Keith Hawk (KH) John Granger (JG) Josée Leblanc (JL) Amanda Pavani (AP)
[Show music begins]
Eric: Hey! Josée! Wait up!
Josée: Oh hi, Eric! I'm sorry, I really can't talk right now. I'm running late.
Eric: Late? Late for what?
Josée: Oh, it's because I have to go meet Keith and John Granger. I'm actually going to listen to a Harry Potter literature lesson at MuggleNet Academia.
Eric: Oh cool, that sounds awesome. Can I come with?
Josée: Yes, of course you can. Just come with me.
Eric: Okay. Let's go!
[Show music continues]
KH: All right, so welcome to MuggleNet Academia. This is Keith Hawk from MuggleNet.com, and I am with John Granger. John, can you believe this is our third podcast already on this show?
JG: They seem to run right into each other, Keith. [laughs]
KH: The last one was insane. We've had so many good reviews, so many controversial opinions about the sexual orientations in the books, the sexual symbols that are in the books. It was just... the feeds were going nuts, and it was a lot of fun to do.
JG: No pun intended there.
KH: Yeah, no, not at all. Before we go into the next show, John, I wanted to discuss some of the feedbacks that we received from the fans on the site and on iTunes, and on your site as well. We had a lot of good feedback, some questionable, and I want to go through them and see what you think. Is that all right with you?
JG: Sounds great!
KH: Good. The one I want to discuss first is from Candace. She says:
"This was brilliant. Anyone with an interest in literature that goes beyond the plot will love this. This sort of layered meanings and multiple interpretations is what separates classic and timeless fiction from the thousands of books that are written and forgotten about."
That was a pretty good one.
JG:[laughs] Hey, that's right. I'm just back in Scotland at an academic conference in Saint Andrews, and what Candace said is spot-on.
KH: And that's what we try to do. We try and look a little bit deeper into the meaning of these books than what's just on the surface. But here's another one, and this one's a little bit more interesting. This is from Janina. I had a nice little conversation with Janina on the site about this, but I liked what she had to say. And it's not all positive, but that's okay. She said:
"I found it a little disturbing that you all seem to equate 'feminine' character traits in men with homosexuality. I agree that Hagrid displays lots of characteristics traditionally seen as 'female', like being sensitive and caring, but why on earth would that make him a gay character? The connection with his interest in cooking and knitting makes even less sense. I know several straight men who cook, and not one gay man who knits. Maybe we should just drop this 'gay men are feminine/feminine men are gay' nonsense once and for all. Many other parts of the discussion seem far fetched to me as well. I've never been much of a Freudian. That said, I still enjoyed the podcast a lot, and I'm looking forward to the next one."
Now, a response from her came from Ravenclawgrl, that said:
"I agree that the representations of Hagrid were a little stereotypical, but maybe they weren't classifying him as gay, but just as a non-heteronormative character? I mean, there aren't many in the books after all. That being said, I think you're right about the feminine stereotype of gay men!"
And then Janina responded to that:
"I see what you mean, and I think Professor Edmund Kern got it about right. But then somebody (I forget who it was)..."
I think it was me actually.
"...argued that if there was one gay character, it would have to be Hagrid because he acts like a mother to Norbert, Wears flowered aprons, and likes cooking and knitting. I waited for somebody to contradict, but nobody did. I think you shouldn't be afraid of disagreeing a bit more!"
Now, I was the one, John, who did say that, and what I was trying to say was if you were to tell me in the beginning of the series that there is one gay character in the book, find him, I would say it's Hagrid because... not just how he says he's mommy and cooking and knitting and all that stuff, but the pink umbrella was something that I thought, too.
KH: What did you think of that?
