. No way it wasn’t qualifying now. The public reaction pretty much confirmed it. Even my mum, who was awake for the first 10 performances said she wanted to see this song win. So disappointed to see it get drawn third though. Oh well, at least she’s on after Compact Disco and not Engelbert. 10/10

6 · Romania · It was a legit car crash. If the vocalist did slightly worse then I would’ve been very surprised to see it qualify actually. Something went wrong around the middle of the performance and it all quickly started to go downhill. Vocals were awful. She looked very scared, at least from where I was sitting. I also think it’s bad that I can’t remember what was happening during the performance. 5/10

7 · Switzerland · Here we have your usual rock/pop song altered to fit Eurovision. No surprise it couldn’t appeal to Europe – the message was way too forced and, let’s be frank, this type of song doesn’t do too well at Eurovision, especially with zero hype behind it. Vocally I found the performance very good but it needed something more. 7/10

8 · Belgium · I was worried it could get Tom Dice’d into the Final for a second. But then after a minute of seeing Iris perform it wasn’t even a remote possibility. She was way too awkward (and not in good Meyer-Landrut way), vocals were very shaky, she looked scary and frankly the song started to get incredibly boring after a couple of minutes. 5/10

9 · Finland · Even though vocally Pernilla wasn’t the best, she was perfect in every other aspect. Stage presence, conveying emotion, confidence plus she did not even have a single moment of weakness in her performance. I loved how the light played with her dress when the camera showed the whole outfit with the train. The song was always not going to qualify because too many people just don’t get it, or don’t want to get it. It’s a tradition now. Whenever I deem Finland to be one of my favourite songs pre-contest, it’s doomed to stay in the Semifinal (see Kuunkuiskaajat). 10/10

10 · Israel · One of my favourites pre-contest too. Only I found the performance very weak. The whole thing was too messy and awkward (I’m talking about that couple that had “I’m so nervous/scared” almost literally written all over their faces). It seems Israel has got a rough patch now with two fails in a row. If it’s not broken – don’t fix it (meaning: continue sending solo males or females with ballads). 7/10

11 · San Marino · It was very good. At least vocally. Such a big guilty pleasure for me. Hey, Anmary, learn from Valentina, she knows how to do it! Loved that incredibly awkward old pilot who was a part of the entourage. 8/10

12 · Cyprus · I hoped Ivi would sound good live. Surprisingly, it didn’t even bother me much because I could feel it doesn’t bother Ivi herself. And it showed. She was confident, energetic, quirky – everything a representative from Greece usually has (except for Elefteria, as stated above). Loved the part where 4 (or 5? can’t remember) girls took Ivi from the book prep. You could almost imagine her say “I don’t need a ma-a-ahn!”. The staging was poor though. From the rehearsals pics I saw I thought that they somehow did this thing with real books, using some kind of trick that can keep people from falling from it. And the books were actually glued together or something. What a disappointment. 9/10

13 · Denmark · As much as I moan that this song is average and not interesting enough, Soluna’s performance always changes everything. She is an insanely good performer. Anyone who saw her sing would think that singing is actually a piece of cake because she does it so effortlessly and so easily. I’m a bit diappointed that they didn’t change the horrible staging from Dansk Melodi Grand Prix though. At least they got rid of the big sofa and replaced it with a smaller one. 9/10

14 · Russia · Insane public reaction. Everyone was loving it, including me. The intro was a bit off but then they got into the main track so the flaws were already forgotten about. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Russian Eurovision representative create so much hype in here. The sprite commercial is played literally in every ad-break, Eurovision updates are in every newsblock you can think of, lots of ‘Buranovskiye Babushki – the real story’ documentaries get aired on every TV channel. I don’t know what would even happen if Russia won. 9/10

15 · Hungary · The only qualification I did not expect. I’m still in shock. I guess the late draw played its small part here, because there is no way Compact Disco finished anywhere but 9th or most likely 10th. As for the performance, I can’t get over those weird hand movements the vocalist did at the beginning. Looked weird, but I guess every performer has their own ‘things’. Being drawn second in the Final is not a good fate. Looks like it’s going to be another bottom 10 finish for Hungary. 8/10

