In the last few days, I’ve been hankering for an English version of the expression Feliz salida y entrada, which the Spanish use in the days leading up to New Year. It just doesn’t really have an equivalent in English.
When you speak two languages, the second one changes your world view and gives you access to all kinds of expressions and ideas that you didn’t realise existed when you were limited to your mother tongue.
I imagine that additional languages must offer even more possibilities, although presumably there is some overlap so the law of diminishing returns may apply: I think that if I were to learn Greek, Russian or Japanese it would offer more new insights than if I improved my French or learned Italian.
Perhaps if you are brought up between cultures, you take these things for granted, but the alternate view offered by a second language was certainly something I noticed when I learned Spanish as an adult. I continue to use Spanish every day but, now I’m based in the UK again, I seldom experience the serendipities that come with total immersion.
Feliz salida y entrada is such a useful phrase: it doesn’t matter if it’s only a day or two after Christmas, if you’re not going to see the person again, you can wish them a “happy exit and entrance” ready for midnight on the 31st. But you can’t really wish someone a “Happy New Year” until the year has actually turned, so in English I’ve had to fall back on the uninspired “Have a good New Year”, which seems so inadequate.
I suppose there’s always the “compliments of the season” – although in my house it’s more likely to be complaints than compliments – though I see that more as a greeting than to be used at parting. (Here, again, Spanish has an advantage over English, as it has the pair saludo and despedida, whereas no one word balances exactly with the English “greeting”. “Valediction” may have the right meaning, but its partner is “salutation” and they are entirely the wrong register.)
Returning to the idea of wishing someone a “happy exit and entrance”, one thing I like about the phrase in English is that the Spanish word éxito means success, so I hear some kind of echo of “a prosperous New Year”.
And then, of course, there’s the unlikely but possible mis-reading of “entrance”. The grammar doesn’t really work, but as a verb “entrance” would be “bewitch” or “enchant”, which seems appropriate for this magical time of year.
So, wherever you are, however you celebrate the arrival of the New Year, and whatever language you celebrate in, I think I shall settle for wishing everyone who’s reading this not just a happy exit and entrance, but a successful and enchanting 2018.