JG: Well, I certainly didn't think your comment was something to criticize, and the reason I didn't contradict you when you said it was because Rowling is making a big contrast between Hagrid's being a very aggressive, larger than life man with a huge beard, et cetera, has a lot of really evident super masculine characteristics, is prone to violence, he likes huge monsters, et cetera. And on the other side, he has this inverse, relatively soft and feminine aspect. He seems to be a resolution of contraries, a crossing of masculine and feminine characteristics, much like Dumbledore. And that's an alchemical thing. His name, Rubeus, some have said - I'm one of them [laughs] - that his name is actually not so much from the red as it is from the rebus, which is the word for alchemical resolution. I want to talk more about the Freudian thing that... there was a few other comments about the Freudian criticism, and just very quickly, Freudian psychology, while certainly is not the norm anymore or even a high bar standard for psychology as it was maybe in the mid-twentieth century, still is a normative for literary criticism because Freudian psychology largely grows out of literary criticism. And for people who think that we're passe or haven't caught up to the psychology, [laughs] we're still very much in the current of it in literary interpretation to use Freudian interpretation.
KH: I agree. I agree totally, and that's the big thing about what this show is about, is to bring out some of these different aspects of the different psychologies, the natures of the literary themes that are seen. So, those were the feedbacks from the past show. Now, here we get into this show. This one is going to be quite different. We actually have with us today Josée Leblanc, who is a translator for the Canadian government. Hello, Josée.
KH: How are you today?
JL: I am very good, thank you.
JG: Where are you in Canada?
JL: I'm located in Gatineau, which is in Québec, Canada, but I'm ten minutes away from Ottawa...
JG: Oh, okay.
JL: ...which is the capital of Canada for those who don't know.
JG: Great. That's where we met.
JL: Yes, we did meet there, at the University of Ottawa during Convention Alley in... 2008, John?
JG: Yeah, 2008.
KH: Time flies when you're having fun.
JL: For sure.
KH: And also joining the show with us is a student of translations down in Brazil, Amanda Pavani. Amanda, tell us a little about yourself.
AP: Hello. Well, yeah, I'm majoring in translation, I study at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Most people have never heard of that, but it's a nice city.
JL: I love your accent, by the way.
JG: Oh, yeah.
KH: Yeah, I do, too.
KH: Speaking of accents, Josée... [laughs]
JG: My only languages were Latin and Greek, and Amanda means "a woman who must be loved."
JG: And with an accent like that, Amanda, you are a woman who must be loved.
AP: It's the present participle of the verb "to love" in Latin.
KH: The things you learn everyday on this show.
JL: Oh, yeah. For sure.
KH: Well, to tell you a little bit about MuggleNet Academia, if you would like to be a part of this show, we encourage you to submit your application as a student or as a professional speaker, a professor, doctorate of certain areas in the literature world, alchemy or something that you can take away from the Harry Potter books that you would like to share with our audience. So, if you would like to do that, just go to MuggleNet Academia on the website, and follow the instructions and send it over to us, and we'll review it. And if we get a show opening for you, we'll be glad to have you on. All right, we're ready to kick off this show. This show is going to be called "Parseltongue, Gobbledegook, and Troll: Translating Harry Potter," Lesson 3.
[Show music begins]
KH: From MuggleNet.com, my name is Keith Hawk.
JG: I'm John Granger, the Hogwarts Professor.
JL: I'm Josée Leblanc, I'm a professional translator.
AP: I am Amanda Pavani, a student guest.
[Show music continues]
KH: John, tell us about some translations.
JG:[laughs] Well, I can tell you the only translation of Harry Potter that I've used was the Latin translation, which oddly enough...
KH: You have a book of the Latin translation?
JG: Oh yeah, they've done the first two books in Latin, Peter Needham from Eton has translated these. So, you've got Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis and Harrius Potter et Camera Secretorum. And these two books... especially the first book. The first book is the best-selling book in Latin since The Aeneid.
JG: That this book...
JL: Wow, yeah.
JG: This book, among Latin books... well, it's explosive. This... I've used it twice in the classroom, I want to talk about this later, but obviously it's not a bestseller. When we look at the books having sold 500 million copies, a large percentage of that is in English. But a significant portion of 500 million copies is obviously outside of the English speaking world.
JG: And they've said that we've got over seventy languages in translation.
JL: I think it's seventy-four now.
JG: Seventy-four? [laughs] My goodness.
KH: Oh, last I'd heard, it was sixty-seven.
JL: Yeah. Well, I just checked the numbers today, and I saw seventy-four.
