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  • In 1997, JK Rowling published Harry Potter and the Philosopher's stone.

  • But most of her audience didn't actually read that book.

  • They read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's stone.

  • Or Harry Potter A L'Ecole des Sorciers.

  • Harry Potter va Sang-e Jadu.

  • Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal.

  • The bewitching Harry Potter books have reached readers in over 200 territories in over 60 languages.

  • The authorized translations came from separate publishing houses with little oversight from the author.

  • So translators were not only tasked with adapting the text from English into their target languages and cultures.

  • But also making assumptions about Rowling's intentions and translating the spirit of her approach.

  • Their task was particularly challenging because the Harry Potter series is filled with invented words, alliteration, wordplay, and British cultural references.

  • The main characters' first names: Harry, Hermione, and Ron mostly stayed the same across languages.

  • With small changes to accommodate different alphabets and phonetics.

  • That's easy enough for conventional names like Harry Potter.

  • But many of the other proper names in the book carry loaded meaningsmeanings that would be lost if it's not translated.

  • Take Severus Snape. The name invokes severity and sounds like "snake".

  • So the Italian translator made the jump and named him Severus Pitonwhich is basically python.

  • In French, he's Severus Rogue which means Severus "Arrogance", as you can tell, both solutions sacrificed Rowling's alliteration.

  • The name "Hogwarts" combines two English words, but because the name stayed the same in most languages, those connotations were lost for those readers.

  • In an attempt to preserve Rowling's approach to the school's name, the French translator used "Poudlard".

  • "Pou du lard" means lice of bacon or fat.

  • The Hungarian version went with "Roxfort" a mix of the British university Oxford and Roquefort—a well known blue cheese.

  • The house names and founders, also experienced unique changes in some of the target languages.

  • In Catalan the names became: Nícanor Griffindor, Sírpentin Slytherin, Mari Pau Ravenclaw, and Horténsia Hufflepuff.

  • There is a ton of word play that happens in the Harry Potter books as well.

  • The famous Diagon Alley, a play on the word "diagonally" and the infamous Knockturn Alley from "nocturnally".

  • This type of pun is a real puzzle for translators, and most dropped it in favor of literal translations.

  • The Spanish translator was able to at least rhyme with "callejón diagon".

  • And translators had several approaches to Quidditch, an invented game made from the invented words Quaffle, Bludger, and Snitch

  • The 3 types of balls used in the game.

  • In Spanish, the words were not changed. The French translator kept the word Quidditch but changed the names of the balls.

  • And others changed the game's name altogether.

  • In Dutch, quidditch is "Zwerkbal".

  • In Norwegian, it's "Rumpeldunk".

  • OWLS and NEWTS, standardized tests in the wizarding world, weren't always able to retain their animal acronyms.

  • But in Swedish their implied meanings remained while the wording was changed.

  • OWLs became Grund Examen i Trollkonst or G.E.T meaning goat in Swedish.

  • And NEWTs were changed to Fruktansvärt Utmattande Trollkarls Test or F.U.T.T. derived from "futtig" meaning measly or mean.

  • The infamous anagram of Tom Marvolo Riddle's name was altered by many translators to achieve the same revelation of "I Am Lord Voldemort".

  • In Danish, Tom is named "Romeo G. Detlev Jr".

  • And in French he is "Tom Elvis Jedusor", which was extra clever because "Jeu du sort" means "fate riddle".

  • Culturally, the Harry Potter series is unmistakably British but translating that for a global group of readers wasn't easy.

  • Some food items were changed to make them seem less foreign for the target country.

  • Sherbet lemons, a popular candy item in Britain, became krembo, a chocolate covered sweet from Israel.

  • Crisps became chips in the US and in the Arabic version, bacon became eggs.

  • Sometimes a foreign setting undergoes translation too.

  • For the Ukrainian translation, the atmosphere of an English boarding school was swapped out for an orphanage.

  • In the books and films, Hagrid has a provincial west country accent.

  • Hagrid: "No? Blimey Harry, didn't you ever wonder where your mum and dad learned it all?".

  • "You're a wizard, Harry.".

  • For the Japanese translations, it was replicated by usinghoku dialect, which is a pastoral accent from northeastern Japan.

  • Other translators chose to have Hagrid simply speak more informally, while others dropped his accent entirely.

  • Despite translators' best efforts to remain true to the text some things still were lost in translation.

  • In the mainland Chinese editions of Harry Potter there were footnotes to explain puns and cultural references.

  • The Spanish translator sometimes used italics to signal an invented word with no translation.

  • But in the end, it doesn't matter if you're reading Harry Potter and Philosopher's Stone or the many translations of it.

  • One thing that always seems to translate...

  • Is the love fans around the world share for tales of...

  • "The Boy Who Lived".

In 1997, JK Rowling published Harry Potter and the Philosopher's stone.

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Harry Potter and the translator's nightmare

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    Sh, Gang (Aaron) posted on 2016/10/19
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