The Translation of “Happy New Year”

By / 15 December 2015 / Professional translation

A Timely Translation of “Happy New Year”

It’s just past midnight and you’d like to call a friend to wish them a “happy new year”. The only hiccup is that the said friend lives in a foreign country and it would be nice to say it in their native language. Oh dear! Luckily, Mytranslation is here to tell you what the translation of “happy new year” in English, German, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian is!

How to translate “happy new year” into the languages available on Mytranslation

A brief overview of how to translate “happy new year”

French Bonne année
Anglais Happy new year
Spanish Feliz año nuevo
Portuguese Feliz ano novo
German Frohes neues Jahr
Italian Felice anno nuovo
Dutch Gelukkig niewjaar

Analysing the translation of “happy new year” is a way of revealing, just as with the translation of “I love you” (that article is available here), several of these languages’ basic properties.

Before you ring, quickly back to the classroom for the translation of “happy new year”

Translating “happy new year”: a spell of etymology

The first thing you might notice is the use of two different radicals for “year”, but also that the resulting partition is congruent with the one between romance and Germanic languages we were able to look at in the article dedicated to the translation of “I love you”.

More specifically, it would seem that the English, Dutch and German terms in this case come from the Indo-European radical “*jeram” (the little asterisk indicates that the radical isn’t found in print anywhere but that it was reconstructed by linguists). As for the Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and French translations of “happy new year”, these romance languages use the Latin radical, “annus”.

What’s interesting at this point is that, Latin itself being classified as an Indo-European language, although these seven languages come from one unique family (reconstructed Indo-European), they use two different radicals to qualify one single social construction: years themselves.

The translation of “happy new year”: a spell of syntax

Let’s move now from the words’ history to the way they are arranged in these traditional expressions. In short, let’s have a quick look at the syntax of the translations of “happy new year”!

First of all and very broadly speaking, it’s perhaps noteworthy that the attributive adjectives in these expressions are postpositive in the Romance languages we’ve considered and prepositive in our Germanic languages.

Furthermore, it’s striking that the adjective “new” should be elided in French whereas in Dutch, lexicalisation of this adjective and the noun “year” through their blending has produced: “niewjaar”. These properties are further proof that these expressions are traditional, rigid blocks. Ask a French-speaker to slip the word, “new” between “bonne” and “année” and see how they react!

Mytranslation: a handy alternative if you’re feeling unsure or forgetful

At the end of the day, if these kinds of discussions don’t float your boat (and it’s fully understandable), then why not have your projects translated professionally on Mytranslation. It’s far less tedious!

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