JG: So, of those seventy languages, some of these languages are bootleg languages that are not official translations done by publishers with copyrights, some of them are dialects that have been done online. Most of them though have to pay a fee to Bloomsbury in order to do that, we're going to talk about that today. But what I want to talk about - and Keith, and Josée, and Amanda here - is what is the goal of a good translation? I know there's two big schools of thought, and there's probably variations and combinations, but you can either do a word-for-word thing where you just make sure that every word has an equivalent and you use that same word throughout the translations so the person who is reading it knows that it's corresponding to the original language, or you can try to do a smooth translation which is a retelling of the narrative that's more in sympathy with the original and translates sympathetically to the target language. But I don't know which one... how do you do this, Josée? How do you make these choices? What's your target? Are you looking for one where the speaker can be confident they're getting the real thing as Rowling wrote it, or are you looking for a translation that's easy to read and the French speaker says, "Oh, I get it. This is what she's after"?
JL: Well, translation is all about choices and some of them are very difficult to make. I mean, as a whole, your goal when you're translating a book like Harry Potter will be to get the reader as interested by the story as, in this case, an English reader would be reading Rowling's original books. But then again, you need to translate everything in a way that is understandable. I mean, if you try to go too much word for word... like, say Rowling wrote one sentence to say this or that, and you decided to make one sentence in whatever language you're translating, but usually translations will be longer than the original language and you make the sentence super-complicated because of that. Well, maybe your reader won't understand it really right, it won't flow. So, you have to take that into account as well. Also, when we read the... I don't know about Amanda, but I prefer to read the stories in English. But when you read them in English, you do notice... there are a gazillion names that have meanings in the Harry Potter series.
JL: There are special places, there are all these expressions, all these intentions, joke shop items that Weasleys... you have the spells, you have so many things, not to mention Rowling's phenomenal wordplays and you have to find a way to translate all those or to decide not to translate them, which is... [laughs]
JG: That's a whole... yeah, believe me, I've got a thousand questions just about those. Amanda, when you're translating, are you looking for specificity, a real exact match in the language, or are you looking for a flow that communicates the narrative? Josée sounds like she's saying you've got to communicate it in that language. It can't be overly faithful...
JG: ...if it doesn't communicate the real story. In Brazil, what are you looking for?
AP: Well, the first thing is we are looking at a story, so when you are translating a story, you have to captivate the reader in a similar... maybe not the identical way JK Rowling did, but in a similar way. You can do that trying to maintain some kind of parallelism in between sentences in both languages, but that doesn't usually work. The thing is sentences have different structures for any kind of text, so the idea is sometimes... if you think about translating names of places and people... like she was saying, for example, you make a choice between using the original names and... well, you maintain some sort of, I don't know, loyalty to the original text, but that will make you make the readers lose whatever meaning there was to that name.
JL: Yeah, like "Gryffindor", for example. Or "Ravenclaw". "Ravenclaw" is "the claw of a raven". If you leave it in English, well, your reader won't... if the reader doesn't have a strong enough base in English, won't pick up that the name has a meaning.
JL: On the other hand though, if you translate it... for example, in French, all the house names and even "Hogwarts" have been translated. Well, you're going to translate... in French, "Hufflepuff" becomes "Pouffsouffle".
AP: That's cute.
JL: Yeah, it's kind of funny. "Slytherin" becomes "Serpentard", and then if you pronounce the "d", as I have some English friends who do, it becomes "Serpentard", but...
JL: But yeah, let's say... the translator translated that in French, but he translated that when the first book came out. Then I think it's in the second book we actually learn the names of the founders.
JL: And in English, it's Helga Hufflepuff, Salazar Slytherin, Godric Gryffindor... so you have all these alliterations.
JL: But what happens... like, "Pouffsouffle" is a "p", so do you keep "Helga"...
JL: ...or do you change her name? Are you going to lose the alliteration, or... so it's all these choices that come up. And as you say, Amanda, if you choose not to translate, well then your reader might not understand...
JL: ...all these little hidden meanings. And God knows there are a thousand. [laughs]
JG: Well, here's a question for you... again, I've only read the Latin version or whatever...
JG: ...and Needham has a lot of fun, the translator into Latin, in that he can't do accents, obviously. There's no Scottish accent in Latin, right?
