5 curiosities of Harry Potter in Translation

October 5, 2016 4:55 pm

The Harry Potter book series are novels written by British author J. K. Rowling and well known by everybody. It is even in style to collect different translations of the saga, as professor Nick Zekulin from the University of Calgary did. There is even a special terminology used by the author and which Termcoord have already explained some time ago.

A decade after the last book, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (the new part of the saga) has already landed in the UK (31st July), Italy and Germany (24th September) and Spain (28th September) but in countries such as France or Poland readers have to wait until the 16th and 22nd of October to buy it.

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Do you know how many different translations we can find? We have found five interesting facts about Harry Potter in translation across the world:

  1. Nowadays, there are more than 80 different translations of Harry Potter’s adventures. The books have been translated and adapted into dead languages such as Latin and Ancient Greek in order to encourage children and young people to read and practise these languages. The Ancient Greek version is the longest text written since 3AD in this language!
  2. In Iran we can find more than 16 different unauthorized versions of Harry Potter in Farsi. As Iran is not a member of the Universal Copyright Convention, editors can admit any foreign versions of the book without having to worry about penalizations.
  3. There are two different Chinese versions of Harry Potter, the first one uses Traditional Chinese characters and the other one has Simplified Chinese characters. In fact, they target audiences of mainland China and other regions such as Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. In order to save time, there is a group of translators working together to finish their translation as soon as possible.
  4. J.K. Rowling revealed that Dumbledore’s name (director of the wizard school) was adapted from an old English dialect word for ‘bumblebee’. The Italian and the Czech versions present a different name: the Italian book proposed “Silente” by using a literal translation as ‘dumb’ can be synonymous with ‘mute’; the Czech translator used the word Brumbál in Old Czech to directly translate the name.
  5. Acronyms such as N.E.W.T.s – Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Levels – are complicated to translate. For the Swedish versions, the magical exams of Harry Potter have been translated as the F.U.T.T. – Fruktansvärt Utmattande Trollkarls-Test, which means Terribly Exhausting Wizard’s Test. The word ‘futt’ also works as a comic abbreviation meaning ‘measly’ in Swedish.

And how about your country? Do you already have the last book of the saga? Let us know!


Written by Olga Jeczmyk: Translator-Interpreter, Social Media and Content Manager as well as Communication and Terminology Trainee. Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament in Luxembourg.

Sources:

  • Harry Potter in Translation – Available at: http://bit.ly/2cSmEtE [Accessed 5th October 16].
  • 10 amazing facts about Harry Potter in Translation, All Over The World – Available at: http://bit.ly/2e1O3cq [Accessed 5th October 16].

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