[Show music begins]
Michael Harle: This is Episode 236 of Alohomora! for January 6, .
[Show music continues]
Michael: Welcome back, listeners, to another episode of Alohomora! where we open the Dumbledore on topics from the wizarding world. I’m Michael Harle.
Aurelia Lieb: I’m Aurelia Lieb. And today we have not one, not two… We have three special guests here.
Aurelia: [laughs] And I’m so excited because this is probably the most international show this has ever been. So welcome, Marjolaine, Simé, and Camilla. If you could all introduce yourselves, tell us where you’re from, especially the country; tell us your Hogwarts House, your wand, Patronus, all that jazz. And definitely tell us the first language you read Harry Potter in.
Michael: We’ll go in the order that you ladies were introduced. So Marjolaine, you go first.
Marjolaine Martin: Okay, so I’m Marjolaine; I’m from France. My Hogwarts House is Ravenclaw, even if obviously my real magical house is Beauxbatons.
[Aurelia and Michael laugh]
Marjolaine: But we don’t know if there [are] houses in Beauxbatons, so I can’t tell you my Beauxbaton House. My Ilvermorny House is Thunderbird, and my wand is larch wood, unicorn hair, ten and three-quarters [inches], and surprisingly swishy – even if I don’t know exactly what that means. But yeah, I love my wand. I first read the books in French. Actually I began the first book when I was 11, and I finished the last one when I was 17. So that was…
Michael: You were the perfect age.
Marjolaine: Yeah, the perfect timing.
Michael: That’s amazing.
Marjolaine: Yeah, yeah. So I read all the books first in French, even if most of my friends who were reading Harry Potter began to read them in English with Order and the last three. But I wasn’t comfortable enough in English, and so I preferred to wait until the French translation came out. Because for me, Harry Potter was a really comfy place, and I didn’t want it to be too difficult reading it. So I read them in English after finish[ing] them in French.
Michael: Excellent. Well, thank you for being here, Marjolaine. Excellent introduction. You know, Marjolaine, you also pretty much have exactly the voice that I think… It’s a little less airy than I picture it, but you have pretty much the voice that I picture Fleur to have.
[Aurelia and Marjolaine laugh]
Aurelia: That’s right.
Michael: It fits her description. So Simé, go ahead and introduce yourself.
Simé Balyan: Okay, I’m Simé from Armenia, and my Hogwarts House is Hufflepuff. And when I first discovered it was Hufflepuff, I just closed the window and refused to believe it.
[Michael and Simé laugh]
Simé: I was so sure I would be Gryffindor. And then many years later we opened this test and hoped to see another result, but it was again Hufflepuff. But [when] I read the description, it said, “Hufflepuffs value hard work, patience, loyalty, and fair play,” and I figured out it’s actually about me. So it’s not really…
Simé: My wand is pine wood with a phoenix feather core with supple flexibility, 11 and three-quarters [inches]. Interestingly enough, I did the wand test with another website – not Pottermore, another test – and the result was holly wood with a phoenix feather core, which is the same as Harry Potter’s wand.
Michael: As Harry’s, yeah.
Simé: Yeah. [laughs] But in both cases the phoenix feather core was common, so I guess it’s something that should be in my wand in any case. So my Patronus was very surprisingly Tolkinese cat. I googled what a Tolkinese cat [is]; I had no idea. So it’s the cat breed you get when you crossbreed Siamese and Burmese cats. [laughs]
Michael: Oh. That’s oddly specific.
Simé: Yeah, it is. And what’s bizarre is that I’m not a cat person. I’ve always preferred dogs.
[Michael and Simé laugh]
Michael: I know a lot of people whose Patronuses ended up being exactly the opposite animal of what they like. It was funny because I think we talked about this on an episode… Katy got a dog and I got a horse, and we wanted to switch.
[Aurelia and Simé laugh]
Michael: Because I hate horses and she doesn’t really care much for dogs, so I was like, “Let’s swap. That would be fine.” What was the…?
Marjolaine: I didn’t say it, but my Patronus is a dun stallion, and I’m afraid [of horses].
Michael: [laughs] Well, Simé, what was the first language that you read Harry Potter in?
Simé: I read it first in Armenian when I was 11. And then they stopped translating it into Armenian, so I had to switch to Russian. So I read the rest of the books in Russian.
Michael: How many of the books have been translated into Armenian?
Simé: Well, the story is actually really complicated. The first one was translated in 2004, the first book. But then it turned out that this was not an authorized translation.
Simé: Yeah, and the authorized version appeared only in 2016.
Michael: Oh, wow.
Simé: So we are still translating. We are on the third book right now.
Aurelia: Oh, wow.
Simé: Yes, we are. [laughs]
Michael: Goodness gracious. Well, we admire your tenacity to read Harry Potter despite the translation issues. Welcome, Simé. Thank you for joining us. And finally, Camilla. Camilla, can you introduce yourself. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Camilla: Sure. My name is Camilla. I’m from Denmark, and I’m a Hufflepuff also. My wand is laurel wood. It’s 11 1/2 inches, dragon heartstring, and slightly springy. My Patronus is a Manx cat, which is basically a cat with no tail and tiny legs. And I’m more of a dog person also.
Camilla: I first read the books in Danish. I can’t remember the second time I read them whether that was in Danish or English, so I’m not sure whether I read them in Danish once or twice. But I know that the third time I read them, that was definitely in English. And then I read them later on… The first two books I’ve read in Spanish as well. But the majority of the times have been in English.
Michael: Wow. That’s excellent. And we should also take a moment to give Aurelia the floor for just a bit here. Because as you listeners know, Aurelia is not commonly on this podcast. She is a newer host of SpeakBeasty, so she joins us from over there. Aurelia, remind the listeners a little bit about yourself, where you’re from, your Hogwarts House, and what language you first read Harry Potter in.
Aurelia: So I’m from Germany. My Hogwarts House is Gryffindor. My Ilvermorny House is Horned Serpent. My wand at the top of my head is… I think it’s maple and unicorn hair core. Yeah. That sounds about right. [laughs] My Patronus is a weasel, so like Arthur Weasley.
Aurelia: And the first language I read Harry Potter in is German, because I started reading them when I was nine years old. And just like Marjolaine, I finished the series in German, even though I could’ve finished it in English. But just for sentimental reasons, I was like, “I started it in German; I’m going to finish it in German.” But actually I don’t possess any German Harry Potter books anymore; I only have the English versions now. Which was a bit challenging sometimes because people are like, “So this and this in Harry Potter…” I’m like, “I don’t even remember the right words in German because I only talk about it in English.” [laughs]
Camilla: I don’t have the Danish books either; I only have the English ones. So I had to go to the library today to borrow the Danish versions so that I could do this episode.
[Aurelia and Camilla laugh]
Michael: Yes. I and Hermione very much approve going to the library.
Aurelia: See, I donated my German books to the library. [laughs]
Michael: Oh, very nice. Very nice. We also approve of that as well. Well, ladies, we thank you all for being here. And Aurelia, we thank you for stepping in. And Aurelia, I’m sure the listeners… I would hope they figured it out by now, but why don’t you tell them why we’re doing this setup.
Aurelia: [laughs] So our topic for today is languages and translations. This was suggested by four people; one of them is on the show right here.
Michael: It looks like two of them are actually here.
Aurelia: Two of them, actually, yes. So Simé and Camilla suggested the topic, as well as Phoenix and – I hope I’m not completely butchering this – Elske Kloen.
Michael: That sounds better when you said it.
Camilla: Is that a username? Because that sounds like that translates into something Danish. It looks and sounds Danish, like it’s two Danish words.
Michael: Oh. It might be a username. Sometimes when people submit suggestions, they can use usernames or their real name.
Camilla: Yeah. So if it is a Danish person, [their] Danish username means “the loving claw.”
Michael: The loving claw. Ooh.
Camilla: I hope it’s Danish. I don’t know.
Michael: [laughs] But yeah, we thank you, all of you listeners who submitted this one. This was a pretty popular topic, and I’m so glad that we actually got to have two of the people who actually suggested it on the show. We really wanted to have a more diverse panel. I will also say, too, I was the only Alohomora! host who was able to be on this episode. I don’t speak any other languages and I was just like, “Oh God, this show, I don’t know what to do.” So I set up the document and asked Aurelia to help me out. [I] come back the next morning, [and] she has filled in the document with a million beautiful points of discussion. And so I am just here to learn and to monitor the discussion. But I’m very excited to be here because I’ve always loved when we have international guests on the show. Because I learn so much from you guys about your experience with Harry Potter, and it is always super inspiring [for] me to hear because almost all of you ended up reading the English versions at some point, and I can’t even say that I’ve read a different language of Harry Potter. So that’s always amazing to hear, and so I’m really looking forward to what we’ll be talking about today. But before we get to that, we also want to give a shout-out to our episode sponsor from Patreon, Ian Wagner. Claps for Ian Wagner. Thank you, Ian.
Michael: Yay, Ian! Thank you so much for sponsoring this very special episode of Alohomora!. You listeners can become a sponsor for as little as $1 a month. We will continue to release exclusive tidbits for sponsors. We do have that special perk for an upper level donation where I will actually read to you. I will read you a chapter of Harry Potter that you pick, and we will discuss Harry Potter a little bit one-on-one over Skype. There are other great little rewards as well. I know you probably all noticed, listeners, that I haven’t mentioned the video gaming for a while. It’s not because I’m not doing it; it’s because I’ve got to wait for that nice fancy computer that I’m going to buy so that I can actually edit these videos for you that I’ve already recorded. So that is coming down the line. There are other rewards too. We have just opened up Dumbledore’s Office. For a particular dollar level, you can actually join us on Facebook and hang out with us there and with your fellow Alohomora! fans to chat outside of the podcast. So we’d love to see you there. So yes, thank you for helping us out on Patreon, and thank you again to Ian. And with that, we head into our main discussion of languages and translations of Harry Potter. And Aurelia, you had an excellent idea here to kick things off. So would you like to explain this a little bit, what we’re going to do here?
Aurelia: Yes. So I thought, because I’ve only read it in German and English and we have so many languages here – it’s even more than I first thought we had because it’s like seven or eight languages now – we are going to read… well, Michael is going to read the English first sentence of the first Harry Potter book that you’re probably all very familiar with. And then we are just going to add the same first sentences in the different languages that we all speak here on this episode. So you can hear how it sounds in different languages. And I’m really excited because I only know German and English, so it’s going to be educational for me.
Michael: This is going to sound so cool. All right. And listeners, I am going to read it with my fake British accent because it just doesn’t sound right to me to read Harry Potter with an American accent, even though I’m not British. But we’re going to give it a shot here, and then we will follow it up with the other languages that we’ve got in order here. So of course, as we all know, this line goes,
[in British accent] “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”
Marjolaine: [in French] “Mr et Mrs Dursley, qui habitaient au 4, Privet Drive, avaient toujours affirmé avec la plus grande fierté qu’ils étaient parfaitement normaux, merci pour eux.”
Simé: [in Armenian]
[in Spanish] “El señor y la señora Dursley, que vivían en el número 4 de Privet Drive, estaban orgullosos de decir que eran muy normales, afortunadamente.”
Camilla: [in Danish] “Hr. og fru Dursley fra Ligustervænget nummer fire var ganske stolte over, at de var helt og aldeles normale.”
Aurelia: [in German] “Mr. und Mrs. Dursley im Ligusterweg Nummer 4 waren stolz darauf, ganz und gar normal zu sein, sehr sogar.”
Michael: Wow! That was amazing!
