5 Songs from the Eurovision for Endangered Languages, Liet International

English has taken over pop music to the point where many bands from other countries will write their songs in English in order to appeal to a wider audience. The Eurovision Song Contest provides one place where other languages can get a chance at a bigger stage, but there are smaller, more fragile languages that are threatened not only by English, but also by the robust European national languages that surround them. For them, there is the Liet International song contest, established in 2002. This is a Eurovision for minority languages, which include Frisian, Manx, Vepsian, and Romansh. This year's Liet International was held December 1 in the Spanish city of Gijón (otherwise known as Xixón in Asturian, the language of the region). Here are a few of the standouts from the competition.

1. "Ar Gouloù Bev"

The winner was Lleuwen Steffan, a singer who was born and raised in Wales and has recorded well-received albums in Welsh. Her winning song was sung in Breton, which she learned after moving to the northern French region of Brittany. Breton, like Welsh, is a Celtic language. It has about 200,000 speakers and is classified by UNESCO as "severely endangered." Above is Steffan singing her lovely, soulful entry "Ar Gouloù Bev" ("The Living Light").

2. "Tau Tynyd"

According to this article, Ivan Belosludtsev & 4CP had never been outside of Udmurtia, a Russian republic just west of the Ural Mountains, before traveling 5200km and crossing three time zones to perform their song "Tau Tynyd" ("Thank You") at the competition. It is in Udmurt, a language from the Permic branch of the Uralic family with about half a million speakers. This song might be the most adorable thing ever, and it also includes what looks like Russian sign language!

3. "Oainnat go?"

Seventeen-year-old Inger Karoline Gaup sings in Sami, a Uralic language spoken in northern Norway as well as other parts of Scandinavia. It is distantly related to Hungarian and Finnish and not at all related to Norwegian. It is classified as "endangered." Her entry, "Oainnat go?" ("Do you see?") was the winner of the Sami Grand Prix, a local contest held in Norway.

4. "Trasmetta"

Dopu Cena sings in Corsican, a Romance language spoken on the French island of Corsica and the Italian island of Sardinia. It is classified as "potentially endangered." Corsican culture has a polyphonic musical tradition, where multiple voices carry multiple melodies simultaneously, on beautiful display here in "Trasmetta" ("To Pass On").

5. "Muxurik Muxu"

Enkore is a band from the Spanish city of Bilbao that has released 2 albums and a single. In their entry "Muxurik Muxu" ("Kiss by Kiss"), they rock out in Basque, a language with no known relatives and undetermined origin that has somehow managed to survive centuries of being surrounded by bigger languages. While the song is about sex, you can sort of hear in its defiant chords another type of survival instinct: the will to speak and sing a language, in order to make it live.

You can see lyrics and translations for these songs, as well as those of the other finalists, here.

Why Do Americans Call It ‘Soccer’ Instead of ‘Football’?

While more Americans than ever are embracing soccer, they can't even get the sport's name right, according to some purists. For most of the world, including the vast majority of Europe and South America, it’s football, fútbol, or some other variation. In the United States, Canada, Japan, and a few other stragglers, it’s firmly known as soccer, much to the annoyance of those who can't understand how a sport played with feet and a ball can be called anything else. So why the conflict?

According to a paper [PDF] by University of Michigan professor Stefan Szymanski, it all began in England in the early 1800s, when a version of the sport of football—based on a game played by “common people” in the Middle Ages—found its way into the recreational scene of some of the country’s most privileged schools. To give uniformity to the competitions between these schools and clubs, a set of standard rules was drafted by students in Cambridge in 1848. These rules would become further solidified when they were adopted by the more organized Football Association in 1863.

It wasn't long before variations of the sport began to splinter off—in 1871, the Rugby Football Union was founded, using Rugby School rules from the 1830s that allowed a player to run with the ball in their hands. This new take on the sport would be known as rugby football, or rugger, to separate itself from association football, the traditional feet-only version of the sport. From there, association football would get the nickname assoccer, leading eventually to just soccer. The addition of an "er" at the end of a word was something of a trend at the time, which is why we get the awkward transformation of association into assoccer and soccer.

The first recorded American football game was between the colleges of Rutgers and Princeton in 1869 and used unique rules derived from those in both association and rugby football. Though this new, evolving game would just be called football in the U.S., elsewhere it would become known as gridiron football or American football, much in the way Gaelic football and Australian football have their own distinctions. Eventually in England, rugby football was shortened to just rugby, while association football simply became known as football. Which meant that now there were two footballs, on opposite sides of the Atlantic, and neither side would budge. And Americans would begin referring to England's football by the previous nickname, soccer.

Despite the confusion nowadays, soccer was still a colloquial term used in England well into the 20th century—it rose in popularity following World War II before falling out of favor in the 1970s and ‘80s, according to Szymanski. In more recent years, it’s mostly been used in England in a strictly American context, like when publications and the media refer to U.S. leagues like Major League Soccer (MLS). Currently, soccer is mostly used in countries that have their own competing version of football—including the United States, Canada, and Australia.

While it boils the blood of certain traditionalists, soccer is by no means an Americanism—like the sport itself, this is purely an English export.

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YouTube, Hélio Surdos
How a Deaf-Blind Person Watches the World Cup
YouTube, Hélio Surdos
YouTube, Hélio Surdos

Brazilian Sign Language interpreter Hélio Fonseca de Araújo woke up on the day before the opening of the World Cup in 2014 thinking about how he could help his friend Carlos, who is deaf and blind, get access to all the excitement. So he hit the hardware store, rigged up a tabletop model of the field, and enlisted his friend Regiane to provide extra interpretation for all the complex information that needs to come through in a game. He recently brought the setup out again for this World Cup.

Here you can see Carlos watching the Brazil vs. Croatia match live, while Hélio provides Brazilian Sign Language interpretation (which Carlos follows by feeling it with his own hands—this is called tactile signing), and Regiane relays information about fouls, cards, times, and player jersey numbers with social-haptic communication on Carlos’s back.

This is the moment in the second half when it appeared that Brazil had scored a goal, but a foul was called. Hélio later makes sure Carlos can see how Neymar covered his face with his shirt.

And here is Coutinho’s game-turning goal for Brazil.

If you're wondering why Carlos occasionally looks at the screen, many deaf blind people have some residual sight (or hearing). Many deaf-blind people become fluent in sign language as deaf people, before they begin to lose their sight.

See the entire video at Hélio’s YouTube channel here.

A version of this story ran in 2014.


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