The Race to Translate “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”

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Oct 13, 2007

Posted by EdwardTLC
Uncategorized

The Times Online has an absorbing new article online which examines the many translations of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” we’ve been telling you about in recent months. This article details the race that some foreign publishers have taken to satisfy the demand of their readers and of fans’ own strides in translating the book. In some cases, translating the seventh novel in author J. K. Rowling’s series within hours of its English language release.

The particulars of translating a book with such unique characters, places and words are also featured in this article. Noting Ukrainian translator Victor Morozov’s comment on the accuracy of some pirated copies: “The pirates are getting so good, it’s difficult to tell which is the original;” the article goes on to say:

But how does one translate words such as Wormtail and quidditch? Some names, though, translate more neatly than others. In French, Wood becomes Dubois; Wormtail is Queuedver. The Italian for Fudge, Cornelius Caramell, loses the secondary nuance; Severus Piton sounds snaky, but not as sneering as Snape. Albus Silente conveys quiet authority, but ignores Dumbledore’s archaic meaning: bumblebee. The Norwegian version was formed by adding humle (bee) to snurr (spin), also suggesting surr (buzz). Not only rhythmic, Humlesnurr captures Dumbledore’s sting in the tail.

Puns and references are intractable. Tom Marvolo Riddle is an anagram of I am Lord Voldemort. To preserve this, his middle name becomes Vandrolo in Hebrew, Marvoldo (Turkish) and Orvoloson (Italian). He is Tom Elvis Jedusor in French, Tom Sorvolo Ryddle (Spanish) and Trevor Delgome (Icelandic). Fawkes, the ever-so-British phoenix, defies translation: should we prefer fiery Vulcan (Norwegian) or alliterative Felix (Slovakian)?

The translators themselves, who in some cases receive poor fees and less popularity, were in many cases enthused as any Potter fan when the opportunity came to get the latest ‘Potter’ book. Yuko Matsuoka, from Japan describes the experience by saying: “A wave of shock ran through me. I said, ˜Here is something I have waited for’.” Others, who fear the critical eyes of the boy wizard’s most dedicated fans, such as Gili Bar-Hillel from Israel, note correction letters from readers of their translated editions. She laments, “Every mistake will follow me the rest of my life. The readers are young and unforgiving.”

A note to readers, this article does contain a number of the translated titles of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” which may shed more light on certain plot elements for those who have not yet read the book.





22 Responses to The Race to Translate “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”

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Not enough time. A good translation might emerge in about ten years time after the book is complete.

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I’m happy they’ve noticed some of the horrible mistakes made by the Italian translator…

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It isn’t only the Italian translator who made mistakes. In the Hungarian version the word ‘locket’ was translated as ‘lock’ giving an entirely different meaning to something that eventually turns out to be a Horcrux. The translator will have some extra explaining to do in DH.But translators are muggles dealing with magic here so it is understandable….

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I aboslutely HATE the Ducth translation. Sirius Black = Sirius Zwarts (Zwart is the dutch word for Black, so that’s not the worst) But Slughorn became Slakhoorn (Slak=Snale Hoorn=horn), Hermoine Granger = Hermelien Griffel (Griffel means Stylus, Slate-pencil or Pen), Albus Dumbledore is in dutch Albus Perkamentus (Perkamentus (perkament) is in dutch Parchment.. so it becomes Parchmentus.. and that’s lame). Tom Marvolo Riddle became Marten Vilijn (or something).. they didn’t keep anything of his original name.. (Marten is.. apparently.. a dutch name and Vilijn doesn’t mean anything but suggests Venijn, the dutch word for viciousness)

Malfoy became Malfidus, Snape became Sneep (is a place in Friesland (Holland) :S :S :S), Weasley became Wemel, Mcgonagall became Anderling, Alastor ‘Mad-eye’ Moody became Alastor ‘Dwaaloog’ Dolleman (Dwaaloog is something like mad-eye.. and Dolleman means Madman, Loony, Nut or Maniac (etc.))

and i can go on like this for hours,, but i won’t..

so since i hate the dutch versions of the names and places (Privet Drive became Ligusterlaan (or whatever), Hogwarts became Zweinstein (Zwein could be Zwijn = Swine)etc. etc etc.) I read the English versions of the books.

i think they should’ve just let the names and places the same, since they didn’t change the country.. it still all happens in England.. When Harry etc. flew over London in book 5 they didn’t change it to that they flew over Amsterdam in the book.. they still flew over London..

but that could just be me.. Cheers!