Camilla: That’s so cool.
Michael: That was so incredible. Now the interesting thing for me… Maybe we can go around and see what felt familiar and what didn’t, and if there was anything that was drastically different in any of our first sentences. Because I will first say the Armenian was the one that felt the most foreign to me, the one that I recognized the least. I didn’t hear anything I recognized.
Aurelia: Yeah, same for me.
Michael: Which was amazing. That was really neat to hear that. And then it was really cool, Simé, to hear you jump to Russian because I recognized more in the Russian than I did in the Armenian.
Simé: [laughs] Yeah.
Michael: And then, of course, the Spanish for me was pretty easily recognizable, having lived in New Mexico. That was probably the one that had the most recognizable ones to me. How did everybody else feel?
Aurelia: What I like is the Danish because… I suppose Danish is not too far from German. You have “Dursley” but you change “Mr. and Mrs,” whereas in German it stayed “Mr. and Mrs.” They didn’t change it to “Herr und Frau.”
Camilla: Oh yeah, that’s true. When you first read “Mr. and Mrs,” I thought it sounded a bit English, and then you switched to “im Ligusterweg.” So yeah, that’s actually fun. I hadn’t noticed that.
Aurelia: And even in French, it’s “Mr. and Mrs.”
Marjolaine: Yeah. But I hesitated with “Mr. and Mrs.” [versus] “Monsieur et Madame,” because in the other books it is “Monsieur et Madame.” [laughs] So I said “Monsieur et Madame.” But even in French, we always say “Mrs. Dursley” or “Mrs. Weasley.” We don’t say “Madame Weasley.”
Michael: Oh. Why is that?
Marjolaine: I really don’t know because we don’t write… If it’s “Madame Dursley” we will write it differently. We will write “Mme” and not “Mrs.” So “Mrs.”, in French, we read it as “missus.”
Michael: Huh. Very interesting.
Aurelia: My guess would be, because it’s all set in Britain, it’s a bit like to set a scene. So you don’t forget that it’s all in Britain, it’s “Mr. and Mrs.” That would be a guess.
Simé: Well, actually, in translations there are two approaches to translation. Either you domesticate the source text or you foreignize it. When you foreignize you keep the flavor of the original. So in this case, if you say “Mr. and Mrs,” then you are just keeping the Britishness. And I think that that’s why, for example, Russian sounded natural or familiar to you because it’s “Mr. and Mrs. Dursen.”
Michael and Simé: Yeah.
Michael: Was the Armenian saying something different?
Simé: Yeah, because the first translator of the Armenian was very much into domesticating. So wherever it is possible, it was adapted to Armenian language. So it was [speaks Armenian].
Michael: Oh, okay. So this translation is from the first Armenian, the unofficial one?
Simé: Yeah. Mhm.
Michael: Oh, okay. Okay. Cool.
Camilla: So how do you say the Dursleys’ name in Armenian and in Russian?
Simé: Armenian would be “Dursdenesh,” the same, and Russian “Dursen.”
Camilla: Okay. So almost not translated. [laughs]
Simé: Well, those are names. [laughs]
Camilla: Oh yeah, okay. Yeah. But then in most of the other languages, I can see it’s just the exact same as the English. Like the French and in Spanish and Danish and German.
Michael: Well, and that’s an interesting thing with the names in Harry Potter that presented a problem for all the translators, because names carry a lot of weight and meaning in Harry Potter. So there was a question with each country and each translation of, “Do we translate the names or do we leave them alone?” What has happened in each of your countries with some of the names, if you can think of some of the highlights for some of the names? We’ll get to Tom Riddle, because that’s one of the biggest ones, and we’ve got a section for what happened with his name. But are there any other names that you guys can think of from your languages that went through a translation?
Simé: When I was reading the first book of Harry Potter, Snape’s name was translated into Sargek.
Michael: Ooh, what does that mean?
Simé: It doesn’t mean anything, but the root of the word sara means cold. So the translator gave an interview and explained that it’s because of the character of Snape. He’s cold and reserved. So later, when I grew up, I figured out it’s Snape.
[Michael and Simé laugh]
Marjolaine: Actually, Snape is translated in French too. It’s Severus Rogue. And it’s interesting because “rogue” in French doesn’t mean anything, but “rogue” in English can… yeah, it can say something. But “rogue” in French only speaks to his arrogance, because in French it’s [in French accent] “arrogance” and we find “rogue” in “arrogance.” So yeah.
Michael: So it’s like the word over here. It’s similar to the word “rogue”? Is that it?
Marjolaine: Yeah, it’s exactly the same spelling like “rogue.”
Michael: Oh. Wow. Wow. They were really onto something pretty early there with giving him that surname.
Marjolaine: When I found an interview of the translator – the French translator, Jean-François Ménard – he explained his choice of “rogue.” And yeah, there is no link with the English “rogue.”
Michael: Wow. Well, gee, even if he didn’t intend it, he had some pretty amazing foresight, I guess.
Michael: That’s incredible. Are there any… What happened to Snape in Danish, Camilla?
Camilla: Nothing, actually.
Camilla: He just stayed the same. But there were plenty of other… Actually, many names were translated. Often, like you said, the names actually have a meaning to who the person is. Like, it kind of reflects their personality, in a sense. Because Rowling does that a lot, and that has been translated a lot in Danish. Like, say, Moaning Myrtle or Rita Skeeter. Most of the D.A.D.A. teachers as well, the names have been translated. And Kreacher and the Gaunts and so on and so forth.
Aurelia: It must be so hard to then read it in English and adapt to name changes backwards.
Camilla: Yeah. Yeah.
Aurelia: In German they didn’t change most of the names, which in a way is good. If you go to English, you at least know the names. But I will forever remember that Fluffy stayed Fluffy, and there’s this line that Ron says, I think: “Who would name a beast like that Fluffy? Only Hagrid would name him Fluffy.” And you completely lose that joke because you don’t know what Fluffy is in German. It doesn’t have a meaning in German.
Marjolaine: In French, Fluffy became Touffu, which is exactly the translation of “fluffy.”
Michael: And Simé, what were you going to say?
Simé: I was going to say that there was a part in The Philosopher’s Stone when McGonagall takes Harry to the teachers’ room and she goes for calling Wood.
Simé: There is a wordplay, right? Because in English, “wood” can also be something with which you can beat, right? And the translator kept the English word and used footnotes in this case to explain the joke.
Michael: Yeah, I’ve heard that that actually occurred, too, a lot in the Chinese translation of Harry Potter, where there’s actually a bunch of footnotes at the bottom. So rather than trying to translate the jokes or change the jokes to work within the context of the different languages from China, they just said, “This is the joke. We don’t get it either.”
Michael: I think that was kind of funny because that makes me think of how Rowling took that on in her own little way with her schoolbooks like Fantastic Beasts, Tales of Beedle the Bard, [and] Quidditch Through the Ages. They all have little footnotes in them to explain things to those of us who are not witches and wizards. Which, of course, we are witches and wizards. That’s not a problem for us.
[Aurelia, Camilla, and Marjolaine laugh]
Simé: So speaking about footnotes, the official translation of Harry Potter has a lot of footnotes in Armenian. And what was really weird for me is that the first time Godric’s Hollow is mentioned, there is a footnote explaining that this is the village where Harry’s parents were born. And I found that was too much.
[Michael and Simé laugh]
Simé: It was giving away the plot.
Michael: Oh, that’s funny. They got a little carried away. I know, too, there was some confusion with name changes for certain translations… I can’t remember which translation it was, but I know that Sirius Black’s name was translated in one of the languages with the word “black” translating to that language’s word for “black” in Philosopher’s Stone. But then later down the line, they actually just ended up continuing to call him “Sirius Black.” So his one reference in Philosopher’s Stone for those readers didn’t catch. That’s one of those big things that you go back and you’re like, “Oh my God, Sirius was mentioned in the first book.” So yeah, there’s a lot of those little intricacies that occasionally get lost with translation.
Marjolaine: Yeah, I saw in one of the articles that… It’s the Russian version where they changed translator[s] and they changed some of the names. So I don’t know. It can be a problem when they change the translator.
Simé: Actually, no. I’m quite surprised because I’ve read them in Russian, and I didn’t see any changes. It was the same.
Aurelia: I read [that] it changed between the first and the second book that changed the translator.
Simé: Oh, maybe.
Aurelia: And the translator changed the translations for the Hogwarts Houses.
Marjolaine: Yeah, that’s what I read.
Simé: Because I didn’t read the first book in Russian. It’s possible. I read it in Armenian.
Michael: Well, with all of our personal experiences with the book, Aurelia, can you give us more of a broader overview with some of the research you did about the languages of Harry Potter?
Aurelia: Absolutely, yes. So, first of all, worldwide there was sold 450 million copies – so that’s already a lot – in over 200 countries. So obviously that doesn’t translate to 200 languages because a lot of countries speak the same language, but it’s still 75 languages. And that’s only the authorized copies and translations. Because there’s still some unauthorized translations going around and there’s still, as we heard earlier, translations in process. So I’ve read that they are still translating into the Kazakh, Tajik, Uzbek, and Armenian versions.
Simé: We have just had The Prisoner of Azkaban. [laughs]
Aurelia: Yes. And I think for the Uzbek and the Kyrgyz, they have not even started yet. But it’s planned to happen.
Michael: And we just recently got a release of the Scots translation.
Aureia: Oh yes.
Michael: Which is a fun one that we can touch on a little later. So yeah, there are still… And the Scots one had quite a big hoopla around its release too. So yeah, people are still getting excited and celebrating the release of translations of Harry Potter.
Aurelia: Even 20 years after the first book came out.
Marjolaine: Yeah. In France they are currently translating it in [unintelligible]. I don’t know the languages in Britain. So, yeah. It’s not a language that’s really spoke, but they are translating it. I think they already did the first two or first three. I don’t know, but yeah.
Michael: That’s so neat. Yeah, Harry Potter even gets translated into languages that are not commonly spoken – or even dead languages, because we’ve had a Latin translation of Harry Potter too.
Aurelia: And an Old Greek.
Michael: Yeah. Yeah.
Aurelia: And they also translated into the same thing in a dialect of German. Because there’s obviously different dialects in German and they translated the whole series in[to] one specific dialect. I don’t know why exactly that dialect, but there is that version, and you can even listen to it in an audiobook. So, I don’t know. Seems to be a market for that. [laughs] But what I found interesting is that translators often switched. They didn’t stay with the same translator. I know in the Spanish version it switched actually a couple of times. Which I imagine would always be hard because you have to decide how you translate stuff, if you copy the names [or] if you translate the names. And then as I just explained with the Russian version, if you don’t continue the track laid by the first translator, then it will be super confusing for the audience reading it. So bold choice there to switch translators. I don’t know the reasons why they would do that. [laughs]
Michael: Well, one of the points – you had two that I found really interesting – is that translators didn’t always have immediate access to the books.
Aurelia: Oh, they never had immediate access. They would only get it when the English version would be published, and I know in Germany they had two months’ time. It would be, most commonly, that they had two months’ time to translate it. And for all books, even Order of the Phoenix which is 1,020 pages in the German edition, you have two months’ time to translate. I think in the English it’s 800-something pages.
Aurelia: You don’t sleep for two months. That’s what it’s supposed to be.