16 · Austria · What would you do if your headwear fell from your head during the performance? Well, I certainly would not try to catch it. If it fell – it fell, if the hair slightly blocks your sight – do not fix it (the latter is probably my biggest pet peeve in existence). Small things like that do matter. As for the actual performance, I couldn’t really tell what was happening. One moment they are in one end of the stage, at another moment they are already somewhere else. I remember the glow-in-the-dark effect which could’ve been done better though (see Danny with ‘Amazing’). 6/10

17 · Moldova · Weird hand movements. Again. I don’t get that part of the routine either. It just looks weird. But overall the performance was very good and I definitely see the appeal, even if I already got incredibly bored of the actual song. 8.5/10

18 · Ireland · Loved it. Just loved it. The twins weren’t acting as crazy as last year, which was a nice strategical move – showing they matured. Even though back vocalists did all the heavy lifting, hearing Jedward sing wasn’t such a bad experience. Loved the fountain in the background, couldn’t take my eyes off it. Prayed for them to get into it ‘Manboy’-style but them just jumping there at the end was very satisfying as well. 9/10

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My ranking of the performances (10 qualifiers in bold):

01 Albania 10/10
02 Finland 10/10
03 Iceland 9.5/10
04 Denmark 9/10
05 Ireland 9/10
06 Cyprus 9/10
07 Russia 9/10
08 Moldova 8.5/10
09 San Marino 8/10
10 Greece 8/10
11 Hungary 8/10
12 Switzerland 7/10
13 Israel 7/10
14 Austria 6/10
15 Romania 5/10
16 Belgium 5/10
17 Latvia 2/10
18 Montenegro 0/10

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First of all, the presenters are awful. Even though I could barely hear them talk because of dumb Russian spokespeople talking over them, it was still clear the three of them felt pretty uncomfortable and on the verge of panic (that pretty chick aside). I don’t even mention the terrible French. The stage was a bit too small, especially compared to ESC 2009 and 2011. I also did not like how they kept showing random people from the crowd DURING the performance. Like, are you kidding me? Do that in breaks between performances!

So I predicted 9/10 qualifiers correctly in both pre-contest and post-performances/pre-results stages (tricky Hungary!). Also, you never announce that Moldova and Romania qualified next to each other. NEVER! As well as Cyprus and Greece. Ha. When there was only 3 spots left, it was painfully obvious to EVERYONE that Russia, Greece and Ireland will be the countries filling them. Not an exciting move at all. The whole golden envelope thing was not needed at all. It felt like Jedward were chosen as a wildcard or something.

Although organisators did a nice job with arena lights showing flags of performing countries (I didn’t even notice it until Hungary went to perform haha), the postcards are boring.

http://polyglotinthemaking.com/eurovision-2012-semi-1/

// Russian language on American Television//

Read about examples of Russian being spoken in American scripted TV shows here.

(R.I.P. In Plain Sight :’( )

// Interesting languages. Part 2 - Rest of the world//

Interesting languages. Part 1: Europe

Moving on to the rest of the world… 

Part 2: Read here

Xhosa

Xhosa is famous around the globe for its three clicking sounds. I tried for DAYS to learn how to pronounce them and never succeeded even once. If you want a real challenge then learning to pronounce the alphabet correctly is already a big one. Being also a tonal language Xhosa is even more difficult to master. There’s also this one small thing I found interesting. Some words, like months or days of the week, start with ‘i’ or ‘u’. ‘iMeyi’ = May; ‘uAgasti’ = August. Reminiscent of ‘uTorrent’ (it’s supposed to be a Greek μ though but I’ll let it slide) and ‘iTunes’. Most likely it’s just a coincidence but a very interesting one nonetheless!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31zzMb3U0iY