JG: So, what he does is... it's kind of funny. If you're familiar enough with classical Latin, all of a sudden, you'll be reading like, "Oh, this guy is talking like Caesar."
JG: "Oh, this guy is talking like Tacitus."
JG: "Oh, this guy is talking like..." and you can recognize styles where he's going to use the subjunctive in a certain way or whatever that's suggesting a certain type of speaker of the Classical period. Now, sometimes it's hilarious. It goes [unintelligible] age to medieval or whatever. But he communicates accent...
JG: ...through a different means than Hagrid swallowing his consonants or whatever.
JG: What do you do in a foreign language? Because I'm sure that there are at least as... in Brazil, there's probably ten times the number of accents...
AP: Oh, yes.
JG: ...with native dialects than you have in the United Kingdom, which is saying something, but do you try to do that? Do you try to say, "Okay, I'm going to use a Southern accent for this person and a colloquial accent for this person like Hagrid?" Do you play with the accents at all in translation?
AP: Well, that would be nice but you have to be careful when choosing those dialects because you might convey some sort of stereotype you don't want to. The thing is...
AP: If you look at the Brazilian translation, Hagrid doesn't have an accent at all...
AP: ...which is weird.
JL: I don't think he does in French, too. I have, like, about twenty books sitting beside me here, in different languages, and I'm trying to look at the French and I don't see... like, maybe his French is a little more everyday-speaking type of French, but that's pretty much all I can pick up quickly right now.
JG: Is that a political correctness, as you said? You don't want to offend somebody? Because Hagrid comes off, of course, as something like an oaf and so the Slytherins treat him as an underclass person. And so would it be considered to be a bit of a slight or a slam if you put in a specific accent?
AP: That is hard to assert, I think, because the thing is... I even read a dissertation that a Masters degree student wrote about that, about Hagrid not having his accent in the Brazilian translation, and it's...
AP: Yeah, people do write such things.
AP: But the thing is he was not only... his accent was not only removed, but all the metaphors that sort of animalize - [laughs] is there such a thing for characters? They disappeared in the translation, so you simply don't have that in Brazilian Portuguese.
JL: And I mean, it's hard also because as you say, Hagrid's accent has to do with... where he's probably coming from, it's the same with Seamus Finnigan's accent.
JL: So, how do you transfer that into French or into Spanish? How do you decide... Seamus is Irish, so there's no such thing as an Irish accent in French or in Spanish.
JL: So, it's hard... which region of France or Québec or Louisiana or whatever are you going to pick up or choose to translate that accent? And why do you choose that? I mean, will you... yeah, as you say, will you offend people of, I don't know, Louisiana if you decide that that's the accent Hagrid is going to have in French?
JG: And will they pick it up?
JG: I mean, if you're talking to a crowd in Montreal, and all of a sudden, Hagrid starts to speak in this Cajun dialect, are they going to say, "Who is this guy?"
AP: Not only that, but you have to think how relevant it really is to transfer this accent thing, you see?
JG: There you go.
AP: For example, giving the idea that Seamus has an Irish accent or whatever, how relevant is that for the story? Is it as relevant as transmitting Fleur... I am going to pronounce this wrong. Fleur Delacour's accent?
JG: Oh, that's great.
JL: No, that was good! I've seen worse pronounciations.
AP: That's good. I haven't had a French class in my entire life. Thank you.
JL: It's "Fleur", for those who want to pronounce it.
AP: Close enough.
JL: Yeah, it was very close.
JG: Yeah, Fleur's accent... because, as you say, it's so over the top that her English is... is it safe to say that her English is the poorest of any of the characters in the books?
JL: I don't know. Either her or Madame Maxime. Yeah, one of the two.
JG: So, you're right. Getting her accent, or just the fact that she's speaking as a native speaker of a different language... because I think Viktor Krum struggles a little bit, too.
JG: With "Hermione" and such.
JG: These are the only non-native speakers that we meet who speak at any length. How do you go about that? I mean, that's beyond an accent, that's a person struggling with a different language. If they're all speaking French or Portuguese as fluently as the other characters, don't we lose an important part of who they are?
