Printing error: Chamber of Secrets in Afrikaans
Today I was taking a look through Harry Potter en die Kamer van Geheimenisse (Afrikaans Chamber of Secrets, translated by Janie Oosthuysen). I happened across this printing error in Chapter 16. The page header says “Die Man met Twee Gesigte” (“The Man with Two Faces”) throughout the chapter.
I’ve highlighted it in the image below, which is taken from the third print in May 2000. The words Kamer van Geheimenisse (Chamber of Secrets) appear just below the header, making for a stark comparison between text from Philosopher’s Stone and text from Chamber of Secrets.
The title of Chapter 16 in fact? “Die Kamer van Geheimenisse” (“The Chamber of Secrets”).
87 Translations of Harry Potter. What Languages Could Be Next?
As of April 2023, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone has been formally* translated into 87 languages. Only a handful of books have been translated into more languages, and Philosopher’s Stone may be the only full-length novel** to be fully translated into so many languages. That’s a huge part of the reason enthusiasts of language, literature, and translation have taken to collecting translations of the book, although the type of writing, amazing cover art from around the world, and just plain old Harry Potter fandom are also big reasons.
With translations obscure as Asturian (Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal), Breton (Harry Potter ha Maen ar Furien), Greenlandic (Harry Potter ujarallu inuunartoq), and Māori (Hare Pota me te Whatu Manapou), collectors are always asking: what languages could be next?
Below we take a look at 5 of the most likely contenders for a Harry Potter translation and explain the reasons why they might be the next language to enjoy a translation (as well as some of the obstacles that may prevent those translations from coming about).
Amharic boasts some 50 million speakers, primarily in Ethiopia where it serves as the primary language of instruction and, until 2020, it was the country’s sole official language. There are also high concentrations of Amharic speakers in Israel and in some parts of the United States. An Amharic translation, whose title might be ሃሪ ፖተር እና አስማተኛው ድንጋይ (Häri Potär əna äsmatäñaw dengay), would have to go up against at least one unauthorized translation already circulating in Ethiopia, though.
The number of Kurdish speakers is not known, but reasonable estimates place the number between 20 and 40 million. Kurdish speakers are highly literary, and it’s likely that a Kurdish translation of Harry Potter would be highly marketable in Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq where Kurdish is spoken. But it’s the location of Kurdish speakers that may actually be one of the biggest obstacles: the Kurdish market spans four countries, and awarding distribution rights would be difficult in any of those four countries, let alone all of them. The best bet for a Kurdish translation, for what it’s worth, would be in northern Iraq in the Sorani dialect. One possible title may be هاری پۆتەر وبەردی جادووگەرەکە (Harî Poter wiberdî jadûger eke). In Turkey, in the Kurmanji dialect, the title would be Harry Potter û Kevirê fîlozof and written in the Latin alphabet.
Swahili is a favorite among collectors, in part because it’s the most widely spoken language that is native to Africa. Possible titles include Harry Potter na Jiwe la Mchawi or Harry Potter na Jiwe la Mwanafalsafa. But the countries where Swahili books are most often published, Kenya and Tanzania, share a problem with India, South Africa, Pakistan, and the Philippines—countries where translations of Harry Potter have been notoriously difficult for publishers to sell. A huge portion of the literate population in these countries can read English, and they would probably prefer to read Harry Potter in English.
Neo-Aramaic or Classical Syriac
Speakers of Neo-Aramaic are a small but strong community with a rich literary tradition that spans millennia. There are some 1–2 million speakers worldwide, who have largely been dispersed from Iraq in recent decades. But there’s been tremendous and decently funded effort to keep the language alive. There’s no doubt that a Harry Potter translation into Classical Syriac, the literary dialect, would sell tens of thousands of copies. The U.S.-based Gorgias Press would surely commission a great translation if the Blair Partnership offered it the rights. A possible title would be ܗܐܪܝ ܦܘܛܪ ܘܟܐܦܐ ܕܦܝܠܘܣܘܦܐ (Hāri Poṭer wə-kipā də-pilosofā).
Scottish Gaelic made the list not because the language and market are strong—fewer than 100,000 people in Scotland can read Scottish Gaelic—but because there was actual effort in this direction at one point. According to Potterglot, Bloomsbury had plans to publish a Scottish Gaelic translation in 2006 and even registered an ISBN and a title: Harry Potter agus Clach an Fheallsanaich. It never came to fruition because the publisher couldn’t find a translator. But we know that if they ever do find one, a lot of people who don’t know Scottish Gaelic would definitely be buying copies!