Spanish

Some may think it’s an odd inclusion but it’s really not. In Mexico people don’t speak same Spanish as Chileans, for example. Same for every other country which official language is Español, like Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, etc. Although from my experience the difference between Spanish of two South American countries is not as significant as of, say, Spain and Mexico. I have an embarrassing (not for me though) story about that actually. I know a girl who is a Spanish teacher (she’s Russian and learned Spanish at University). Well, as a reply to my simple question “Which Spanish are you teaching?” I got a slight pause and signs of confusion, along with a “…Classical Spanish” response. I didn’t say anything back and thought she was talking about Peninsular Spanish (her being European too and all…). But one would assume that a person learning Spanish would know the difference. Apparently not everybody.

Tagalog

The official language of The Philippines with around 24 million native speakers. Despite the fact that pronunciation and reading are fairly easy to master, its Austronesian vocabulary is tricky. You learn it almost from scratch, although a lot of loanwords came from Spanish and English and they are used in spoken language quite a lot.

Japanese

Spoken by over 120 million people, it’s certainly one of the most popular languages to learn in the world. Japanese pop culture, language and cuisine have become a global phenomena. Millions of people are obsessed with anime, manga, Japanese films and TV shows. If you’re not too young you should remember Pokémon (although still on air, it’s not as popular as around 10 years ago). Literally everyone I knew loved that show, including myself. In the case of Japan, for some unknown to me reason its pop culture is extremely addictive and it makes people want to learn Japanese. I personally know a few of those people actually. Anyway, Japanese is the whole package. Fantastic writing system, sounds, elegance of intonation and pronunciation. Perfect language to start with actually.

Even though I love practically all of the languages I know or heard of, these are the ones I find to be more interesting than the others. If you have comments or anything to add, don’t hesitate to do so.

// Interesting languages. Part 1 - Europe//

http://polyglotinthemaking.com/

I believe that you can divide all languages into two basic categories: difficult and very difficult to learn. An ‘interesting’ language, in my opinion, isn’t necessarily one that is harder than the others (although that’s very often the case). It must have something unique to make it stand out. Although practically every (non-planned/constructed) language has its own style, signature, some just draw attention to themselves better.

I wanted to write a few words about the most interesting, exciting languages of the world and explain why I think like that. This is Part 1 - European languages.

Hungarian

To learn this fascinating languageis certainly a challenge. Therefore it’s rather popular among linguists and polyglots. Vocabulary is very different from other European languages and thus making it harder to master. But it’s a combination of vocabulary and grammar that helps ‘magyar’ (I wouldn’t even guess correctly that it’s ‘Hungarian’ in Hungarian had I not already known that) so appealling. There’s nothing better than a good challenge, isn’t there? Here is a random example of spoken hungarian.

Danish

My personal favourite. Many people consider it one of the most difficult world languages to learn, and I would agree. Danish has these clever things called glottal stops which in the spoken language are nearly undetectable to an unexperienced ear. They single-handedly make danish extremely difficult to learn. Not that bi-/tri-/polyglots tend to prefer safer options anyway… Try saying “Rødgrød med fløde” (“red pudding with cream”). It’s not as easy as it might seem. I got the hang of this phrase after not less than a couple of weeks!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQkvqJJvR9U

Here’s how you actually make this treat, if anybody is interested! And to come back to my earlier post about music in language learning… Listening to Danish music actually helped me a lot, perhaps it will help you too if you are considering learning this wonderful language.

Turkish

Having passed the learn-to-read / pronunciation stage, one may think that it was suspiciously easy to get gist of pronunciation. And they would be right, but the easy part just stops right there. Memorising vocabulary is hard unless you already know of the Turkic languages. But the main things that identify Turkish and make it stand out from other languages would be vowel harmony and agglutination. The longest word in Turkish is formed exactly by adding siffixes, one by one. “Muvaffakiyetsizleştiricileştiriveremeyebileceklerimizdenmişsinizcesine”. It meansAs though you are from those whom we may not be able to easily make into a maker of unsuccessful ones.” Turkish is really rather melodic, isn’t it?