JL: I think... in that case, I don't know how they did it in the French translation... sorry, the Portuguese translation, Amanda, but I'm guessing probably they did translate it as someone speaking Portuguese with a French accent, maybe? Is that what they did?
AP: Yeah, they made some sort of phonetic transfer where you would have some sort of sound, they would put "ze" instead of "the", et cetera.
AP: It was just like a sound change to pass the idea of an accent.
AP: Not really vocabulary-wise.
JG: What do you do if you're translating in German and you've got Viktor Krum making German mistakes? He's not going to make German mistakes in German.
JG: Or Fleur in French. [laughs] How do you show her stumbling in English in French?
JL:[laughs] Yeah. And how do you translate a French accent in the French translation?
[JG and JL laugh]
JL: That's the hard part. The translator was quite good there. For Madame Maxime, he... I have an excerpt in front of me right now, where instead of saying "chère", he wrote "cheur"; instead of writing "Dumbledore", he wrote it so that you would pronounce it more like "Dambleudore".
JL: Which is very bad pronunciation. So, he kind of rounded the words a little bit so that it would sound a bit like French from France, very strong accent. Fleur Delacour, on the other hand, when I looked at it - and I'm going to look at it again quickly - her accent was virtually non-existent. I couldn't pick up anything that showed that she wasn't a perfect - well, in that case - French speaker.
JG: And that's relatively bizarre, right? Because when she shows up at the Weasleys' house, she's an alien because... and the biggest piece of her being alien is the fact that she speaks so differently.
AP: Yeah. We even see Ginny... Ginny seems to scowl at her or something, frown upon her.
JG: Oh, absolutely.
JL: Well, they call her "Phlegm", [laughs] so...
JG: That's right.
KH: Well, do they make the books... when you do a translation in French...
KH: ...does it make Hogwarts come from France...
JL: No, no, no, no, no.
KH: ...and everybody else is foreign? Or does it still sit in the environment of England and get translated to French?
JL: That's pretty much it. You're going to keep usually the locations the same because if you start transferring everything to France, you're in for quite the headache.
[JG and JL laugh]
JL: I can't even fathom how hard it would be because then you have to... just Platform 9 3/4, which is in King's Cross, you have to change all the locations.
JL: And even geographically speaking, maybe in France there aren't lakes in the same areas as in Hogwarts, so it would...
JG: That's right.
JL: Wow. No, that's... I'm getting a headache just thinking about it.
[AP and JG laugh]
JG: This is interesting because...
JL: As a translator, I'd never do that.
JG: That's right, you'd have to rewrite the books. And this almost was done with the movies, right? Where the original plan was Hollywood wanted to set the film in California at an American high school?
JG: And Rowling refused to have... because that kind of translation, as you said, would be an entirely different book.
JL: Yeah, and I'm not sure Rowling would even authorize a translation like that.
JG: No, no.
KH: No, she didn't. She downright said absolutely not. That's why she insisted on an all-British cast.
JL: She said no for the movie, but I'm sure a translator had come forth... like, let's say I come to Rowling tomorrow and say, "Hey, I want to do a French Canadian translation," which isn't out there on the market, and I say, "I want to transfer Hogwarts to northern Québec somewhere..."
JL: "...and transfer all the characters." I'm sure that will be a definite no right away. If I say I want to translate it in French Canadian, but basically keep the story as it is but just translate it into French so that French Canadian readers will get to have a translation, well then, yes, probably that would be doable.
JG: Here's a question for both of you that... I'm obviously an American and I've read the books in the Scholastic translation.
JG: Because the first four books, as you know, were bought by Scholastic, all of them were. But Arthur Levine, he decided that he was at real risk for some reason, with these books that had to be a success, so he asked if he could translate the first books into American English.
JL: Yeah, well...
JG: And the most famous instance, of course, is "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" rather than "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone."
JG: And Rowling says the only thing that she regrets in all of the decisions she made about the books and authorizations for translations and for the movies, was that she agreed to let them change the title of the first book.
JG: And it largely set off the whole "Harry hating magic" craze. But Scholastic also changed a great number of the words into American English.
JL: "Bin" like "trash can" and things like that.