* This number only includes translations that have been legally authorized. If we count unauthorized translations, the number of languages falls somewhere around 95. Why make the distinction? Because while unauthorized translations are often done well, some of them are so sloppy that they can’t really be called a translation. Authorized translations are typically higher in quality: they are usually translated by experienced professionals who are good writers and go through a formal editing process to ensure clarity and consistency.
** Much shorter novels like Adventures of Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland, and Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet have been translated into more languages, but none of these exceed 30,000 words. (For comparison, Philosopher’s Stone is 77,000 words in length.) Portions of Don Quixote have been translated into nearly 150 languages, but if we only count languages that have a translation of the whole novel, then that number falls below 80 (and possibly even under 50). That’s no less impressive, though, given that Don Quixote has some 350,000 words in Spanish.
Sherbet lemon revisited (Reader Mail)
One of our readers, Chen, reached out recently with questions about the translation of sherbet lemon (addressed in a previous post).
First: Chen pointed out that Dumbledore “unsticks” two sherbet lemons only moments after offering them to McGonagall, and wondered how this was handled in languages that translated it as a beverage or as ice cream. Here’s some of what I found, starting with Turkish as I did in the previous post:
“Limon şerbeti. Muggle’ların bir çeşit tatlı içeceği. Hoşuma gidiyor.” … Profesör McGonagall ürktü, ama o sırada iki limon şerbeti açan Dumbledore farkına varmadı bunun.HARRY POTTER VE FELSEFE TAŞI (Ülkü Tamer, Turkish)
“Lemon şerbeti. It’s a kind of Muggle soft drink. I enjoy it.” … Professor McGonagall was startled, but Dumbledore didn’t notice it just then, opening two lemon juices.
The translator, Ülkü Tamer, indeed took into account that it doesn’t make much sense to “unstick” two soft drinks. Instead, Dumbledore opens the soft drinks. Other translations that made it into a drink tend to take this same approach. Take, for example, Isabel Fraga’s Portuguese:
“É uma bebida dos Muggles de eu gosto muito.” … A professora McGonagall vacilou, mas Dumbledore, que estava a abrir duas limonadas, pareceu não dar por isso.HARRY POTTER E A PEDRA FILOSOFAL (Isabel Fraga, Portuguese)
”It’s a Muggle drink that I’m really fond of.” … Professor McGonagall hesitated, but Dumbledore, who was opening two lemonades, seemed oblivious.
I’m almost disappointed, honestly, that nobody decided to have Dumbledore pouring a drink instead of opening presumably prepackaged cans!
Take a look at what Amik Kasuroho does in Albanian after making sherbet lemon into lemon ice cream (akullore me limon):
Profesoresha MekGur u drodh, por Urtimori, që po i hiqte letrën akullores me limon, sikur nuk e vuri re.HARRY POTTER DHE GURI FILOZOFAL (Amik Kasuroho, Albanian)
Professor McGurr shivered, but Urtimore, who was removing the packaging from the lemon ice cream, didn’t seem to notice.
The original Italian translation takes a similar approach:
La professoressa McGranitt trasali, ma Silente, che stava scartando un ghiacciolo al limone, sembrò non farvi caso.HARRY POTTER E LA PIETRA FILOSOFALE (Marina Astrologo, Italian )
Professor McGonagall started, but Dumbledore, who was unwrapping a lemon popsicle, seemed not to notice.
According to Chen, earlier editions of the Simplified Chinese translation (Su Nong and Cao Suling) had Dumbledore “unsticking” lemon ice cream popsicles (柠檬雪糕), but this was updated to lemon sherbet candy (柠檬雪宝糖).
Second: Chen also noted that in Prisoner of Azkaban, Ron mentions “sherbet balls” that cause you to levitate as they fizz in your mouth:
“—and massive sherbet balls that make you levitate a few inches off the ground while sucking them,” said Ron.HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE (US)
The sherbet balls make another appearance later in the book when Harry shows up at Hogsmeade.
There were shelves upon shelves of the most succulent-looking sweets imaginable… there was a large barrel of Every Flavor Beans, and another of Fizzing Whizbees, the levitating sherbert balls that Ron had mentioned.HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE (US)
Simplified Chinese originally translated the two instances separately, the first time as an ice cream ball (冰糕球) and the second time as a fruity juice beverage (果子露饮料). In a later revision, the discrepancy was fixed, but they became a “fruit juice cream jelly” (果汁奶冻球).