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Albus Dumbledore is in dutch Albus Perkamentus (Perkamentus (perkament) is in dutch Parchment.. so it becomes Parchmentus.. and that’s lame).

should be:

Albus Dumbledore is in dutch Albus Perkamentus (Perkamentus (perkament) is in english Parchment.. so it becomes Parchmentus.. and that’s lame).

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its pretty obvious to me that the only way to full enjoy this book and get all it has to offer is learn english and read it. Just like german books translated to english arent as good (for example).

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The article mentions the fact that the French translator is applying to the Academie Francaise. I find this quite funny: this is not true, but was the April’s Fool joke this year on a dozen French fansites, e.g. http://www.gazette-du-sorcier.com/Le-tome-7-sortira-en-francais-le,731 Six months later, the Times fell in the trap!

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As I think the Dutch translations of the names are as irritating as they can be, and even more irritating when watching a the movies you hear the original name spoken, while the translated name appears in de Dutch subtitles, I think that the Dutch translator did a good job on the text.

One translation I would even prefer above the original as a describtion: Gruzielement for Horcrux I think is splendid, altrough it does not have the short direct sound of the two syllable word Horcrux anymore, but becomes a more musical flowing sound.

However when you discuss a chapter with someone who only read the Dutch translation it can become confusing. Most of the time I didn’t have the foggiest idea whom they talking about as I did not know the Dutch equivalent for the English name. Maybe I read the Dutch edition one time, by the time they are almost forgotten and on discount at the ramsh.

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Some things I must wonder why they change. Some should clearly be changed, but why bother changing Latin words for those languages that originated from Latin? That has always rather confused me. I can see changing words from some languages that are used in the books, I believe Morsmordra (I think I messed up the spelling) is French, so changin that for the French edition makes sense, but, otherwise…hmm

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Hi, Kamion, I agree that the Dutch translator had some great finds, like the Gruzielementen (Horcruxes) you mentioned. For those who don’t understand Dutch: gruzelementen = smithereens, shatters, pieces ziel = soul So they’re pieces of Voldemort’s shattered soul. Not bad, eh? But still, I prefer the English version. As you and others said, I find the translation of names irritating as well. And not just in the Harry Potter books.

Recently I borrowed a book from the library, but the beginning was slow, and when I skipped some chapters, I came across names like ‘Konijn’ (=rabbit). I brought it back. And I don’t think I will read the original, because there the name ‘Rabbit’ (or godforbid ‘Bunny’) will be just as irritating! One thing was funny though, someone nicknamed this character called Konijn ‘Nijntje’ to spite him. ‘Nijntje’ is the Dutch name for ‘Miffy’ (the childrens’ book character). Serves him right for having such a stupid name ;o)

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i dont want to be rude or anything (this probably will end up to be) but honestly what these people are doing is stupid….....they should keep the names the same….....my parents are from Romania and a lot of there stories there have the same names as the english version as far as i could see…....they should do the same with Harry Potter in every language…......they’re ruining their names…........:(...........

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Tarana, who did they call Nijntje? That is really really funny. I read the first book in Dutch before going on to the English version, so I am not that irritated with the Dutch names. ‘Sneep’ is not only a place in Friesland, it is an actual Dutch surname (I had a classmate called Jeroen Sneep once) so that is not such a bad choice, imho. Marten ís a Dutch first name, though Maarten is more common. Vilijn is a pun on the word ‘vilein’, a fancy word for ‘mean’. I really like Dreuzel for Muggle, (a combination of ‘treuzelen’ which means something like ‘being deliberately slow’ and ‘drenzen’ = to whine). He messed up a little with Perkamentus, I’ll give you that, but ‘Anderling’ for McGonnagal was a brilliant find, for she is a shape shifter (and he did not yet know about Metamorphagi). I don’t like Schobbejak for Scrimgeour, because the first, ‘scoundrel’, is a bit too obvious. But Slakhoorn for Slughorn is a literal translation, and what’s wrong with that? I think Buddingh’ did a solid job.