[Aurelia, Camilla, and Michael laugh]
Michael: Well, and the other thing with that is that, of course, none of these translators were privy to Rowling’s plans. I almost think that some of the translators who are just starting on a new translation now are lucky because they’ve got the full series out, and they can maybe work with some of the intricacies of the series to plan that out better. Because we had translations being – like you said, Aurelia – rushed out really fast because there was such high demand for Harry Potter that these poor translators would occasionally translate things in a way that would perhaps destroy or muddle Rowling’s vision just a little bit – with the best intentions, not meaning to. But of course, her embargo on everything made that impossible for them to know more.
Aurelia: Yeah, exactly. Just as I said earlier, if you know that Fluffy’s not important in the long way around, you could’ve easily translated that one into German and made the joke work. Whereas Voldemort and stuff like that, if you stick with it, then it’s probably better in the long run. But you couldn’t know that after the first book especially.
Michael: No, yeah, absolutely. And speaking of that, you had some discussion points here, too, about translation strategies, some general ones. We have some specific ones for each country that we’re looking at today, but also, Aurelia, you had some more general ones that occur.
Aurelia: Yeah. So I dug around the Internet a bit because I obviously don’t know too much about translating. And apparently, what was really tricky for translators is that, obviously, the book is set in Britain. There’s a lot of stuff that’s just typical for Britain that’s just not understood in other cultures. Then her way of inventing words, writing songs and rhymes – which is always hard to translate – and the wordplay, just the puns and stuff like that, is always challenging. And apparently, there’s four major approach[es] to this, and [the] first [is] copying. Just stick with what is there in the original, even if the joke is lost on some of the audience because it stays in the original English. You can also transliterate, even though that could mean that it lost its original meaning, or you could replace the name of another given name from the target language. It has been done for Snape, as we heard earlier. Or you could translate the name using native words that convey the same meaning. So those are basically the four options you can go with, and as far as I understand, mostly, you don’t stick with one way for a large book like this. You make a good mixed choice. You will copy some; you will probably translate some. But I think we will talk about this now in further detail for the languages we have here on the show.
Michael: I have a question with all of these different methods, because Snape was a really excellent example of what countries made what choices. I have another thing that I want to ask about. Since you were talking, Aurelia, about how Rowling especially has a knack for making things up, what happened in each of your countries with Quidditch?
Marjolaine: Actually, I only understood today the meaning of Quidditch. I never understood that Quidditch was referring to the names of the balls in English because in French, we have the word “Quidditch,” but every ball has another name in French, so…
Michael: What are the names of the Quidditch balls in French?
Marjolaine: So the Quaffle is the “Souafle,” and the Bludger is the “cognard,” and the Golden Snitch is the “vif d’or.” Yeah.
Michael: Do those mean anything?
Marjolaine: “Souafle” is a made-up word too, but it feels like it’s the breath of something. “Cognard” is really beating something; “cogner” is beating. And “vif d’or,” the “d’or” is gold, and “vif” is speed. It’s the idea of speed.
Michael: Fast, right. Yeah, yeah. That was one thing I understood.
[Marjolaine and Michael laugh]
Michael: That’s really cool. Yeah. For all of my Potter knowledge, I did not realize that Quidditch was an amalgamation of all of the balls’ names. I learned that from that Vox video that was shared. It was Nitsan Chalev, so thank you, Nitsan, for sharing that Vox video with us. What I’ll do too is put that video in our show notes so that you listeners can also find it too, because it has some really interesting breakdown of things that happened in all different countries with the translations of Harry Potter. And yeah, I had no idea about the Quidditch balls with the name “Quidditch”; that was really clever. What happened with Quidditch in Danish, Camilla?
Camilla: Well, the name “Quidditch” is still the same, but the balls also have different names. So the Quaffle is “Tromler,” which is basically like… You know those big, tractor kind of things that have this round thing and they make everything flat? I don’t know how to explain it.
[Camilla and Michael laugh]
Camilla: It’s like when they do construction work and they have to flatten everything out. They drive this thing over it and then everything flats down.
Michael: Oh, yes! Yes, I know what you’re talking about.
Aurelia: What is the English word for that, Michael?
Michael: Uh… [laughs] I don’t work in construction. I’m going to see if I can find that out.
Camilla: And then a Bludger is actually a “Smasher,” so that’s not really a Danish word. I guess they just changed it because they didn’t think that people would know what a Bludger was, but they would know what a smasher was apparently.
Michael: Oh, ha ha. It’s a steamroller.
Simé: Ah, okay. Yeah.
Camilla: And then the Golden Snitch is “Det Gyldne Lyn,” which is “The Golden Lightning” actually, which is terribly translated.
Michael: Ooh. That’s really cool. I’m not really sure what the equating a Quaffle with a steamroller is.
[Aurelia and Camilla laugh]
Michael: That’s a bit of a stretch for me, but okay, sure. [laughs]
Camilla: I don’t know either. [laughs]
Michael: There’s a joke in there somewhere that somebody gets.
Camilla: Probably, yeah.
Aurelia: It’s probably because it’s not round. Because it’s flat, the Quaffle’s not a perfectly round ball. That’s the only thing I could imagine. [laughs]
Michael: Well, okay. Because actually in the books the Quaffle is perfectly round, [but] in the movies it’s not. In the movies they put those indentations in it with the idea that the players can grip it. But it’s explained in Quidditch Through the Ages that a Quaffle is actually perfectly round and that it has a Gripping Charm on it. So, yeah.
Aurelia: Okay. Well then, I don’t know.
Michael: Simé, what happened with Quidditch in Armenian?
Simé: I’m actually in a state of shock because I’ve just discovered the meaning of Quidditch.
Michael: [laughs] We all are.
Simé: Okay. I have had the same feeling recently when I discovered what the Mirror of Erised [is].
[Camilla and Simé laugh]
Michael: Oh, see, see. Now I’m glad I didn’t spoil it on that previous episode because it’s so fun to take it and put it up to the mirror and go, “Oh my God. That’s a big deal.”
Simé: Ever since comparing the two translations in Armenian, I said, “Why is it so different?” And then it finally dawned on me. So as I said, we have two translations. The second, official translation just copied the names of the balls; nothing changed. But in the first case, “Quaffle” was translated as [speaks Armenian], which means “a big sandwich.”
Michael: [laughs] Sure.
Simé: Yeah, okay. So the translator explained it as, “the ball is big” and… I don’t know. It’s big. [laughs]
Michael: Delicious too. [laughs]
Simé: [laughs] Okay, so the Bludger was translated as [speaks Armenian], which is a type of dangerous bee. And she said that these balls can bite and hit the players like bees. And finally, my favorite one is the Snitch, which was translated as [speaks Armenian], which means “golden messenger.”
Camilla: Oh, cool.
Michael: Oh, I like that.
Simé: Yeah. So it tells the audience if the game is over or not.
Michael: That’s really cool. What happened in German, Aurelia?
Aurelia: Well, Quidditch stayed “Quidditch.” And I just double checked because I wasn’t certain, but Quaffle also stayed “Quaffle.” However, “Bludger” changed into “klatscher,” which is basically just a German version for “Bludger,” and the Golden Snitch turned into “der goldenen schnatz,” which is also just a translation for that.
Michael: The Golden Snitch, yes. With an accent.
[Aurelia and Michael laugh]
Aurelia: I would write it with an A instead of an I, like “snatch.”
Michael: [laughs] So with that said, Aurelia, would you like to go into a little bit about what happened with some strategies in the German translation?
Aurelia: All right. As I said, they mostly copied, especially for character names, so Voldemort is Voldemort. The Hogwarts Houses stayed the same, which I know is not common in Europe. Dementor stayed “Dementor,” as does “Horcrux.” I think most of Rowling’s own inventions stayed true to themselves. The Hogwarts Express is still the Hogwarts Express, although that is actually fairly easily explained because “express” is a common word to call trains in Germany as well. And Hogwarts is this cool name, so that was not too hard to understand. Funnily enough, mostly beast and plant names were translated. So the Whomping Willow got changed into “Die Pietschenden Weide.” Death Eaters turn into “Todesser,” which is just the translation. The Daily Prophet is Der Tagesprophet. Buckbeak turned into “Seidenschnabel,” which is actually one of those words… If you’re like me [and] mostly talk in English about Harry Potter and then someone is like, “So Seidenschnabel…” you’d be like, “Wait, what? Who’s that?”
Aurelia: Crookshanks turns into “Krummbein”; Howler turns into “Heuler,” which is very similar; and the Cloak of Invisibility is “der Terumhang,” which is different because it doesn’t say “invisible.” The translation is more… I’m missing the word… camouflage. It doesn’t mean invisible. It’s more like you don’t stick out, more like a chameleon.
Michael: Oh. Yeah, uh-huh. You blend in.
Aurelia: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And speaking of the Mirror of Erised, that turned into “Der Spiegel Nerhegeb.”
Michael: Does that carry the same…? What does that mean?
Aurelia: “Nerhegeb” in the right order is “begehren,” which is the German word for desire.
Michael: Desire. Okay, so they managed to get that through.
Aurelia: Yeah. And [the] Marauder’s Map is turned into “Die Karte des Rumtreibers,” which I’ve never really figured out what “marauder’s” would be translated to in German because it’s a weird word. [laughs]
Aurelia: But I suppose it fits because “Rumtreibers,” which is the German, basically could be translated into “someone walking around doing mischief.” So that fits, I suppose. [laughs]
Marjolaine: Isn’t “marauder” a strange word in English?
Michael: Yeah, it’s a weird word. That’s not a word that the average fifth grader would know.
Simé: What does it mean?
Michael: [laughs] “Marauder”…
Marjolaine: So I think it’s a French word. Because we have it in French.
Michael: Here it means basically, like a mischief maker. Yeah.
Marjolaine: Yeah. So it’s the same word.
Michael: Is that generally what it means in France?
Michael: So yeah, that was definitely… I remember when I read it in elementary school, I was like, “I don’t know what that means. I don’t care.”
Michael: Okay. So I’m looking it up just to be sure, because I don’t want to be putting false information out there. Let’s see what dictionary.com says… Oh yeah, okay. It’s more like a meaning that’s kind of like… think Indiana Jones. It means “to roam or go around in quest of plunder.”
Michael: So it’s basically like, you like finding things. You have an adventurous, mischievous spirit. And that makes sense in terms of the Marauders. They walk around and they find things in Hogwarts that other people didn’t find.
Marjolaine: It’s funny because in French we used the verb as a name. [unintelligible] Maraud is what the social workers do on the street to find the homeless people and help them. So it’s also walking on the street to help people. [laughs] So yeah, it’s a more recent adaptation of this name, but traditionally a marauder in French is also more close to mischief than… yeah.
Aurelia: As for where the German translations stray mostly away from the English is the abbreviations for OWLs, which is Ordinary Wizard something?
Michael: Ordinary Wizarding Levels.
Aurelia: Yeah. Which in German is the ZAGs, which is Zauberergrad, which translates back to “Wizard Grade.”
Michael: There you go.
Aurelia: [laughs] But it goes even further off for the NEWTs, which is UTZ – Unheimlich Toller Zauberer – which translates back to “uncannily cool wizard.”
Michael: That’s great. Yeah, that’s definitely straying, because NEWTs in English is meant to stand for “Nastily Exhausting Wizard Tests.”
Aurelia: Yeah. And also Diagon Alley, which is a pun for “diagonally,” turned into Winkelgasse, which is “angle lane.” So they completely strayed there as well.
Michael: I like that, though, because diagonal is an angle. So it’s just being more general and being like, “a lane that has angles.”
Aurelia: Yeah. [laughs]
Michael: So it still conveys generally the same meaning.
