Experiences

Songwriting and language learning with Emmelie de Forest

Lauren Ward

Emmelie de Forest is a singer-songwriter from Denmark. At 14, she was touring Denmark with Scottish musician Fraser Neill, at 20 she had won the Eurovision song contest and only a few years later had one of her own songs performed by the entry for the UK. We were therefore delighted that Emmelie agreed to talk to us about how her multilingualism has impacted her life and career.

Emmelie winning Eurovision 2013

Danish, Swedish or English?

Growing up, Emmelie split her time between Sweden and Denmark so could speak both languages fluently. She also started to learn English at the age of 10. So she is happy to sing and write songs in all three… but what is her preference?

Though she considers Danish to be her first language, Emmelie actually finds it harder to write songs in this language. This is due to the nature of its pronunciation… and the fact that there just aren’t as many words to choose from! She finds it much easier to sing in Swedish, however it’s actually in English that she writes most of her songs.

She goes on to say that this is actually quite unusual for Danish artists to do this. The majority will actually only write and perform in Danish, which is why Emmelie feels there aren’t that many well-known international acts from Denmark.

Advice for learners

With multilingualism playing such a keen part in her career success, it might not be a surprise that Emmelie thinks learning a language is important. However, this is easier said than done and she even struggles at times to get to grips with grammar. Her advice is to get out there and get speaking as much as you can, to as many people as possible, advocating that this is the best way to learn a language!

For more on languages and the Eurovision song contest, watch the full interview with Emmelie de Forest below:

If you’re looking for ways to bring music and popular culture into your classroom, here’s some ideas from Natilly Macartney: One way or another – teaching with (a little) technology.


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