Today is the International Day of Sign Languages, a day that marks the 70 million+ people who use signing worldwide.
It is not known how many different types of sign languages exist with estimates ranging all the way up to 300. Just like verbal languages, there are differences across the world and someone who knows American Sign Language won't necessarily know British Sign Language and vice versa.
To mark the occasion we look at the use of sign language at the Eurovision Song Contest.
Valters & Kaža - The War Is Not Over (Latvia 2005)
The first entry to feature sign language, the young duo signed the final chorus in a memorable performance. It served them well in the Grand Final, with the song finishing in 5th place.
Unfortunately, tragedy impacted the entry. The composer Mārtiņš Freimanis died in 2011 aged 32 and one of the singers, Valters Frīdenbergs died in 2018 aged just 30.
Ich Troje - 'Follow My Heart' (Poland 2006)
The Polish entry from 2006 certainly had it all. A returning artist, fireworks, elaborate costumes, a member of 90s band Real McCoy, a pregnancy reveal, and, most importantly, sign language!
The backing vocalists signed the titular "follow my heart" throughout the performance. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to get them out of the semi-finals.
Evelina Sašenko - C'est Ma Vie (Lithuania 2011)
Evelina used signing during the second verse of the song. She finished 19th in the final.
Bojana Stamenov - 'Beauty Never Lies' (Serbia 2015)
"Yes, I'm different and it's ok" - those lines were among those signed by Bojana and her backing dancers just before the beat dropped and she made the top 10 with this inclusive Euro banger.
SuRie - 'Storm' (United Kingdom 2018)
Although she didn't perform this version in Lisbon, SuRie recorded this after Eurovision fan @signs_tom sent her a version of him signing the song. SuRie was so moved she met up with Tom and learned the sign language version within a few hours. A great advocate for inclusivity.
Bilal Hassani - 'Roi' (France 2019)
The French 2019 entry is known for being one of the most inclusive in Eurovision. It includes a backing dancer who is deaf and who not only performs but also signs messages on the screens behind her as she does so.
Interpreters throughout the years
We must also show appreciation to all those who sign for viewers across the world for the contest. Their work is incredible and they often put in douze-point-worthy performances!
Special mention: Unmute
A group of deaf performers took part in the Polish national final in 2022. Their song 'Głośniej Niż Decybele' translates to "Louder than decibels'. Their entry and performance certainly spoke volumes and raised awareness of the talents and needs of the deaf community to the three million Poles who tuned in. They finished in an impressive 3rd place on the night.
So happy International Day of Sign Languages, let's hope we see more inclusive acts at Eurovision in the future!
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