Simé: Yeah. Actually, in translations studies it’s called superordinate. If you don’t use the exact words, you use a word in the same category, but it is a bit higher. For example, in Armenia we don’t have muffins and you can just say cakes. It represents the category.
Michael: Well, and speaking of Armenian, we’ve got a few points that maybe Simé can go into about some things that occurred with the Armenian translation strategies.
Simé: Well, as I said, the first translation is much more interesting because the second one just foreignized the book. So they just kept everything – the names and the cultural references – with a lot of footnotes. So in the official translation, you will see a lot of footnotes about cultural elements like muffins. You’ll also see footnotes about mythological creatures like trolls and unicorns. In the first translation there is a lot of playing with the language and a lot of domesticating. For example, Professor Sprout was translated into [Armenian], which in Armenian is a plant grown in greenhouses and meadows.
Michael: Hmm. It totally works.
Simé: Yeah, it does. And about the Dementors, Dementors were translated into [Armenian], which is actually a creature from pre-Christian legends both in Hebrew and Armenian legends.
Simé: Yeah, [it’s] culturally adapting to the target language, the same way pixies were translated into [Armenian], which is again a creature from mythology. I had a question here about when Dumbledore says a toast and he says, “Nitwit, blubber, oddment, tweak.” I never understood what it is supposed to mean. Does it mean anything?
Michael: It doesn’t mean anything. He’s saying nonsense words. It’s basically supposed to convey that he’s being eccentric.
Aurelia: But didn’t Rosie explain that it also kind of represents the four Houses?
Michael: Yeah, I think there is a deeper explanation behind it if you dig a little bit. Do you remember that?
Simé: Yeah, I remember.
Aurelia: I can’t assign the four [words] to the four Houses, but I definitely remember Rosie explaining it. And that was the first time that I understood why it was those four in Harry Potter.
Michael: Usually that’s the thing, that Dumbledore is… There’s a lot of things in Harry Potter that initially don’t seem to mean anything or that sound like nonsense that do end up meaning something. But off the bat it’s probably just supposed to sound like nonsense. If you were a translator who only read the first book, it wouldn’t mean anything.
Marjolaine: Actually, it’s translated in French. We have a translation of each word. I don’t remember every one, but I know that one of them was in French – [unintelligible] – which means very large. It’s like an insult for somebody too big, so yeah. I don’t remember the other one, but I think in French the translator chose four insults [that] can apply for the four Houses. So that’s what I remember. I don’t know exactly.
Camilla: It’s translated in Danish too. They made it into a rhyme, actually, so it’s “Splat! Skvat! Dingenot! Tagfat!” It’s basically just, well, “splat.” The first word is like “splat,” just the sound. And then “Skvat” is someone who is scared and someone who is a “scaredy pants” kind of person. “Dingenot” is a thingy, like a thingy. You don’t know what it is. It’s a thingy. And then the last word is “Tagfat,” which is actually the game that you play when you play… What’s it called? Tick? What’s it called where you touch each other and you’re the one, and then you have to run away from them?
Camilla: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Michael: Oh, tag.
Camilla: Tag, yeah.
Michael: Yeah, I’m looking it up here and there’s a translation. There’s ideas that the four Houses might be related. “Nitwit” is Ravenclaw, “blubber” is Gryffindor, “oddment” is Slytherin, and “tweak” is Hufflepuff. There’s some stretches of reasons why that might be. I’m guessing, Marjolaine, that with the French translation that… Was it “blubber” that was translated to the one that was meant to be related to fat?
Marjolaine: Yeah, probably.
Michael: Because yeah, blubber can be fat. That’s one meaning for blubber. Blubber can also mean babbling on, or somebody who cries, like, “they blubber.” So yeah, there’s multiple meanings for blubber.
Marjolaine: Yeah. I found it in French and the first one is nigaud in French, which means stupid. So after [French] is bizarre, which means weird. And the last one is [in French], which leads to birds, so I don’t know. It’s more of just words in French.
Michael: Mhm. What happened, Simé, with the Armenian?
Simé: [laughs] The funny thing that happened with the Armenian is that the translator completely abandoned the original and went forward with a poem – a little poem in the style of Armenian folklore.
Simé: [laughs] It has nothing to do with the original. But the official translator just did the same way as the girls said, just translated the words that Rowling gives.
Michael: What’s the poem in the original first translation?
Simé: I only have here… Okay, I have to find it. In Armenian?
Simé: Like how it sounds, or should I translate it?
Michael: Both. I’m curious about both.
Simé: [laughs] So it says: [speaks Armenian]
Michael: Oh goodness, that’s a mouthful. What does that mean?
Simé: [laughs] Okay, I’ll try my best: “The water came out of the edge of…” How do I say this in English? … “some container, and then the lightning struck from…” Even I don’t know some of the words here, actually. [laughs] So “the lightning struck from the hole of some stone.”
Simé: It’s an awful translation, but… [laughs]
Michael: That’s really interesting. How neat that they just took that and made that. Because even if it doesn’t convey the hidden meaning, if there’s the hidden meaning of the Houses, you still get that eccentricity of Dumbledore from that.
Simé: Yeah. I think you get the effect that you were waiting for Dumbledore to say something grandiose and you read this and you say, “What does he mean? Is he serious?”
Michael: Yeah. Oh, that’s great. How neat. Well, let’s jump in and see what happened with some of the French translation strategies.
Marjolaine: Yes. So basically in French it’s mostly a mix of translating and replacing. It’s the case for every kind of word; for the names, for the Houses, it’s translated. And for the places, for the other creations… yeah, we have also some of the names who are kept in English, but I think most of them are translated. And what is funny for the names, some of them are translated but still we have English text in it with some Y or some W, [which] are not physically in French names, but they are in French words to look more English. So for example, the bookshop Flourish and Blotts became in French Fleury et Bott. For French it looks English because “Fleury” ends with a Y, and “Bott” doesn’t really mean anything in French. So yeah, it’s an example. And Pettigrew became Pettigrow, so it’s just the E [that] became an O. Which is funny [because] with Pettigrow in French, it looks like an English name, but in French petit gros means “little” and “fat.”
[Marjolaine and Michael laugh]
Marjolaine: And for example, [in] the more drastic change we have Hogwarts, who became Poudlard, and so Hogsmeade became Pré-au-Lard. So yes, we have a logic in the translation that…
Aurelia: That means “before,” right?
Marjolaine: Yeah. No… I don’t know exactly, but Poudlard [means]… Actually, it’s really the translation of “hog” became “lard” and “warts” became “poud,” so it’s Poudlard – Hogwarts in reverse. And Pré-au-Lard is just “hogs” and… Yeah, I don’t know exactly why Pré-au-Lard… I don’t know if it’s supposed to look English or not, but it looks French. I really don’t know for Hogsmeade [becoming] Pré-au-Lard. Yeah. For “Muggle” we say moldu.
Marjolaine: [laughs] Yeah. And it’s funny because the translator explained the choice of moldu. Moldu is to say they are [French], and it means “soft brain.” They are lacking something in their brain. It’s magic they are lacking. So yeah, it became moldu.
Aurelia: Can you say the four House names in French?
Marjolaine: Yeah. So Gryffindor became Gryffondor, so it’s really close. And for Ravenclaw we have Serdaigle, so it’s funny with Serdaigle; it means “eagle-claw.” So we are more close to the emblem of the House in French.
Marjolaine: And Hufflepuff became Poufsouffle, which is really this same meaning.
Michael: Which is the greatest thing ever.
Aurelia: Which is why I asked.
Michael: If there was an accent over the E over here, it would look like “poof souffle.”
Michael: Which is even better. It’s perfect. I love that name.
Marjolaine: Yeah. And Slytherin is Serpentard, which is also, [in] translation, really close.
Michael: That’s so neat. I liked that you gave us the translation for Muggle too because I’ve always… Of course, with Fantastic Beasts in the US we call them No-Majes, so I really love the idea that actually each country has a different word for something like Muggle. So I’d really like to think that that’s actually canonically what the French call Muggles, because that would be fantastic.
Aurelia: It’s definitely more creative than the German version.
[Aurelia and Marjolaine laugh]
Michael: What’s the German version?
Aurelia: The German is just Muggel. [pronounced “Moo-gle”]
Aurelia: Yeah. You just change L and E [to] E-L, and then you pronounce it German. But if I [tell] people I work for MuggleNet, they’re like, “You work for what?” Muggle, like Muggel. And they’re like, “Oh,” because it sounds very different.
Marjolaine: Yeah, we don’t have MolduNet in French.
[Marjolaine and Michael laugh]
Marjolaine: Yeah, I don’t know. We have also the translation of the abbrevia… abbreaviat… Ah! I don’t know how to say that. Abbreviations, yes?
Marjolaine: And so, yeah… which is funny with them. The translator kept the meaning of the abbreviation in English, so OWLs became BUSE, which is also a bird. And so it became [French translation], which was mostly the same meaning in English but with the right word to form the word buse. And the NEWTs became ASPIC, which is a snake. I don’t remember the full meaning of all the letters, but I think it’s the same meaning of really hard and demanding magic. Yeah.
Michael: And you had a little story here too, Marjolaine, about Fantastic Beasts.
Marjolaine: Yeah. [laughs] The translation of one famous name – Newt Scamander. So obviously, Newt Scamander appear[ed] on the first book. So it has been translated there [as] Norbert Dragonneau, which is really, really weird and really stupid in French. It’s like all the other translations of the author of the other books where the translator was really trying to find funny words to fall for all the other names he had. So he’d change all the other names of the author of the other books. But with Newt, [what] is funny is that when the Fantastic Beasts book came out in French, the first edition is Newt Scamander on the cover and not Norbert Dragonneau. And in it, on the introduction of the book, it says that Norbert Dragonneau is an alias he used in France. So I was quite… In the movie, when we were all waiting for the first movie, I didn’t know if they will get the English Newt Scamander or if they will translate in Norbert Dragonneau. Unfortunately, they choose to translate Norbert Dragonneau in the French version. I looked in the new edition in French, and Newt Scamander totally disappeared [from] the new translation of Fantastic Beasts in French. So yeah, it’s weird and it’s a shame because I always had in my head the story of why Newt changed his name here for the French editor in Paris, and I really have the other story in my head with the French editor choosing the name Norbert Dragonneau.
Michael: Yeah. I love that there was a moment there where the French translation had a little bit of its own story to it that actually still kind of tied in with the wider world, that he would have had to use an alias in France. And if they maybe hadn’t done that translation for the movie, then they could have tied that in since he is going to France in the next movie. Oh, that would have been so cool to have an explanation for that. And I’m sure that’s too bad too because yeah, that’s probably… I’m sure if Rowling had been maybe more aware of that choice, maybe she would have even done something with it. But of course, we know that Rowling has basically zero oversight on the translations. She doesn’t have the time to devote to each translation, so she probably may not have even known that this was a thing.
Marjolaine: Yeah. But I hope they will keep the word Moldu, at least, for the Muggle. Because it would be so strange if they changed their name and created another French name for Muggle. It would be really, really strange.
Michael: Yeah, now that we’re doing so much country hopping in Fantastic Beasts, there may be certain words and terms that are affected in future. That’s not something I really thought of until you brought that up.
Marjolaine: Yeah. The French translator is still really involved in the community, the fandom in France, so it’s still the same translator [who] also translated Cursed Child. So regularly we can hear him on the radio and on the media to speak about Harry Potter. Yeah, he’s considered as one of the specialists of Harry Potter in France, so I hope they will think of him for the production of the second movie, but I don’t know.
