Postcard from... Germany


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Traditionalists may grumble that the Eurovision Song Contest is becoming more bland and uniform each year, with 19 of the last 22 winners belting out their particular brand of europop in English.

So spare a thought for the Inari Sami speakers, of which there are only about 300 left. It is one of 120 endangered languages in the European Union.

Luckily there is one outlet where English is banned and these languages can thrive. Each year since 2002, organisers have staged a European Minority Language Song Contest – officially called Liet International – where no mainstream languages are allowed.

This year ten different artists gathered in Oldenburg in Germany, with the finalists singing in Breton, Frisian, Gaelic, Galician-Asturian, Inari Sami, Ladin, Low German, Mari, Minderico and Sardinian. On Friday they belted out their entries, and with whimsical yet puzzling lyrics (“I’m going to the moon, my cellphone is at home”; “Smiley sun makes our mood so good”), there were plenty of similarities with their Eurovision cousins.

In the end, it was 19-year-old Martina Iori who scooped the award. She sung in Ladin, a language from Italy’s South Tyrol which is spoken by around 30,000 people.