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When I’m saying ‘you’, I’m not referring to Tarana… It looks like that but it is a general ‘you’ I mean.

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The thing which I love about Serbian translation is that they keep the names as in the original,but in Serbian transcript.Our rule is to read the word the way it is written,so Dumbledore is ‘Dambldor’,Harry- ‘Hari’, Hermione- ‘Hermiona’,Voldemort-’Voldemor’ etc.

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in portuguese, the names of the caracters are the same as in english, and I think that’s good, because we don’t change the real meaning of the names. sometimes we have trasnlations of the names, but we always have the real name in the rest of the story

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The Norwegian translator, Torstein Bugge Høverstad, is a genius. He has really captured the meaning of the names when he translates them. (..The Norwegian version was formed by adding humle (bee) to snurr (spin), also suggesting surr (buzz). Not only rhythmic, Humlesnurr captures Dumbledore’s sting in the tail.) I’m so happy that he has done such a good job :) I actually read both the original and the norwegian version of the books because of Torstein.

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Italian translator did worse than what is written in the article. I’d say things written here are not so much important. Translation for book 7 is “HP e I Doni della morte” and sounds like “HP & the Death’s Gifts” (Gifts instead of Hallows… hmmm). And then we have two bad errors: 1) the locket in book 5 is translated “padlock” (exactly like the Hungarian version, I see now) and goodbye to the horcrux hint! 2) “mudblood” and “halfblood” have always been translated as “halfblood” indifferentiately, and now I want to see what they’ll do in the last book. To finish, the names for the Houses are very good Houses names, but not adequate for historical characters like the founders. Well… to tell the truth, italian translators did quite a good job… but they could’ve been better!

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The italian translation really sucks… Example: in CoS, there’s a passage where the Trio is passing near the place where Filch’s cat was found and where there is the writing on the wall, right? Jo writes that there is a chair near the wall bearing the writing “The chamber of secrets has been opened” etc. The italian translator has done it like this: they passed near a chair on which there was a card bearing the writing “The Chamber of Secrets etc.” Is this possible????

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There are some terrible mistakes in the italian translatio (eg locket and padlock as Enrico said, mudblood and halfblood etc etc) but at least the translator used a lot of originale names…and I think that translating snape in Piton works out quite well…

The worst thing is the translation of”Detahly Hollows” (=the death’s gifts) which says too much about the plot. But,as in Italy a lot of newspapers published a summary of the book in July, while it’s going to be realesed translated just next january, I don’t think the Italian readers will mind too much..

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I think it’s funny, that the german translation isn’t mentioned. I read all the books in english and then in german and I think, the german translator did it quite well. Hermione Granger is Hermine Granger, Harry stays Harry ;) the weasleys stay the weasleys, Snape stays snape and that’s it for most of the names. (Dumbledore stays Dumbledore by the way). I think thats quite good, because there is no way to really translate names into a different language. One of the few mistakes he made in the beginning was translating Sirius Black to Sirius Schwarz (if I remember correctly) in the first Book. When Sirius becomes more important in book three, his name is Sirius Black in german aswell. The only thing I really dislike is the german title of the new book. “H.P. und die Heiligtümer des Todes”. meaning something like holy items oder hollows (I’m sorry, I’m not sure if that is exactly the right word). So the Title matches the english one, but the english one sounds cooler to me for some reason :D

P.S. Please excuse, if my english isn’t that good, since I am just a german learning english ;-)

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I liked how ménard worked his way out of the “Tom Elvis Jeudusor” in book 6, and still end up calling marvolo marvolo, and not Elvis. that would have been weird.

though he sometimes translated things that needn’t translation, ménard did a fair job of it.

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I believe the names shouldn’t be translated, no matter how allegoric to the character they are. The only justifiable change of names is with LV, because of the anagram thingy. Translator footnotes are not a shame.

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