Michael: That’s so funny that in some countries, even the translator has become perhaps as well known about what their involvement is in Harry Potter as Rowling herself.
Marjolaine: Yeah, he’s not as famous as Rowling, but yeah, he’s present.
Michael: Yeah, that’s really cool. That’s not something that’s really done in the US, with kind of porting over works. We have that more now because Harry Potter got so big, but generally that would not really be a thing to know the behind-the-scenes work of it. So that’s really neat that the translator in France is frequently interviewed and talks about the experience. That’s really cool.
Marjolaine: Yeah. And just to finish about Norbert, because of course…
Michael: Yes, because there’s this obvious tie-in.
Marjolaine: Yeah. And obviously [Norbert] is the name of the baby dragon of Hagrid. It’s funny because obviously in French we understand the name Norbert as a reference to Norbert Dragonneau/Newt Scamander, which means “baby dragon.” So yeah, there is a link in French that doesn’t exist in English.
Michael: Yeah. That’s so funny that there’s that tie-in that doesn’t really mean anything in terms of the plot. [laughs] So what happened, Camilla, with some stuff from the Danish translation?
Camilla: Mostly, I think it was a mix of copying and translating. Like I said before, a lot of the names that have meaning for the character were translated, like Professor Sprout and Umbridge, and Lupin also. And then also…
Michael: Ooh! Ooh! What’s Lupin’s name?
Michael: You knew I was going to ask.
Camilla: So instead of Lupin, it’s Lupus. So it’s really the only difference.
Marjolaine: [It’s] Latin, I guess.
Camilla: Yeah, I think so too. And then a lot of…
Michael: That’s funny. Lupus has a very different meaning…
Camilla: Yeah, it’s an illness, isn’t it?
Michael: Yes, it is. [laughs]
Camilla: I don’t know why they changed that, but yeah.
Michael: I mean, in some ways it still works because he is chronically ill.
Camilla: But not with lupus.
Michael: So it kind of fits. But yeah, that’s funny.
Camilla: Yeah. And then in German, beasts and places and certain titles are mostly translated, like the Leaky Cauldron, and Parseltongue is basically translated to “snake whispering.”
Camilla: And the Pensieve is like a memory basin or a memory tub. It’s called Mindekar. And the Mirror of Erised is “the dream mirror,” actually.
Michael: Now, can you pronounce it for me? Because your [last] name, Camilla, has that O with the slash through it, and we don’t have that. What is that letter? Because we don’t have that in English.
Camilla: It’s “ur”.
Michael: Sounds like you hiccupped. That’s what that sounds like to me.
Camilla: Sound kind of [like] “ur”? What? And then we have the A with the little circle over it, which is [unintelligible]. And then we have the other one that’s like a mix of an A and an E, which is [unintelligible]. So “ur”, the O with the line across, is in the word for the Mirror of Erised, so it’s Drømmespejlet. And then most potions and spells are copied, so they’re not translated. There are only just a few exceptions, like Crucio. The Cruciatus Curse spell is dolor, so I think that has… I’m pretty sure like in Spanish it also means pain or something.
Simé: Yeah, in Spanish it means pain.
Camilla: And then Draught of the Living Dead, for example – which is more like a sentence than a name, really – is also translated. And then some of the names or words are what I call “Dani-fied,” which is the same word but then you just kind of say it in a very Danish way. Like Hermione, for instance. In Danish her name is Her-mi-one.
Michael: Oh my God! That’s how a bunch of people mispronounced her name in the US.
Camilla: Yeah. So it’s spelled the same way and everything is just pronounced in a very…
Michael: Oh my gosh, that’s blowing my mind. Apparently, a bunch of us were not necessarily mispronouncing her name. We were just saying her name in Danish.
Camilla: Yeah! And like we talked about before, Muggle is also almost the same; it’s just Mugla. So it’s just a little bit Dani-fied. And then some translations of typical English things we also talked about, like money, currency. I found in Philosopher’s Stone… There’s one on Christmas morning where the Dursleys send Harry the Christmas present, and it’s I think it’s a fifty-pence [piece] or something they sent him.
Aurelia: Is it that much?
Michael: I think it’s like a five-pence piece.
Aurelia: Yeah, it’s definitely less.
Michael: It’s very small, yeah.
Camilla: The version I have says, “Taped to the note was a fifty-pence piece.” But I have a very new version of Philosopher’s Stone, so I don’t know how much a fifty-pence piece is.
Michael: It’s not that much.
Aurelia: It’s like a fifty-cent piece, if you go to euros. You have euros in Denmark, right?
Camilla: No. [laughs]
Camilla: No. We have our own.
Aurelia: Damn. I tried.
Camilla: I don’t know what you’re talking about when you’re talking about euros. Yeah, that was transferred to the Danish currency. And then candy, for instance… Also, in the same chapter, the fudge is mentioned. Yeah, the thing that you eat – very English thing – is translated to caramels in Danish.
Michael: But did they translate Fudge’s name?
Camilla: Um… That is…
Michael: Is he still Fudge in Danish?
Camilla: Yeah, I’m pretty sure he is.
Michael: Oh, that’s funny.
Camilla: Yeah, I don’t think they changed… No, they didn’t. They didn’t change his name.
Michael: That’s really interesting, too, that they translated the currency and decided to localize that, considering that so much of the Danish translation seems to actually keep the British flare.
Camilla: Yeah, that’s… I don’t know. Maybe the translators…
Michael: I mean, it would be hilarious if the Dursleys sent Harry a Danish coin, because that would be even less valuable.
Camilla: Yeah, they did send him a Danish… like a little note… What do you call them, like bills? Yeah. And then they translated a lot of the candy that has weird names, like Chocolate Frogs are called something different, and Every Flavor Beans and those kinds of things are translated. So yeah.
Michael: Now one thing that you mentioned, Camilla, and I was curious about this with all of you in your translations. What happened with some of the spells? Because we know that the spells are mixed up from all kinds of different things. A lot of them are Latin based, but then you’ve got a few that are kind of a mix of English and a little bit of this, little bit of that, all over the place. You know, Mimblewimble is not necessarily Latin. There’s different mixes that she plays with in her spells, and I was wondering if that ended up getting translated in some of your languages. Because we’ve talked about, too, the idea that if canonically, magic is actually… if the spells are all the same across all countries, or if there are, in fact, localized versions of spells for each country.
Camilla: What I could find – because I looked into it, I also thought about that. From the top of my head, I could only think of Crucio that was translated.
Michael: The only one.
Camilla: So some of the ones that [have] a bit more English than Latin in them are not actually translated, as far as I remember.
Michael: What happens with the Armenian, Simé?
Simé: It was mostly the same. I’m just trying to find one example when it was changed with Armenian. Their spells did not really change, in most cases.
Michael: Since you know Spanish too, Simé, do you know if anything changed with the spells?
Simé: No, because I didn’t read the books in Spanish.
Michael: I have some of the books in Spanish, to look and see. I have [Books] 1, 4, 6, and 7 in Spanish. So I should check and see if I can find any differences in there.
Aurelia: I think it’s mostly just spells [that] stayed the same. Because [they] definitely stay the same in German, but some potions, like the Draught of the Living Dead, would be translated.
Marjolaine: Same in French.
Aurelia: Because that’s actually more of a sentence than actually a fancy letter word.
Michael: Yeah. I guess I just thought… because most of the spells are Latin based, so it’s not really expected that you would need to localize that. But there are some spells, like you said, that don’t borrow from Latin. Okay, this spell is pure English and it’s not even really… Like you were saying, Aurelia, it’s more of a sentence. In Goblet of Fire, when Harry is trying to find his way in the maze, he says, “Point me,” which is a spell, apparently.
Aurelia: Oh yeah.
Michael: I’m assuming that got translated.
Aurelia: Yeah, that got translated.
Michael: What happened in the French editions?
Marjolaine: It’s mostly the same thing – all the Latin spells not translated. We have a translation for the Cruciato… Cruciatio… Ah!… Crucio curse, because it’s obviously too hard to pronounce in English.
Marjolaine: In French we have [French translation], which is dolor, the same word. But [French translation] looks like a Latin word. But for the other spells, I don’t remember of any other change.
Michael: Alohomora didn’t get changed?
Aurelia: I don’t think [so], because it’s like what you always imagined as a kid. A wizard has weird words for his spells to work. It’s all like “Point me,” which is ridiculous.
[Aurelia and Michael laugh]
Aurelia: So I don’t think that would be an issue with it, because people will be like, “Okay, I’m not surprised that it looks different to my own language.”
Michael: Yeah, because it’s supposed to look so much…
Michael: Did you find any, Simé?
Simé: [laughs] I’m kind of trying to find…
[Sound of pages turning]
Michael: I know. I hear you frantically flipping through the pages, like, “There’s got to be one!”
Simé: What was the spell that…? I just don’t remember the English version, actually – the spell that you do with your own eyes, kind of. Can you do something with your eyes?
Michael: Oh. With your eyes? I mean, in the movies Oculus Reparo is used to fix Harry’s glasses.
Simé: No, not that.
Aurelia: I saw that one in the third book when it rains heavily in the Quidditch game and Hermione comes…
Michael: But she doesn’t say that…
Aurelia: She does.
Marjolaine: I’m confused.
Michael: Does she? Oh, it’s Impervious.
Aurelia: Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s Impervio. Because then the whole team does that spell on their eyes, right?
Marjolaine: There is a spell they use on the dragon on the First Task, for hurting the eye of the dragon…
Michael: Oh, the Conjunctivitis Curse?
Michael: Basically that means pink eye, which is gross.
Michael: Yeah. [Krum] gave the dragon pink eye. [laughs] Well, we’ve got another thing that a lot of people like to talk about with the translations. What happened with Voldemort?
Aurelia: Oh, dear God.
Aurelia: So many things happened.
Michael: Because, of course, we have the issue that Voldemort’s name needed to be an anagram by Chamber of Secrets because of the very important plot reveal at the end of the book. So of course, in English his name is Tom Marvolo Riddle, which is an anagram for “I am Lord Voldemort.” But what happened everywhere else, guys?
Aurelia: So in German it changed to Tom Vorlost Riddle, which is the anagram for “ist Lord Voldemort.” Which is not “I am,” [but] “ist Lord Voldemort.”
Michael: Well, you got to keep Riddle.
Aurelia: Yeah, it was Tom Riddle. We just got a different middle name. [laughs]
Michael: Mhm. “Vorlost.”
Marjolaine: So in French we don’t have Tom Riddle, but Tom Jedusor. It’s funny because Jedusor in French is the fate game, like fate riddles. And the complete name is Tom Elvis Jedusor, and the anagram is “Je suis Lord Voldemort.”
Michael: Elvis is a favorite middle name in the US. We tend to think that’s the funniest one.
Simé: In the official Armenian translation, I think the translator did a very neat thing because they just kept the original English samples like “I am Tom Riddle,” and then there was a footnote that explained everything.
Michael: There we go. Problem solved. Just do a footnote.
Simé: Yeah. In the other one it was [Armenian translation]. This is how they translated it, just like [Armenian translation].
Camilla: Right. So the Danish is a mess.
Simé: That’s my favorite.
Camilla: It’s like an entirely different name. Then they chose to shorten some of it for the purpose of fitting in as an anagram, and then other times the rest of the books – other than the second book – not shortening it. So his name is Romeo G. Detlev, Jr.
Camilla: Yeah. So the G stands for Gade [pronounced “Goyle”], which means Riddle. So they just decided, for the sake of the anagram, to just not write it out because then it wouldn’t fit into the anagram, and then shorten the Junior to just Jr.