I own only a few copies of Prisoner of Azkaban in other languages. I took a look and found that most of them caught connection between the two occurrences and translated them consistently. German, for example, calls them Bausekugeln in both instances. None of them connect the “sherbet balls” to the “sherbet lemons” in Philosopher’s Stone or Chamber of Secrets as the original English does.
Only one PoA translation I have access to appears to have neglected it: Faroese (Gunnar Hoydal).
“—og stórir limonadubollar, sum lyfta teg fimm sentimetrar uppfrá, tá tú sleikir teir.”HARRY POTTER OG FANGIN ÚR AZKABAN (Gunnar Hoydal, Faroese)
“—and big lemonade balls, which lift you five centimeters high as you lick them.”
Note, by the way, the odd fact that sherbet balls are translated limonadubollar as if referencing the sherbet lemon in Philosopher’s Stone. Actually, Hoydal translates sherbet lemon as pulvursitrón (roughly meaning lemon sherbet). It’s unclear why Hoydal chose to change “sherbet” to “lemonade.”
Here’s how it’s referenced in Hogsmeade:
…tað slagið av bommum, sum Ron hevði tosað um, við sterkum pulvuri uttanáHARRY POTTER OG FANGIN ÚR AZKABAN (Gunnar Hoydal, Faroese)
…the type of candy that Ron had talked about, with strong powder inside
We could assume this is referring to the limonadubollar, but there’s nothing in the text that connects it to Ron’s earlier mention.
As always, we love this sort of feedback. Thanks to Chen for sharing! If you have anything to add, or any questions to ask about Harry Potter, translation, or linguistics, feel free to write to us.
[PB Bite] Low-resource languages: what they are and why they matter
This article is a PB Bite summary of the main article, Lᴏᴡ-ʀᴇsᴏᴜʀᴄᴇ ʟᴀɴɢᴜᴀɢᴇs: ᴡʜᴀᴛ ᴛʜᴇʏ ᴀʀᴇ ᴀɴᴅ ᴡʜʏ ᴛʜᴇʏ ᴍᴀᴛᴛᴇʀ.
Takeaway: Some languages are not well-equipped for education. But foreign literature in translation can help.
Terms, Concepts, & Definitions:
- low-resource language: languages that lack a large amount of literature.
- natural language processing: type of artificial intelligence used in machine translation and modeled after human language processes.
Natural language processing studies large amounts of literature to get a sense of language. But only a handful of languages in the world have enough literature. That means information about modern medicine, finance, tech, and other essential topics cannot quickly and easily be taught or transferred to speakers of most languages.
Foreign literature in translation: Translating works like Harry Potter into these languages help lay the groundwork for making new topics more readily accessible. World-building novels:
- add to the corpus of literature
- expand vocabulary
- teach children to read and write
- teach teachers how to build knowledge and communicate
Learn more here.
Diglossia and literacy: Arabic as example
In its most simple articulation, diglossia refers to using two languages for everyday matters. (For foundational studies on diglossia, see Ferguson 1959 and Fishman 1967.) It occurs in a language community whose core members speak two languages (or language varieties) to one another.
The reasons for diglossia vary. In India, for example, many people use both Hindi and English as the result of a prolonged domination by the British. But in the Arab world, speakers use two varieties of Arabic, that serve as assertions of authority and familiarity.
This article will focus on the latter situation where speakers use two forms of the same language. But it will first address concepts such as “Low varieties” (L-varieties) and “High varieties” (H-varieties) and the related topic of overt prestige vs. covert prestige. We will then discuss the implications for literary culture, especially as it pertains to education, literacy, and access to information.
In closing, we will illustrate with examples taken from the children’s book series, Harry Potter, which is written in the High variety of Arabic despite children’s low proficiency in that variety.
Low variety vs High variety
Low variety or L-variety: a language or language variety used in informal settings. It’s likely to be acquired at home and enjoy some level of covert prestige (see below).
High variety or H-variety: a language or language variety used in formal settings. It’s likely to be acquired through education than in the home and enjoys some level of overt prestige.
