Residents of the UK have been quick to denounce Amanda Holden after she made an ignorant joke about the French and Dutch languages. Of all the places for such a crass joke to be made, Eurovision is not the one.
The competition has always been a celebration of multilingualism and Europe’s vastly diverse cultures. Her ignorance didn’t gain so much as a chuckle from the audience.
As the hosts passed over to Holden, who was the UK’s jury spokesperson this year, she quipped: “Bon soir, Goedenavond. That is good evening in French and Dutch although I’ve got absolutely no idea which is which.”
Although the hosts managed to smile through the awful joke, Brits and mainland Europeans alike voiced their disdain.
Amanda Holden could not have been a better symbol for the stereotypical British arrogance that has earned us our reputation in Europe. After all, we are famously poor at learning other languages. In fact, Britain has the lowest percentage of bilingual people in its population of any country in Europe. What’s worse is that we seem proud of it.
Surely it’s time to move past the ridiculous nationalist attitudes of yesterday, and embrace other languages. English itself is a product of the mingling of Old French, Old Norse, Latin and Greek among other influences, yet some of us can barely manage to undergo a GCSE in French today.
Although embarrassing, Holden’s Eurovision blunder has highlighted just how desperate Britain is for change. Our European counterparts study foreign languages as a mandatory part of school; there is no reason for us not to. A whole host of positives is associated with bilingualism. From better problem solving to greater job prospects, it would be foolish of us to miss out.