Michael: Yeah, I like that he included the Junior.
Camilla: Yeah, because otherwise it wouldn’t fit with it.
[Camilla and Michael laugh]
Michael: Because we know that for Riddle, that’s a huge point of contention with his name. He doesn’t include it.
Camilla: So yeah, that’s kind of a mess. Kind of.
Michael: I like that his first name is Romeo. Of course, that has some pretty [strong] Shakespearean connotations.
Camilla: So they switched around, I noticed, with Tom Marvolo Riddle. They switched around the Riddle and Marvolo, kind of in a sense, so the Riddle is lost in English, and then in Danish it’s actually in the middle before Marvolo. I also noticed that the… What are they called, his ancestors?
Michael: Oh, the Gaunts?
Camilla: Yeah, the Gaunts. So his first name in Danish… Marvolo Gaunt’s name is Detlev, like Romeo’s last name is in Danish. So they took it all the way. They at least did that right. They were consistent with that. They had to change the entire name for it to fit with just that little anagram, and then for the rest of the book they just called him Romeo Gade. So just Riddle instead and then they just delete the rest of it. [laughs]
Michael: Oh, that’s great. I really liked what the Swedish translation did as their solution. They just went Latin.
Camilla: Because otherwise it would be… It’s almost the same as Danish, so they would also need the [unintelligible] part of it. So they just did probably a bit easier thing with still keeping with the Tom and the Marvolo. They could keep that as well.
Michael: Yeah. I really feel like that’s a great way to maintain Voldemort’s haughtiness and uppitiness that he would use a Latin form of his name. I think that fits really well with his character. That’s a great solution for their version.
Camilla: Yeah, I think so too.
Michael: Who had the note about what happened with Japan?
Aurelia: I found that one.
Michael: That’s really neat.
Aurelia: So obviously Japan is in Japan[ese] sign thingies that I can’t read, but it tells me here that it’s pronounced “Tomu Ridoru.” So I hope that’s somewhere close to Japanese. [laughs] They just basically gave up on the anagram because they could not reproduce it. And [it] apparently was the same for Arabic. They were just like, “No, that’s not happening.” [laughs]
Michael: Well, yeah. I mean, that makes sense with languages that are based more in symbols than in… The thing with Japanese, or any of the Chinese languages like Mandarin or Cantonese, is that they are not Latin based in any way. They do not relate to Latin, so they’re not going to be able to get that same kind of… That form of Tom’s name isn’t going to make sense with that language. So that would make sense that they just dropped it entirely.
Simé: Yeah. I’ve just found out finally the spell.
Michael: Oh yeah, you found one?
Simé: What was the name of the spell that Snape uses on Harry to keep him on the broom? I mean, they think that he’s cursing him. So they think he’s doing what?
Aurelia: Do we know the spell?
Michael: I don’t know if we know that one.
Simé: In Armenian it was translated. Hermione says [speaks Armenian], which means that he was hitting you with his eyes.
Michael: Oh, that’s interesting. Because in the English version she basically just says that Snape is maintaining eye contact with Harry’s broom. So she’s not saying that he’s using a spell; she’s just saying that he’s using magic by maintaining eye contact. So that’s interesting that they basically turn that into a spell.
Michael: So you have an extra spell in Armenian that we don’t have. Cool. What was it again?
Simé: [speaks Armenian]
Michael: Perfect. I’m not even going to [try].
Michael: And with all these languages that we’ve talked about in the written form, Aurelia, you had a few points too about the audiobooks as well. Because that’s a question that actually one of our hosts, Katy, had raised about the translations.
Aurelia: Yeah. Like, Pottermore only says free versions of the audiobooks – obviously English. And I don’t know if that’s the Jim Dale or Stephen Fry English, but I’m assuming…
Michael: I wonder… I don’t know if they localize that too, depending on where you’re downloading your English version from.
Aurelia: Yeah, that would probably be…
Michael: Because Jim Dale’s version here is very famous.
Aurelia: Not with you, I know. [laughs]
Michael: Yeah, not with me, but with literally everybody else. So yeah, I think people would probably be pretty confused if they ended up with the Stephen Fry version over here.
Aurelia: Yeah. And they also have the German and the Japanese versions. That’s the only three versions that Pottermore sells. I don’t know why they have the German or Japanese versions.
Michael: Because it looks like there’s quite a few more out there.
Aurelia: Yeah. Listeners, it’s really hard to find out how many audiobook versions there are, because there’s no list or anything. So I did the only thing that I could do: I Amazon searched “Harry Potter audiobook” and then looked at all the languages it offered me. [laughs] So I’m assuming there might be more than the few that I found. So I found that obviously there’s English; there’s a Dutch version; there’s a French version; German, as we already covered; Italian, Japanese, Polish, Russian, and Spanish. Those are the only ones that I could find on Amazon. I’m assuming there might be a Hindi one because they dubbed the films in Hindi, so I would not be surprised if they also had an audiobook for Hindi. But I couldn’t find it, probably because Amazon Germany doesn’t want to sell me Hindi audiobooks. I don’t know why.
[Aurelia and Michael laugh]
Aurelia: Well, do you guys know of any more audiobooks that I could not find?
Camilla: It is in Danish as well.
Aurelia: Okay. So you can’t get that in Germany.
[Aurelia and Camilla laugh]
Michael: I guess they don’t have an Armenian one.
Simé: No, not yet.
Aurelia: They’re still translating.
[Aurelia and Simé laugh]
Michael: We’ll get those in 2030 or something. Gosh. And you’ve all had the films dubbed into your own languages, correct?
Aurelia, Camilla, Marjolaine, and Simé: Yes.
Michael: Did they immediately…? Because I know that was another thing, of course. The films were just as in demand as the books. In any of your countries, did they release a subtitled version first, or did they just wait until there was a dubbed version?
Aurelia: In Germany it came out the same day as the English version – in German.
Marjolaine: Yeah, in France too.
Michael: Wow. That’s impressive.
Aurelia: Yeah. They didn’t used to do that. I suppose it was 15 years ago. Now with all the big blockbusters – like Star Wars, all the Marvel films and stuff – they release worldwide on the same day, even in different languages. Because with the Internet nowadays, you can’t really stay spoiler-free easily.
Michael: That’s true.
Aurelia: So for the bigger ones they do the release on the same day, whereas for other movies they don’t. And I really realized that when I was in New Zealand for half a year and we used to go to see movies in New Zealand. [I] came back to Germany and half a year later there were still released movies in German that I’d already seen in English in New Zealand. So they’re not doing it for all of them, but for the big ones they have the same release date.
Marjolaine: In fact, for Star Wars in France, we have it two days before the rest of the world. Yeah.
[Aurelia and Marjolaine laugh]
Michael: Huh! Lucky you.
Aurelia: Oh yeah.
Marjolaine: Yeah. Because in France, all the movies come out on Wednesdays, so…
Michael: Oh, okay. Your release date is Wednesday. Oh, that’s interesting. Yeah, our common release date is Friday.
Aurelia: Oh, is it?
Michael: For certain movies we’ll do Thursday night showings, and sometimes they’ll even do Wednesday night stuff too. But they’ve really stretched that.
Aurelia: Because in Germany release date is Thursday. So you could see the first… Star Wars was released officially Wednesday night at [12:01 am], so it’s actually Thursday, but people still feel like it’s Wednesday. [laughs]
Michael: Huh. Well, when they translate the Harry Potter films, do they base some of the choices for translating from your book translations, or do they not match those up?
Aurelia: They’re matched for German. Obviously, that’s super easy because German translation is very close to the English one. There were no differences between the German books and German films.
Marjolaine: Yeah, in French it’s the same version too. I have one exception in my mind; it’s for the Patronus Charm. In French, I think the first translation is Spero Patronum, and in the movie it’s Expecto Patronum.
Michael: Oh, so they changed the spell.
Michael: Oh, that’s interesting. Huh. Were there any changes in Danish, Camille?
Camilla: No, I don’t think so. Not in the films and not in the video games, as far as I know. But I think, as far as I know, they stopped dubbing the films when they came to Half-Blood Prince. So Half-Blood Prince and the last two films are not dubbed.
Michael: Oh, that’s interesting.
Camilla: I don’t think there were enough people who wanted it. It just got kind of outdated. No offense, but it’s kind of a running joke when people go to Germany and watch a movie and everything is dubbed. We think it’s a little bit funny.
Aurelia: Yeah. See, we are jealous of you guys because you usually speak English very well, because you go to see movies in English because you don’t get dubbed versions. In Germany everything gets dubbed everywhere, and it’s really hard to get to an original version screening. It’s getting better now because normal people actually want to see original versions, but yeah, it’s still only big cities [that] show the original versions. Everywhere else you only get the dubbed versions.
Marjolaine: Yeah. It’s exactly the same thing in France as Germany.
Camilla: I think we just reached a point where it was, “well, everyone can read the subtitles, and most people understand English, so why do we do this?” So the only movies that we dub still are children’s movies, animated and stuff. They still get dubbed, but regular adult big Hollywood movies rarely, if ever, get dubbed. So I think that was just the point with the last three movies. Apparently it just got [outdated], so they just stopped doing it.
Aurelia: It would also make sense because the audience was older then. Usually people grow up with Harry Potter, so by the sixth, seventh, and eighth movies, they would probably be 15 years or older, so [they] probably have a very good grasp of the English language.
Camilla: Yeah. I remember watching the first movie. I had it on VHS and that was dubbed in Danish, and then already by the second movie – I got that on VHS too – that was initially with just Danish subtitles, and then you could fast forward to the end of the tape and then the dubbed Danish version would come. So it was actually two movies [on] one VHS tape.
Michael: Wow. They fit that on one VHS?
Camilla: Yeah, they did. [laughs]
Michael: That’s really impressive.
Camilla: Yeah. Then they started coming out on DVD and stuff, and they included it on there. I just checked today and my last three movies – Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows [Parts 1 and 2] – are not dubbed in Danish. I think it says just English, and you can choose Italian and, I think, Dutch or something, which is strange. I don’t know why they would sell a Danish… Because the title of the movie is in Danish and I bought it here in Denmark, and the text on the back is Danish and then I can choose Dutch or Italian, which is strange.
Aurelia: All that never made sense to me. Because in Germany the German DVDs usually have English [and] German, which [are]okay. Then they have Turkish, which probably is because we have a lot of Turkish people in Germany, then Italian and French. So…
Camilla: Yeah. I don’t know. [laughs]
Michael: Wow. You have so many options. Normally we just get English and probably Spanish, and occasionally French if the studio feels like it.
Aurelia: I was bummed with the video games because I wanted to play them in English. But you can only buy the German video game DVD here, and that doesn’t have the English.
Michael: I love that they have the video games over there too. That’s great.
Aurelia: Yeah. Well, you can all play.
Michael: I’d love to play those. That’d be so cool to play in your languages.
Camilla: I always played them in Danish. So I think that’s how I remember most of the Danish stuff is actually from the video games, because I always played in Danish for some reason.
Michael: That’s neat. How neat. Well, I’ll tell you just a titch about what happened with translations from the UK to the US because yes, there were changes. Not for long though. Harry Potter was kind of… We had in the 1960s what we called the British Invasion, where the Beatles became a really big thing and then everybody suddenly loved the UK over in the US. And we had a thing where we were just super into the UK. I think it’s safe to say that Harry Potter caused a second British Invasion in the US because to start, US readers were given a more localized flavor for Harry Potter. Of course, one of the most well-known [and] biggest changes was that Philosopher’s Stone was changed to Sorcerer’s Stone, and it was essentially because the US publisher, Scholastic, did not believe that children would want to read a book called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. And I’m going to be honest with you guys. They probably would not.