Switching between the L-variety and the H-variety does not depend solely on whom you’re talking to. There may be people you speak to exclusively in the H-variety, but it’s rare that you’d speak to anyone solely in the L-variety. In many cases, switching between varieties can happen in the same conversation depending on domain (i.e., topic) you’re discussing. An Arabic speaker, for instance, might use the L-variety with a friend when talking about their families, but then switch to the H-variety a few minutes later when discussing politics or business with that same friend.
Overt prestige vs. covert prestige
(For foundational studies on overt prestige and covert prestige, see Labov 1966 and Trudgill 1972.)
Overt prestige: positive attitude toward the use of language in ways that conform to standard norms.
Overt prestige tends to be associated with education, class, or high status. In diglossic situations, the H-variety usually has overt prestige within the language community.
Covert prestige: positive attitude toward the use of language in ways that are associated with certain values, status, or relationships, against the more widely accepted social norms.
This is perhaps most evident in the use of slang, especially by speakers who are proficient in the standard language. The preference for slang in such cases reflects, in part, the attitude that the use of standard language is haughty or pretentious in that particular sitaution.
Overt prestige and covert prestige in Arabic diglossia
Now we’ll continue with an example of how the distinction between overt prestige and covert prestige can guide the choice of speakers in diglossic communities.
I once observed a well-educated Arabic speaker use a wide range of H-variety Arabic and L-variety Arabic within a short span of time. At work—a prestigious job—he used the H-variety. It signaled authority, education, and the ability to “level” with all segments of society, including the upper class: overt prestige. The word aqūl, “I say,” was pronounced with the q as a uvular stop.
At home he spoke the L-variety, an urban dialect that came very naturally and reflected the speech his parents used when he grew up. The q in the word aqūl was pronounced just like “k” instead of the distinct uvular stop, making it homophonous with akūl, “I eat.” But with his close friends (whom he worked with) he spoke an even Lower variety, a rural dialect that was considered very harsh and unsophisticated. The word akūl (“I eat”) was pronounce achūl, with the k pronounced as “ch” in English—distinguishing it from aqūl (“I say”) pronounced as akūl.
Pronunciation of “I say” Pronunciation of “I eat” H-variety (formal) aqūl akūl L-variety (familiar) akūl akūl L-variety (vulgar) akūl achūl Distinction of “I say” v. “I eat” in the H- and L-varieties of an Arabic speaker. Note that this data has been simplified to benefit the reader’s comprehension.
Even his family would have found this L-variety vulgar and inappropriate. But he and his friends used it with each other because it signaled openness and comfort. Among his friends, this vulgar L-variety had covert prestige.
Education and literacy in diglossic communities
It’s often the case in diglossic communities that the H-variety serves as the language of instruction in schools. It becomes the most accessible language for reading and the source of information, even though children might not have as much proficiency as they would with the L-variety.
On the one hand, education in the H-variety has many benefits. Generally speaking, the H-variety tends to be more widely known outside of the language community. Common H-varieties like English, French, or Standard Arabic are each spoken in dozens of countries, for example. The H-variety also tends to have a greater amount of literature, educational material, and legal and business applications. So education in the H-variety often provides students with better opportunity and potential for growth.
Attempts to promote education in Arabic L-varieties have historically been met with backlash for this reason. Such attempts were perceived as cutting off children from the rest of the Arab world and centuries’ worth of literature.
On the other hand, education in the L-variety makes knowledge more readily accessible. Because students have greater proficiency in the language they speak at home, the information is easier to understand in the L-variety than if it were presented in the H-variety.
Indeed, despite the great body of literature available in the H-variety of Arabic, few Arabs ever read books outside of school precisely because it’s not an enjoyable experience for them. The decline in Arab readership—especially out of preference for English and French among much of the educated—has led to concerns that Standard Arabic may actually die out in just a few generations. So there’s growing debate today about whether it’s even worth it to educate children in the H-variety of Arabic.
Examples from Arabic: Harry Potter
Let’s illustrate how things play out in Arabic’s diglossia, using examples from children’s literature translated from English.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a good example in part because, if you’re reading this article, then you probably already know the story of Harry Potter. It’s also useful because it’s written in an informal style in English but translated into a somewhat erudite variety of Arabic.
Below, I’ll provide the passage in the English original, then in the Arabic translation, and then I’ll render the Arabic into English in a way intended to highlight the difference from the English original. We’ll see that a lot of the playfulness and colloquialism of the original has been lost in translation, making it a bit more boring in Arabic.