Irish

As well as pretty much all Celtic languages, Irish is incredibly difficult to comprehend at first. At some point I thought that there were no pronunciation rules or grammar in this language and everybody spoke how they wanted. Obviously, it was silly to think like that. But the fact that ‘Lughbhaidh’ is actually pronounced approximately like ‘Louis’ (-s is silent) can throw anyone off track. Irish Gaelic is scary but exciting. And that’s ‘interesting’ in my books. Here’s a random video with native Irish speakers speaking the language.

Part 2 of this post will touch the most interesting, in my opinion, languages of Africa, South America and Asia. So stick around.

// Role of music in language learning//

http://polyglotinthemaking.com/music-in-language-learning/

A lot of people don’t realise or don’t believe that there’s a more interesting way of learning a new language. Well, not exactly a ‘way’ per se but something extra that will aid greatly. I’m talking about music of course.

If you love listening to music, it’s easy to ‘connect’ to songs thus memorisation of words from songs’ lyrics will happen naturally and effortlessly. Moreover, doing what you love is rather pleasant, isn’t it?

When I was young I used to record songs on cassette tapes off the radio and try to write down their lyrics while replaying the recordings. I was doing that partly because there was no source of such information back in the days except for teen magazines where you could occasionally find a song lyric, partly because it was kind of fun even though I knew that ‘my’ lyrics were at least 30% incorrect. And still, many times when listening to a song with foreign lyrics I try to see if I understand words. Makes keeping tabs on progress in learning easier too.

Back then a good 90% of all music I was listening to was in English. Later I added other languages and got rid of Russian. And I must say this method definitely proved to be productive. Because there are some words I can’t forget no matter how hard I try (not that I would - I don’t believe in a thing called ‘unnecessary knowledge’). It’s as if they were tattooed into my brain. Not even exaggerating. Getting acquainted with basic pronunciation rules and sounds is also inevitable. If I should compare languages then French would be the one that showed most progress after I started listening to songs with lyrics in it.

With me being a HUGE Eurovision fan it was a crime to miss out on an opportunity to mention it in here. Eurovision is fantastic for discovering songs sung in foreign languages. You don’t even have to go the extra mile - all of them are in one yearly compilation ready to be bought and listened to. It was even easier up until 1999 because you weren’t allowed to sing a song in a language that wasn’t a national language of a country you’re representing. Heaven for language learners (and especially for those who love Eurovision). Plus, I believe language of earlier decades to be ‘cleaner’, not clogged up by colloquialism and internet slang, knowledge of which nowadays is a must, unfortunately.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSOw4KGiY8U

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fL-s0eRRYTE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uo4AzLNg8qA

A disadvantage of this method os however that you can’t really hear real accents of the singers. However in some cases accent does show itself. Listen for yourselves:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6Yosqms1nM

A few of my school English teachers used to say that music is not really a way to learn a language. Mostly because people intentionally alter grammatically correct lyrics to fit them into the songs better or just wanting to make the problem of your/you’re ‘interchangeability’ even worse (e.g. the horrible ‘Beneath Your Beautiful’ title British singer Labrinth is responsible for). Those teachers weren’t wrong though. There’s no way to learn a foreign language just by listening to your iTunes playlist every day and there are indeed intentional (or not!) grammatical/spelling mistakes which could mislead and create a false first impression on an unexperienced learner. One should always  keep in mind that blind trust isn’t always healthy. Even some teaching books contain flaws. I’d certainly recommend combining various methods. This way chances of memorising a potentially flawed rule or a false translation of a word are minimal.

Here are some other examples of foreign language music, in case there are some people who don’t know what to get started with.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89SUh2d4pd0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRt2sRyup6A

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9I1Szfr6lM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHiikYno3E0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbsqG_R3ySE

My name is Pavel. I'm 22 and I am extremely passionate about learning languages.