Michael: For the target age for Harry Potter, “philosopher,” I could honestly say, is probably considered too big of a word for kids around age nine through probably eleven. It wouldn’t be a word they would necessarily know off the bat. It’s in the same category as “marauder.”
Marjolaine: Actually, in France, they changed the first title too. It’s Harry Potter A L’Ecole des Sorciers, which is “the wizard school.” And for me, it had the reverse effect because I was eight or nine when the first book came out in France, and my mother immediately showed me this book because I was already a good reader, and I found it too childish, too babyish.
Marjolaine: If they kept the Philosopher’s Stone, which [is] Harry Potter et la Pierre Philosophale in French, I’m sure that I would read it right away. But yeah. [laughs]
Michael: That’s so funny that they gave it such a different title and that it actually had a reverse effect for you – made you not want to read it.
Michael: [laughs] But in Sorcerer’s Stone there are minor changes, and that continued through Goblet of Fire. After that, starting with Order of the Phoenix – and you can tell when you read the US edition – there’s not as much that’s been changed. And listeners, if you go to the Harry Potter Lexicon, you can actually find the list. And I couldn’t find the one for… Oh, somebody found the Prisoner of Azkaban one. Great. So there’s one for Sorcerer’s [Stone], Chamber, Prisoner, and Goblet. You can literally see all the differences. Mostly they’re just things that we in the US would not necessarily understand or that might mean something entirely different here. Over here we call jumpers “sweaters.” If you said “jumper” to us, we wouldn’t know what that is. In the British version of Harry Potter, they say… What was it? It was something about… Oh yeah – “Do his nut.” Here, we’d say “go ballistic.” “Do his nut” is not something we would say here because nuts are… well, not something that we talk about when we’re talking…
[Marjolaine and Michael laugh]
Michael: “Nuts” can mean something else. Yeah, there’s all kinds of little things here and there that wouldn’t necessarily… We don’t necessarily say that you “had a row.” We say you had an argument or a fight. Yeah, there’s definitely little things here and there that change, but they’re really more tiny, aesthetic things, just to ensure that we understood the stories more. But by the point of Order of the Phoenix, I think the US readers were so intrigued by the British versions and wanted to actually feel more like it was more true to the British edition – and I think we were actively trying to learn more about the UK because we were interested in it, thanks to Harry Potter – that they just ended up stopping that with translations and we basically got what the UK was getting.
Aurelia: So another thing that Harry Potter made possible.
Michael: Yes. It got us interested in other cultures instead of being all into ourselves, like we usually are most of the time.
[Aurelia and Michael laugh]
Aurelia: Is that true, Michael, that there was a common thing to dub films from British to American English too?
Michael: That happens on occasion with children’s movies here, especially if we’re not familiar with the characters here. I know one of the most famous examples of a film that just flopped over here: [in the US] it’s called Doogal. It’s called something else in the UK, and the characters were really well known in the UK but they were not known here, and they completely dubbed them with completely different actors. Nobody got it here, and the film flopped here. I think it did fine in the UK. I know another big one that has suffered that was… If any of you know Thomas the Tank Engine, he’s a big character in the UK. He’s a classic character. And he got well known over here because he was actually put in the UK [as] an anthology series. You get these little short films with Thomas. Here we got Thomas embedded into a show called Shining Time Station, so there were bookends to the short films. And so when they made the movie, they decided to include Shining Time Station, and the UK audience was like, “What the heck is this? We don’t have this. You ruined Thomas the Tank Engine.” And then the film flopped because they tried to please both audiences, and they ended up getting both audiences upset. So yeah, we mainly ruin things that come over from other countries if we try to localize them too much. But generally with most films, we’ll just do the best dub we can, or we’ll just subtitle them. I know with literature it’s interesting, because I think the only book that I’ve read that I know came from another country is Inkheart.
Aurelia: Oh yeah. It’s German.
Michael: Which I believe comes from your country, Aurelia. Cornelia Funke [incorrectly pronounced “Foonk”] is the author, right?
Aurelia: Yeah. Corenlia Funke [correctly pronounced “Fun-kay”].
Michael: And Inkheart was interesting for me because when I read it, it felt… Now I knew Inkheart was this really popular book and was really praised, and when I read it, I almost could feel like the translation was off in some areas. It didn’t feel like really great writing to me. It felt a little clunky in our translation. But I felt like that had to do with because it was translated to English. It just didn’t flow very well, and it took me quite a while to get into as well.
Aurelia: That is interesting because I’ve obviously read – especially Harry Potter in English and German multiple times – and I’ve never had that, that after I’ve read it in English, the German version is not as good as the English version. However, that would probably be because we translate a lot more. We probably have very high qualified people who do that all the time – translate English books into German. So maybe that’s not as much as demand or market for that; it’s the other way around. So maybe there’s not so many translators who can translate from German to English. Might that be?
Michael: Yeah, I don’t think we get… A lot of our literature doesn’t really come from overseas, unless it gets really big. We don’t get a lot of other languages outside of English that are coming over to us.
Aurelia: Because we get all the big English-written books also in German.
Michael: Because I was actually wondering. Is that when…? I always assumed that for some people, the reason why some of those of you who don’t speak English as your first language would have read Harry Potter in English is because you felt a dissatisfaction with your translation.
Camilla: Yeah, I think… I do now. Now I think it’s strange reading the Danish version. And just reading it, it’s so tacky, in a sense.
Camilla: It’s just not right. It’s not the right mood and it doesn’t portray the characters the same way, the things that they say and stuff like that. It changes the characters and the way things are described and the names of things. It changes a lot, although they try not to, I know. And it’s not that the translation is bad, because it’s not. I guess I just always… I started speaking English at quite a young age, and I just always since then have wanted to read things or watch movies in their original language. So now it just feels awkward reading the Danish version because it’s kind of tacky in this sense. [laughs] I don’t know.
Simé: The thing is, I think that it depends a lot on the target language. From English to German it’s much easier to translate because there have been a lot of translations and the cultures are not so different. But every translation is a test for your language. If you’re translating from English into Armenian, there are a lot of stretching and you test the flexibility of your language. How much is it able to host the foreign elements, and how wide can you stretch the boundaries here and there? Because there are no ready-made formulas like in [the] case of German and English. You’re creating stops yourself. So it’s difficult for languages which have not been inter-translated much to produce really, really natural sounding translations.
Marjolaine: Yeah. For me, I love the French translation of Harry Potter. Even when I reread in English, I still like to reread them in French, but only for the seven books. For all the other material, I only read it in English. For example, [with] Cursed Child, I know there is a French translation, but I never read it. I just read it in English. And for the movies too, I can’t see any movies in French anymore. I can’t bear the dubbed version. I need to hear the real voices, and it’s really a matter of audio and visual things. For the audiobooks too, I can’t hear Harry Potter in French, but I’m really comfortable listening to the audiobooks in English.
Michael: So did you all feel like…? Did any of you actually use Harry Potter to learn other languages, or were you already…? I know for some of you, you were already learning other languages at an early age, but did Harry Potter help with that for any of you?
Aurelia: Yes for me.
Michael: Yes and a no.
Simé: No, I was going to say that I used it for teaching. I’m an English teacher, so I use Harry Potter a lot for teaching.
Marjolaine: That’s cool.
Michael: What do you think it is about Harry Potter that is such a good teacher for English?
Simé: Well, most people here in Armenia, especially teenagers, love it very much. It brings back fun to the classroom, and you can do a lot of things. You can do grammar activities, listening activities, speaking, everything if you adapt the materials. My favorite one for adaptation is Prisoner of Azkaban. For some reason, I find it the most suitable for both… Visually, it’s very beautiful, and I have taught a lot of grammar points connected with different scenes of the movie.
Michael: I’m always for giving points to Prisoner of Azkaban.
Aurelia: Because it has the most Lupin in it.
[Aurelia, Marjolaine, and Simé laugh]
Michael: Well, yes, but it is also a beautiful movie. So, yeah, I’m all about that. Camilla, how about you?
Camilla: Yeah, I think it was also in English [that] it helped to just broaden my vocabulary, I guess. But then also in Spanish… I have the first two books in Spanish, and I’ve read them and I haven’t gotten any further than that because I didn’t have the time. But I intend to read the entire series in Spanish as well, because I studied Spanish at the university. And I think it’s also that I already know the story, and I know it so well that a lot of the meaning – although I might not understand what it actually says on the page – I will somehow be able to deduct from what I know is going to be in the story. And also listening to the audiobooks in Spanish helps a lot. So yeah, definitely. I’ve definitely used it both with English and with Spanish.
Michael: That’s interesting because I’ve tried to… I’ve got some of the books in Spanish, and I’ve cracked them open and read a little bit, and generally I understand it. But I think, for me… I’ve never been good with picking up languages. I took Spanish in college, and it was funny because I passed my Spanish 101 class with an A+, but I left it feeling like I didn’t know how to speak it at all. And I didn’t want to go on to Spanish 102, so I ended up taking sign language because I thought if there was a visual component, I might have a better shot. Which I did. Visual just worked better for me. But yeah, languages have always been hard for me to grasp. But the only times I really had that feeling with another language is when I have either watched… The main one that I really had a big one with that was… I can watch Pan’s Labyrinth by Guillermo del Toro. I can watch that movie without subtitles, and I understand exactly what’s going on because I love that movie so much. And also, any movie by Studio Ghibli, if I watch it in its original Japanese.
Simé: Oh, I love that one!
Michael: Yeah. And I think the thing that connects Ghibli, Pan’s Labyrinth, Harry Potter, all of those kinds of things, is that there’s this really universal quality to those stories. So even though there’s specific things that maybe relate to the country that they’re from, overall, the themes and the ideas in them appeal to everyone.
Simé: What’s your favorite Ghibli movie?
Michael: Howl’s Moving Castle.
Simé: Yay! Mine too!
Marjolaine: Oh, mine too.
[Marjolaine, Michael, and Simé laugh]
Simé: I love the soundtrack. The soundtrack is awesome. Just amazing.
Michael: Yes, beautiful soundtrack. Joe Hisaishi, he does gorgeous soundtracks. And Howl’s Moving Castle is another great book, listeners, if you’ve never read that one. Also, I believe, from a UK author. I believe Diana Wynne Jones is from the UK.
Simé: I read it, but I found that the animated movie was actually even better than the book.
Michael: Yes, sometimes the movie can be an improvement. But how about you, Marjolaine?
Marjolaine: Yeah, so I like I said, I read all the books in French, so I can’t say that it helped me a lot with English. But funny enough, it was after all the books came out and all the movies came out that I was looking for something more. I was getting involved in the fandom online, and I was beginning to try to read more articles in English. So that was [what] helped me a lot with my English too – MuggleNet, of course – and beginning to listen to podcasts, I’m sure, was the big turning point for me and my understanding of English. It was really listening to podcasts. And the next step is to record with you in English, so yeah. [laughs] I can say that…
Michael: Oh God. Well, don’t listen to anything I say. You’re going to learn all the wrong stuff. Don’t listen to anything.
[Aurelia, Marjolaine, and Michael laugh]
Michael: Well, you’re doing a fabulous job.
Marjolaine: Thank you. I was quite nervous to be not comfortable enough in English, but yeah. [laughs]
Michael: Again, considering I can’t speak any of your languages, you’re all doing fabulous. How about you, Aurelia?