English (original) “Oh, are you a prefect, Percy?” said one of the twins, with an air of great surprise. You should have said something, we had no idea.” Arabic قال أحد التوءمين وكأنه فوجئ: آه، هل أنت من رواد الفصول يا (بيرسي)؟! كان يجب أن تقول لنا. ليست لدينا أي فكرة English rendering of the Arabic One of the twins said, as if he were surprised: “Oh, are you among the class mentors, Percy? Would that you had told us. We had not had the slightest of ideas.”
This passage mocking Percy reminds me a bit of when I read Shakespeare as a kid. There were a lot of cutting insults, but they didn’t really register with me: they were just too wordy and too formal and my attention was set on figuring out the meaning of the words.
English (original) “He’s just made that rule up,” Harry muttered angrily as Snape limped away. “Wonder what’s wrong with his leg?”
“Dunno, but I hope it’s really hurting him,” said Ron bitterly.
Arabic تمتم (هاري) بغضب بينما (سنايب) يبتعد وهو يعرج: “لقد اخترع هذه القاعدة الآن.. ترى، ماذا حدث لقدمه؟
قال (رون) بمرارة: “لا أعرف.. وإن كنت أتمنى أن تؤلمه حتى الموت
English rendering of the Arabic Harry muttered with anger while Snape went away, limping: “He indeed has contrived this rule just now.. Oh wonder, what has come upon his foot?”
Ron said with bitterness: “I do not know.. I hope that it be hurting him to death.”
Hopefully the English rendering here gives you an idea of how silly the dialogue in Harry Potter would sound if children actually spoke this way.
English (original) “Never,” said Hagrid irritably, “try an’ get a straight answer out of a centaur. Ruddy stargazers. Not interested in anythin’ closer’n the moon.” Arabic علق (هاجريد) غاضباً: “لا يمكن أن تحصل على إجابة صريحة من هذه المخلوقات.. إنها لا تفكر إلا في القمر وما حوله English rendering of the Arabic Hagrid commented angrily, “It is not possible to obtain an honest answer from these creatures. For they ponder not except on the moon and what surrounds it.”
Lastly, in this example, Hagrid has lost all traces of a dialect. In fact, he speaks somewhat poetically!
Some observations on Croatian Harry Potter: old vs new translations
The tail end of 2022 saw the latest official translation of Harry Potter—and according to how many collectors count, it’s the 100th! It was a second translation of Croatian (and the first book to be printed with the Studio La Plage cover art). The first Croatian translation has been out of publication for several years.
After being one of the first people in North America to get my hands on a copy (thanks to Sean McA.), I took a quick look through both translations and made a few observations about the differences in translation. My first impression is that both translations are enjoyable, reader-oriented adaptations, but that Petrović lends more character to the translation.
The first Croatian translator of the Harry Potter series was Zlatko Crnković. Crnković was a prolific translator of novels into Croatian. He translated Lord of the Rings, capturing all those neologisms of Middle Earth, and Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint, creatively adapting Yiddish terms that were much easier for English speakers to grasp than Croatians. The Harry Potter series was merely the latest best-seller in his decades of publication. But as the series continued to expand—and take a demanding toll on translators—he decided to devote his attention to other projects. After all, he had been officially retired since 1994.
He worked with Dubravka Petrović, the woman who carried out the translation of the rest of the series from Goblet of Fire to Deathly Hallows. He lent her advice and feedback, continuing to leave his mark on the series even while Petrović molded it in her own image. The last of the books, Harry Potter i Darovi smrti, was published in 2007.
A few years ago, Mozaik knjiga bought the publishing rights for Harry Potter in Croatian. But before running new prints of the books, Mozaik knjiga sought to strengthen the consistency of the translation throughout the series. Some 25 years after Petrović finished with Harry Potter, the publisher commissioned her to retranslate the first three books and revise the last four.
Although Crnković had a knack for eloquence and Croatian frill in his translation, Petrović prefers to shed the classical constraints on the storytelling.
Zlatko Crnković was a master of the archaic tone, but I believe that the book must have a more modern language, because the language of the [English] original was modern.Interview with Petrović at Književne Kritičarije
In translating the last four books of the series, Petrović wanted to respect the foundation laid by Crnković and follow his lead. That made the transition between translators smooth, even if there was a gentle shift in style.
