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Translating Names in Harry Potter (2)





Similar changes were made to key proper names, as shown below. The Spanish version retained the names exactly as they are in English, losing possibly some of the feel of the words. The Japanese version also retained the names, using a Romanized version in the text, leaving the reader with no sense of the grandeur of Gryffindor or the sinister quality of Slytherin. In French, the changes are as follows.

English French
Hogwarts Poudlard
Gryffindor Gryffondor
Hufflepuff Poufsouffle
Ravenclaw Serdaigle
Slytherin Serpentard

These names, among others, were altered in the French version, again to capture the sense given by the English. Slytherin clearly evokes the word “slither,” and thus an association with snakes, the symbol of that house in Hogwarts. It may seem sacrilegious to alter the name Hogwarts, given how important the castle and school are in the stories, but the French translators did it, and successfully, according to various native speakers of French and French translators I’ve queried about the French versions. One French speaker, who had read several of the books in both languages, even said she preferred them in French.  

Every world has its bureaucracy, and so it is in Harry Potter. The Ministry of Magic is filled with departments and offices, has its rules and regulations, and extends its influence throughout the books. Once again, meaningful translation of these terms, for terms is what they are, is important. For the most part, literal translations are used here, since bureaucracy is after all a literal undertaking, and so such translations work well.

English French
Committee on Experimental Charms Commision des sortilèges expérimentaux
Department of International Magical Cooperation Département de la coopération magique
Department of Magical Games and Sports Département des jeux et sports magiques
Ministry of Magic Ministère de la Magie
Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office Service des Détournements de l’Artisanat moldu

As you can see, even if you don't know French, the translations are quite literal and obvious. The same pattern persists in the Harry Potter books in Spanish, German, Japanese, Italian, and Latin, all of which I've sampled. I assume that the pattern persists in other languages, if only because this is a general trend in the practice of translation.

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