Aurelia: I started learning English in school at the age of 11, which is comparatively late. And my grandma was really forcing me to learn English. She would learn vocabulary with me, and my grandma also gifted to all of her grandchildren a trip to London after [the] first year of English so we could use English as a language.
Michael: Oh, wow.
Simé: That’s awesome.
Aurelia: And she also gave me the first book to read in English – but it was a beginner’s edition, so it had vocabulary explained on the side – which was Tom Sawyer. And then I had neighbors who were ten years older, so they were already graduating from school, and they read Harry Potter in English only. And after three years of English, when I was 13, I had the first three Harry Potter books with me on holiday to Denmark, actually. And because I had the third Harry Potter book as an audiobook in German, and I’ve listened to it over and over and over again, there was dialogue scenes that I could basically do by heart in German. And then I read the English one, and that really helped me because I knew the exact phrase in German, and then I would look at the English phrase, and it actually… I could pull phrases from it. I knew how to formulate stuff better after I read the third Harry Potter book in English, because I was like, “That’s how we say it in German, and this is the exact same thing in English.” And that helped me a lot. With any other book it would have been more of a struggle to get through it, but because I knew it so well, it was actually comparatively easy.
Michael: Well, ladies, you very much inspired me to crack open my Spanish copy again and give it another go. So it’s very neat to hear that Harry Potter has been such a neat tool, because in America Harry is so famous for helping a whole generation really get interested in reading. And I can say, even with the US editions, there was that growth in my vocabulary from Rowling. Rowling very carefully chose her vocabulary from Book 1 to Book 7, and it grew with her writing. So it’s neat to see that that was something that translated over for everybody and that everybody found a different way for Harry Potter to affect them all around the world. It’s been really cool to hear that from such a larger panel about this. And to wrap things up, Aurelia, it looks like you had an idea that was similar to our opening here?
Camilla: Can I maybe, just before we do that, ask one quick question? Sorry.
Aurelia: Sure. Go ahead.
Camilla: Marjolaine, I’m so sorry if you mentioned this already – I was really busy googling stuff – but what did they do with all the French in the books?
Michael: Oh, yes, that’s a really good question.
Aurelia: Good question.
Camilla: What did they do with all that?
Marjolaine: You mean the French accent?
Camilla: Yeah, the accent. And sometimes she actually speaks French, I think.
Marjolaine: Ah, yeah. This is lost in the French version. They have to say it in italics so we can visually know that it’s in translation. But for the accent, the only thing that they kept is when Fleur and Madame Maxine say “Harry” or “Hagrid.” It’s “‘Arry” and “‘Agrid,” and we lose the H in French. So it was really funny because we were reading it in French, and we look at the way that we are used to pronounce it without the H. Yeah, it was quite funny to know that the British people were laughing at those two who pronounce it like that. [laughs]
Camilla: So does it take away from the character of Fleur and her parents, this whole French aspect of how they act and how they speak? When it can’t really be translated, does it take away from the characters? Did you see them differently when you read them in French?
Marjolaine: No, because as a French [person], we know how we are perceived here by English people. So we know that when we speak, we make some mistakes and we pronounce certain [words] in the French way. And it was really funny to see as a young reader the way Fleur and [her] family were quite the typical French family for the British, so it was quite funny to understand how the British perceive [that] also. So we read it like that. But yeah, it’s not lost because we know what they are talking about and we know that it’s us that are represented in the Delacours.
Camilla: Okay. Thank you.
Michael: That’s such a sweet and humble answer, considering that initially… And I’m glad you asked that, Camilla, because that’s something I was curious about too, especially because out of all of you, Marjolaine’s culture gets probably the most representation next to the UK in the original books. And it’s very sweet that you said that, Marjolaine, because definitely, initially, Fleur is played up as a joke. And of course, her character gets more fully developed as the story goes on and we realize that she’s not everything that we thought she was. And I did wonder how the French would have perceived that, because I know that there is a little bit of friendly elbowing that goes on between the UK and France.
[Marjolaine and Michael laugh]
Marjolaine: Yeah, we know that. It was quite a relief to see Fleur in the last book and how Rowling developed her. It’s funny too because Fleur is like a typical Parisian woman. So in France there [is] Paris and the rest of the country. So yeah, I always pictured Beauxbatons like a Parisian school and not at all the Pyrenees school that Rowling told us is in the south of France. But Fleur is a typical Parisian. [laughs]
Michael: That’s so great to hear. Well, hopefully, [for] some of the rest of you ladies, your cultures might show up in Fantastic Beasts.
Aurelia: Ooh. Isn’t Germany basically [unintelligible]?
Michael: Pretty much, but I’m not really counting what’s going on with that yet. Hopefully, we’ll get something better than what we’re getting. [laughs]
Simé: Actually, Armenia was mentioned once in the books.
Michael: I saw the quote.
Simé: It was a very unfortunate and notorious one where Lockhart says, “Who is going to read about an Armenian warlock who saved an entire village? He looks ugly and he has no taste of clothes.”
[Michael and Simé laugh]
Simé: I remember reading it and I was like, “Oh my God, she mentioned Armenia!” And then I was like, “Oh my God. What does she mean? Does she think we’re ugly?” [laughs]
Michael: Well, at least it’s comforting to know that that came from Gilderoy Lockhart, who is a horrible person. But yes, to close this out, Aurelia, you want to tell the listeners what your idea was here?
Aurelia: Yes. I thought if we started with the first sentence, it would only make sense to finish with the last sentence, or the last two because the proper last sentence was only three words. So we’re doing the same as we started with the last sentence of Deathly Hallows.
Michael: All right. So we’ll start with the English: “The scar had not pained Harry for 19 years. All was well.”
Marjolaine: [in French] “Il y avait 19 ans que la cicatrice avait cessé de lui fait mal. Tout était bien.”
Simé: [in Armenian]
[in Spanish] “La cicatriz no le había dolido en 19 años. Todo estaba bien.”
Camilla: [in Danish] “Arret havde ikke givet Harry nogen smerte i nitten år. Alt var godt.”
Aurelia: [in German] “Die Narbe hatte Harry seit neunzehn Jahren nicht geschmerzt. Alles war gut.”
Michael: We could have just had a whole episode of us just reading lines that we cherry picked.
Simé: I love the German. The German sounds really cool.
Aurelia: Yeah. Thank you.
Michael: I will always just… The French just makes me melt. It’s just so pretty. Especially when it’s said with a real French accent and not a horrible American attempt at a French accent.
Aurelia: That’s true.
Marjolaine: We forgive you.
Michael: Thank you. That’s the problem with voice acting. When you’re trained in voiceover, you’re not taught to… Some voice actors do do this and are very good at what they do. But generally when you’re going into the voiceover as a profession, you’re not taught to actually mimic accents exactly. In the US you’re taught to do an exaggerated impression [of] what a US audience would expect the person to sound like.
Michael: Yeah. We’re not probably going to do… and Marjolaine joked with me about this in her email.
Michael: Over here you would expect what I did, the [in bad French accent] “Oui, oui, baguette!”
Michael: That is kind of what we think the French sound like. There’s this great video, listeners, if you’ve never heard of it, and I think this girl got on The Ellen DeGeneres Show here in the US. She did a video where she did accents the way that we think accents will sound, but she just spoke gibberish. She basically just spoke nonsense, but she did the accents. And it gives you an impression of how people perceive an accent versus how they actually sound. I’m sure just from listening to everybody on this show, you realize that accents are a little more nuanced and subtle than we usually portray them in media. So that was another neat thing about having all of you ladies here today – to get that lovely sprinkling of all these different accents. And speaking of… Aurelia?
Aurelia: Yes. Thank you, Camilla, Marjolaine, and Simé. You’ve been fabulous guests. We really could not have hoped for better guests for this episode. So thanks to Armenia, France and Denmark.
Michael: Yes, we really appreciate that all of you ladies were able to be here, especially because we are working on completely different time zones in some cases. So I’m really glad that we were able to line us all up for this recording. And thank you, Aurelia, for being able to step in and help us out with this episode. I really appreciate it.
Aurelia: Always, always.
Michael: And listeners, as we move forward with Alohomora!, our next episode will be a Chapter Revisit. And this is one that you voted on with our Social Media Team. The next chapter that has been chosen is Goblet of Fire, Chapter 28, “The Madness of Mr. Crouch,” which I thought was an excellent pick from you guys. That’s a very interesting chapter. So get prepped for that one with reading it, and also, if you want to be on the episode, Aurelia is going to tell you a little more about that.
Aurelia: Yes. If you want to be on an episode just like our three fabulous guests have been, go to the Alohomora! website and there are some instructions there. You basically just need a pair of headphones – Apple headphones would work, but just general headphones would also do the magic. No fancy equipment needed, as you say here.
[Aurelia and Michael laugh]
Aurelia: And you can also submit your own topic if you want to. There’s a “Topic Submit” button under [the] Alohomora! page where you can just send us your topic that you want us to talk about or that you want to talk with us about. Just easy as that.
Michael: And listeners, if you’re having a little trouble finding us, that’s because we’ve been porting over our server. If you can’t find us at our old address, alohomora.mugglenet.com, try alohomorapodcast.com and that should get you over to our website. Right now we’re in a little bit of an in-between stage. We’re working on getting everything repaired, and hopefully we will be back up and running properly very soon. But you are still able to audition and send in topic submissions in the meantime. Again, we are still tallying up those topics, and actually after you hear this episode – probably after you hear this episode – the Alohomora! team will be meeting to decide on what the next set of topics and chapters are, so please keep submitting those for us. And if you want to stay in touch with us outside of that, there are other ways to get in touch with us: our Twitter @AlohomoraMN; our Facebook facebook.com/openthedumbledore; again, our new website address, alohomorapodcast.com; our YouTube, if you want a look at our archive of videos, is youtube.com/alohomoramn; and of course, our email – one of the best ways to reach us – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aurelia: And we want to thank Ian Wagner, our Patreon sponsor for this episode, again.
Michael: Yay, Ian! Thank you.
Aurelia: Thank you. [laughs] If you want to join our cool Patreon crew, especially Dumbledore’s Office on Facebook – that’s just a very new perk of Patreon – just go to patreon.com/alohomora. And you can sponsor us for as low as $1 a month or pick the higher priced option where Michael will read to you. [laughs]
Michael: You know you want to.
Aurelia: Yeah, you do.
[Aurelia and Michael laugh]
Michael: I think, Marjolaine, you’re a member of Dumbledore’s Office, aren’t you?
Marjolaine: Yes, I am.
Marjolaine: It’s a really cool place.
Michael: So you can come hang out with French Marjolaine in Dumbledore’s Office and learn more about wizarding culture in France. So, there’s an incentive right there.
[Aurelia and Michael laugh]
Michael: Well, thank you, listeners, once again for joining us on this very international episode of Alohomora!.
[Show music begins]
Michael: I’m Michael Harle.
Aurelia: I’m Aurelia Lieb. Thank you for listening to Episode 236 of Alohomora!.
[Show music stops]
Michael: Open the Dumbledore!
Aurelia: [in German] Öffne die Dumbletür!
[Simé says tagline in Armenian]
Camilla: [in Danish] Åben Dumbledøren!
Marjolaine: [in French] Ouvrez la Dumbleporte!
[Show music continues]
Aurelia: That was so cool.
[Show music ends]
Michael: Welcome to the behind-the-curtain… behind-the-scenes, ladies.
[Aurelia, Camilla, Marjolaine, and Simé laugh]
Michael: This is how it goes down. Now you know. Now you know all our dirty secrets.