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Harry Potter and the Many Mysterious Translations

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The “8th” instalment of the series, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One & Two (Special Rehearsal Edition Script), the Official Script Book of the Original West End Production, was released on 31 July 2016 in the UK, Harry Potter’s birthday. The first batch of tickets have now sold out for the Production in London’s West End. Fans all over the world are awaiting the release of the book in the official language of their countries, as translators only receive a copy of the text once the English version has been published and is on sale in the UK.

The first book in the Harry Potter series was released in the UK on 26 June 1997 – yes, we too are surprised at how long ago that actually was – and the franchise has since been one of the most successful of all time. Continuously breaking records such as most sold in countries all over the world, it is safe to say the 7 first books of the franchise are international bestsellers. Not only are the books famous worldwide, but so are the eight films, the related works by J.K. Rowling, the studios in London (a must see!), the theme park in Florida, the merchandise and much, much more!

Such a huge fan base is of course due to the sheer brilliance of the storytelling achieved by J.K. Rowling. As a translation agency however, without detracting from the incredible accomplishments of Rowling, we automatically think of the massive role played by translators in the success of the franchise; without the translated versions of the books and films (available in over 60 languages) a lot of the fans would not have been able to access the wonderful Wizarding World.

In the British English version alone there are many peculiarities, interesting places and creatures, and new words; the foreign language versions don’t disappoint, as well as highly accurate translations, they adapt the curious made-up names to the target language. Some of our favourite examples of these are:

  • In Italian, Minerva McGonagall becomes Minerva McGranitt, Albus Dumbledore (from the English bumblebee) becomes Albus Silente and Neville Longbottom becomes Neville Paciock, while the word for squib (a wizard by blood but with no magic powers) is simply magonò (meaning wizard-no), and the translation of Hufflepuff (one of the four houses at Harry’s school) is Tassorosso (meaning Redbadger).
  • The French and the Brazilian Portuguese versions for Hufflepuff are perhaps closer to the English word than the connotations of the words themselves; French opted for Poufsouffle, whereas the Brazilian Portuguese opted for Lufa-Lufa.

Clearly the translators who worked on the series have been extremely creative, finding ways to keep the magic of the books alive even in translation, each with their own approach to the process. The Italian versions were translated by two different people, one translator carried out the adaptation of the first 3 books, whilst another worked on the last 4 books; however, the discrepancies between the names of some objects and people of the Wizarding World did not go unnoticed by Italian fans, showing again the central role of consistency in translation quality.

Translation and magic aren’t all that different you know!