Now she has the chance to make the series her own, not only by lending her style to the early installments, but also by revising the last four in a way she prefers.
Petrović was clearly cognizant of the mark Crnković made on Harry Potter fans in Croatia.
Crnković’s word for Quidditch, “Metloboj” (lit. “Broom Combat”), was kept, as was his word for Muggles, “bezjaci” (lit. “twits”). But while she retained some of these more iconic terms, she changed others. Remembrall, for example, was changed from the flowery Nezaboravak (“Forget-Me-Not”) to the more literal Svespomenak (“Remember-All”).
The differences between the translations that I found most illustrative were in the first chapter. One reason that may be is because the tone of Crnković’s translation of the first chapter strays from that of the English original. Petrović’s translation attempts to restore the tone, even though that required her to stray from the literal meaning a bit more than Crnković.
Take a look at the opening sentence:
Crnković Gospodin i gospođa Dursley, iz Kalinina prilaza broj četiri, bili su ponosni što su normalni ljudi da ne mogu biti normalniji i još bi vam zahvalili na komplimentu ako biste im to rekli. (Translation) Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of Number Four Kalina Drive, were proud of being normal people who couldn’t be more normal and would thank you for the compliment if you told them so. Petrović Gospodin i gospođa Dursley iz Kalinina prilaza broj četiri doslovce su pucali od ponosa zbog činjenice da su u svakom pogledu bili savršeno normalni ljudi i veći kompliment od toga nisu mogli ni zamisliti. (Translation) Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of Number Four Kalina Drive were literally bursting with pride at the fact that they were perfectly normal people in every way and they couldn’t imagine a higher compliment than that.
Here, I personally prefer Petrović’s translation choices because of its more intimate imagery on how the Dursleys feel. That more accurately (and creatively) captures the English original, where Chapter 1 is told through the perspective of Mr. Dursley.
Compare also with this selection:
Crnković …jer su njezina sestra i niškoristi muž bili sasvim oprečni Drusleyjevima. (Translation) …for her sister and worthless husband were quite the opposite of the Dursleys. Petrović …prvenstveno zato što su spomenuta sestra i njezin beskorisni muž u svakom pogledu bili potpuna suprotnost Dursleyjevima. (Translation) …primarily because said sister and her useless husband were the complete opposite of the Dursleys in every way.
Again, the over-the-top approach by Petrović more effectively reproduces the Dursley-centric perspective here. The cherry on the top is the repetition of the phrase “svakom pogledu” (“in every way”), which was also used in the opening sentence. That signals to the reader that the views expressed in both sentences belong to the Dursleys. The repetition of “svakom pogledu” lends the Dursleys voice.
Let’s take a look at another example:
Crnković Za večerom mu je ispričala sve o tome kakve probleme ima njihova prva susjeda sa svojom kćeri, i kako je Dudley naučio još jednu riječ (‘Neću!’) (Translation) At dinner, she told him all about the problems their next-door neighbor had with her daughter, and how Dudley had learned another word (“I won’t!”) Petrović Za večerom mu je ispričala sve o problemima gospođe Prve Susjede s njezinom kćeri i izvijestila ga da je Dudley naučio novu riječ (“Neću!”) (Translation) At dinner, she told him all about Mrs. Next-Door Neighbor’s problems with her daughter and informed him that Dudley had learned a new word (“I won’t!”)
This again illustrates the difference between the formal writing of Cnkrović and the more flexible writing used by Petrović, who uses the more literal translation of “Mrs. Next Door” (“gospođe Prve Susjede”) instead of the more standard Croatian rendering used by Cnkrović.
There are times, of course, that Crnković actually does a better rendering of the English original. But in at least some of these cases, Petrović comes up with pretty clever alternatives:
Crnković Limunov šerbet. To su vam bezjački slatkiši koje ja jako volim. (Translation) Lemon sherbet. They’re Muggle sweets that I really like. Petrović Šumeći bombon od limuna. Bezjački slatkiš koji mi je prilično prirastao srcu. (Translation) Fizzy lemon candy. Muggle sweets that are close to my heart.
Petrović’s translation does two things in this example that I especially appreciate. This is the only translation of “sherbet lemon” I’ve come across that’s descriptive: she finds a way to communicate to the reader that the candy fizzes in your mouth. Secondly, the translation of “Sweets that are close to my heart” brings out Dumbledore’s character in a unique and inventive way.
