With the publication of the Scots edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stane, translated by Scots expert Matthew Fitt, Harry Potter has now been translated into 80 languages. That’s right. Eighty languages.
It’s no simple feat to translate a story from one language to another. In most cases, exact translation is not possible, or would result in a loss of nuance, humour, tone or metaphor. Plus, some words and simply don’t exist in other languages, or sound utterly ridiculous. With a series like Harry Potter, translators have had to find a way to make invented words, spells, puns and UK-specific references make sense to native readers in other languages – and the results are nothing short of brilliant.
Let’s start with the most recent edition! Scots is a language spoken by 1.5 million people, mostly in Scotland. There is some debate about whether Scots is a language or a dialect, but we digress. The important thing is that the Scots translation of Harry Potter is an absolute delight.
Reading the story of the laddie wha lived and his adventures at Hogwarts Schuil o Carlinecraft and Warlockry in a new language adds a whole new layer of magic.
Thank you, Scotland, for the glorious word 'swoofin'.
In the Scots translation, Quidditch is called Bizzumbaw, because of course it is.
'Harry steyed in his room, wi his new hoolet for company. He had decidit tae caw her Hedwif, a name he had foond in A History o Magic. His schuil buiks were gey interestin. He lay in his bed readin late intae the nicht, Hedwig swoofin in and oot o the open windae as she pleased.'
All our favourite characters are there!
Speaking to the BBC, Scots translator Matthew Fitt said “I wanted tae dae this for a lang time but kent I wanted tae get it richt. I’m that honoured tae be the Scots translator o this warld-famous Harry Potter buik and chuffed tae ma bitts that Scots speakers, baith young and no sae young, can noo read the novel again, this time in oor gallus braw Mither Tongue.”
But what about the other 79 languages, we hear you ask? Well, we haven’t had the chance to read them all, but here are some of our favourite tweaks, translations and transformations from the series:
In Albanian Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans become ‘Xhelatina Gjitheshijesh +1 (Every Flavour +1 Jellybeans)’ and a dementor in Czech is Mozkomor (literally, "Brain plague").
Got your ticket for the Hogwarts Express? Or as they say in Irish, ‘Traein Luais Hogwarts (Hogwarts fast train)’.
When you attend your Sorting Ceremony, you could be sorted into:
Rohkelikko (Finnish for ‘Brave’) a.k.a. Gryffindor; Hollóhát (Hungarian for raven's back) a.k.a. Ravenclaw; Smygard (Norwegian for Slytherin) or any of these glorious variations of Hufflepuff: Poufsouffle (French), Hugrabug (Hungarian), Lufa-Lufa (Portugese - Brazil), Wfftitwff (Welsh).
Did you lose House Points for bad behavior? Hopefully your parents don’t send your Thư sấm or Thunder mail (Vietnamese for Howler).
Are you on the Rumpeldunk (Norwegian for Quidditch) team? Or are you more academic?
In English, Bulgarian, Japenese, Danish and Italian you would take your O.W.L.'s, but in French you take your B.US.E (Buzzard’s = Brevet Universel de Sorcellerie Élémentaire (Universal Degree of Elementary Sorcery) and in Catalan you would take your G.N.O.M. (Gnome’s = Graduat de Nivell Ordinari en Màgia (Ordinary Magic Level's Graduate).
And if you live in the Netherlands and make it to your N.E.W.T.S. you’ll find yourself studying to pass your Pimples! (PUIST (pimple) = Proeve van Uitzonderlijke Intelligentie en Superieure Toverkunst (Proof of Extraordinary Intelligence and Superior Magic). [source]
No matter what language you read Harry Potter in, I think we can agree that the magical world and characters created by J.K. Rowling will always be...