Of course, what matters most in the end is whether Harry Potter fans in Croatia take to the new adaptation. So far, in the few months that have passed, chatter on the internet has been a bit quiet. Here’s a little bit of discussion that went on in anticipation of the new translation, but also a few comments about it after it was released.
[PB Bite] Dumbledore’s favorite: sherbet lemon, lemon sherbet, and lemon drops
This article is a PB Bite summary of the main article, Dᴜᴍʙʟᴇᴅᴏʀᴇ’s ꜰᴀᴠᴏʀɪᴛᴇ sᴡᴇᴇᴛ (ᴏʀ ᴅʀɪɴᴋ?): sʜᴇʀʙᴇᴛ ʟᴇᴍᴏɴs ᴀɴᴅ ʟᴇᴍᴏɴ sʜᴇʀʙᴇᴛs.
Takeaway: Albus Dumbledore loves sherbet lemon so much that it’s the password to his office. But sherbet lemon is a candy specific to the UK. So when the story was brought to other countries—including the US—nobody knew what to call it in the local language.
Why it’s interesting: We learn a little about local sweets from around the world!
It also led to some confusion in Chamber of Secrets, where the password to Dumbledore’s office is “sherbet lemon.” The American version, for example, mentions “lemon drops” as Dumbledore’s favorite sweet, but “sherbet lemon” is the password to his office. Some other editions, like German, also make this inconsistency.
In Albanian, it’s lemon ice cream (akullore me limon) that Dumbledore loves.
In Iceland, he prefers to enjoy a green Sítrónukrap.
In Hebrew, krembo gives him a taste for chocolate over lemon.
Explore more here.
[PB Bite] How Harry Potter differs in different languages
This article is a PB Bite summary of the main article, “Tʜᴇ Dᴜʀsʟᴇʏs ᴀʀᴇ ᴘᴇʀꜰᴇᴄᴛʟʏ ɴᴏʀᴍᴀʟ, ᴛʜᴀɴᴋ ʏᴏᴜ ᴠᴇʀʏ ᴍᴜᴄʜ!”: Iᴅɪᴏᴍs, ɪᴍᴍᴇᴅɪᴀᴛᴇʟʏ.
Takeaway: Harry Potter has been translated into nearly 100 languages. The very first sentence is one of the most challenging to translate. There are more than 6 different ways that translators around the world have decided to handle it!
Why it matters: That first sentence is a good indicator of translation quality throughout the rest of the book. Is it dry? Creative? Conversational? Or just way too literal?
The Lowdown: Here are the 6 different ways “thank you very much” is translated in that first sentence—
- As “thank you very much,” literally.
- Indicates: Translator is likely from UK or US.
- Example: (Welsh) Broliai Mr a Mrs Dursley, rhif pedwar Privet Drive, eu bod nhw’n deulu cwbl normal, diolch yn fawr iawn ichi.
- As a genuine “thank you.”
- Indicates: Translation pays attention to detail, but is less light-hearted in style.
- Example: (Portuguese, Isabel Fraga) Mr. e Mrs. Dursley, que vivem no número quatro de Privet Drive, sempre afirmaram, para quem os quisesse ouvir, ser o mais normale que é possível ser-se, graças a Deus.
- By emphasizing that the Dursleys are normal.
- Indicates: Translation prioritizes the “feel” over the detail.
- Example: (German) Mr. und Mrs. Dursley im Ligusterweg Nummer 4 waren stolz darauf, ganz und gar normal zu sein, sehr stolz sogar.
- By indicating the Dursleys feel normal today.
- Indicates: Story characters have slightly different personalities in the translation.
- Example: (Japanese) プリベット通り四番地の住人ダーズリー夫妻は、「おかげさまで、私どもはどこからみてもまともな人間です」と言うのが自慢だった
- Indicates: Translation might skip things that are difficult to translation.
- Example: (Luxembourgish) De Mr an d’Mrs Dursley aus der Kellechholzstroos Nummer véier waren houfreg drop, soen ze kënnen, dass si ganz normal waren.
- By replacing with a more native expression.
- Indicates: Translation is more light-hearted and conversational.
- Example: (Maori) Whakahī ana a Mita rāua ko Miha Tūhiri, nō te kāinga tuawhā i te Ara o Piriweti, ki te kī he tino māori noa iho nei rāua – kia mōhio mai koe.
Read more here.
- As “thank you very much,” literally.
Three versions of Harry Potter in Arabic: read our post over at Potterglot!
Genies. Ghouls. Alchemy. And Percy staging a coup? These are all features you’ll find in the Arabic editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
When we discovered last month that there are three Arabic versions of the early Harry Potter series, Potterglot and I worked for weeks piecing the puzzle together about what exactly was going on. The changes by the publisher appear to have been done silently, with no trace of announcement or advertisement about updates they were making to the translation. Special shout out to everyone who contributed to our research by sending screenshots of their own Arabic copies and even sending clips from Arabic audiobooks!
Because I have good knowledge of Arabic, I had the pleasure of writing as a guest on Potterglot’s website about the textual differences I had found in the three versions. Although Potter of Babble seeks to help collectors appreciate the language and text that they possess, Potterglot provides indispensable information to help collectors, well… collect! One of the most useful resources he’s compiled over the years is The List, a treasury of details on foreign editions around the world that come in handy when you’re hunting down a translation that’s impossible to find. The site has been an invaluable resource for collectors for years, and my article sought to help collectors choose which of the three Arabic editions they might want to collect.
So it seemed only fitting that that information be added to Potterglot’s library, rather than ours at Potter of Babble.
But if you’ve come to this post hoping to see dozens of text samples or an analysis of the strategies used in the Arabic translation, don’t fret! You can read it here on Potterglot and, while you’re at it, check out his own investigation into the publication details in case you want to search out a copy of your own.
5 Christmas Comfort Foods in Harry Potter from Around the World
Have you ever thought about just how much food is in the Harry Potter books? There’s a ton, from baked potatoes to lemon sherbets to Fizzing Whizzbees™. It is an important literary device, used to define settings and build characters.
In translation, changes in food items are some of the most visible. One reason is because food is very culture-specific. Kids reading the series in another language may have no idea what English dishes like “shepherd’s pie” and “black pudding” are. In some cultures, parents would be shocked that their kids are reading about some foods. (Think “bacon,” which to Muslims is repulsive. Translations in Muslim countries tend to translate the word as simply “meat.”)
From a literary standpoint, the foods should evoke an emotional connection from the readers in the target culture. When they read about Hogwarts feasts, they should feel like it’s a comfortable, home-cooked meal, not a visit to a restaurant for a foreign cuisine. When they read about maggoty haggis at Nearly Headless Nick’s deathday party, they should feel repulsed knowing that haggis is already a bit festering even without the maggots. For a translator, it’s very hard to keep unfamiliar food items on the menu. And also one of the easiest things to change. (So easy in fact, that a translator may not even realize they are changing the food: when Polish kids read about Harry sinking his teeth into a kiełbasa [the Polish word for “sausage”], they’re probably not thinking of the same kind of sausage that English kids typically eat.)
When Harry and Ron stay behind for the Christmas holidays in Philosopher’s Stone, they roast crumpets and marshmallows by the fire. Like chestnuts (which are mentioned in the Italian translation), they’re popular holiday fireplace foods. So what were some of the foods they were changed to in translation? Here are just five of the foods found in their place:
At first sight it looks like tiramisu, but slănină is savory, not sweet. It’s a cut of pork fat, seasoned for consumption as a delicacy in much of Eastern Europe. Not a bad idea for your next charcuterie!
These doughnuts are a popular snack for Eid al-Fitr in Albania (and on Christmas for Albanian Christians). It’s most commonly eaten with a salty cheese or honey, but jams, chocolate, yogurt, or even ketchup are also common.
Melcocha (Spain and Latin America)
Melcochas are a type of hard candy made from sugar and popular during the Christmas season. The exact recipe and form of melcochas varies by country and region, and it often includes vanilla, cocoa, and/or lemon flavoring.
Qatlima (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region)
This is a flaky, layered bread packed with oil, butter, or animal fat, and sometimes stuffed with meat, cheese, nuts, or veggies. It’s popular throughout Central Asia, though more commonly known as qatlama. Pictured is a variation from Uzbekistan, quite similar to what you’d find in Uyghur cuisine.
Cocon / Coca (Southern France and Catalonia)
Known as “Cocon” to Occitania in southern France and “Coca” to Catalonia in eastern Spain, this baked good can be either sweet or savory. One popular variation along the Mediterranean can even be topped with sardines or anchovies! A Christmas variation (pictured), topped with a generous amount of powdered sugar, looks as snowy as the season.