JG: Right, and Philip Nel at Kansas State University wrote a wonderful article about this, comparing the Scholastic translations [laughs]...
JG: ...in English, in which he talked about the difference between a pitch and a field, and the cursing in one and the cursing in the other.
JG: Which books do you guys read when you read it in English? Do you read the Scholastic version or the Bloomsbury version?
JL: Well, in Canada, we have the Raincoast editions that are published, and the Raincoasts are essentially... if I look at one of my books here, you have "Raincoast" written on the spine and then below you have "Bloomsbury". So, we have the exact same edition as the English from UK. Actually, I think the only place where the American edition is being sold is in America. Like in Australia, I know it's the same thing, they have the Bloomsbury edition. So, the only place getting the translation is in the US, I think.
JG: The English translation from the English.
JL: The English... yeah.
[AP and JG laugh]
JL: Because I consider it a translation.
JG: Well, after the fifth book...
JL: ...to some extent, it is.
JG: The fifth, sixth, and seventh books were not translated. They reverted to the Bloomsbury editions. Only the first four books...
JG: ...where you see...
JL: But they do change the spelling, right?
JG: Oh, maybe they changed spellings from "colour" to "color" and this kind of thing.
JG: But that... I'm talking about word changes or whatever.
JG: How Ron is allowed to curse, this kind of thing.
JG: A lot of that was... and a lot of it is funny. They took out the "damns" in the first book...
JL: Oh, really?
JG: ...but they allowed "git" and "bloody" in the books, which are fairly... not fairly.
JG: Those are strong curses in the United Kingdom. But in the United States, they're meaningless. They don't have any of the weight or whatever.
JG: They're sort of like using the F word or something in American English. But we're not familiar with the UK curses, and so those were allowed to glide through.
JL: Well, it's similar... I'm sure Amanda can relate, with Portuguese Portugal and Brazil Portugal.
AP: I was going to say that, yes.
JL: Like here in Québec, we don't have the same curse words as they do in France...
JL: ...which means that you can even play jokes with a foreign French person and tell them that say such-and-such word...
JL: ...it's a common way to speak in French, and you're going to feel very welcome. And I know some celebrities, French celebrities, got caught doing that.
JL: Because people told them it's normal to say these words in an interview, you're going to be very well thought of, and then they did without asking further questions and realized that, hey, this is our curse words. [laughs]
JG: Well, Amanda...
JG: ...Josée mentioned that there's a difference between Portugal Portuguese and Brazil Portuguese.
JG: Are there two translations...
JG: ...or is there one translation?
AP: Yes, we have, in fact, two translations, and the Portuguese translation... [laughs] the European Portuguese translation...
[JG and JL laugh]
AP: The European Portuguese translation transfers more words than the Brazilian one does. For example, when you think about "Diagon Alley"... I have a list here in front of me. In European Portuguese they translated it to... I don't know if they pronounce it "diagon" or "giagon" - I'm attempting European Portuguese pronunciation here. And in Portuguese they translated... almost literally the words, it became "Beco Diagonal", so it's like a completely different idea.
AP: And we have in Brazilian Portuguese, "Quadribol", and in European Portuguese, "Quidditch", for example.
JG: And back to the "Diagon Alley" thing, in English - American or UK English - "Diagon Alley", you get the word "diagonally".
JG: And so there's the joke there that you're looking at things at a slant.
JG: Is there a difference between the European Portuguese and the Brazilian Portuguese about which one communicates that idea? Does one use the word but loses the meaning, but one communicates the meaning?
AP: The European Portuguese maintains the meaning. The Brazilian Portuguese just says, "An alley that happens to be diagonal," or whatever. [laughs]
JG: Oh, named "Diagonal"?
JL: Well, just like... in French, they call it "Le Chemin de Traverse", and "traverser" means "to cross", so you could almost use it as "crossing between the magical and the Muggle world." But also, "travers"... at least in Québec, if something is "de travers", it means it’s kind of a little all over the place.
[AP and JG laugh]
JL: So, I found that was a good translation. I mean, sometimes you have to make choices.
JG: That's right.
JL: Say, like, let's just take "The Knight Bus". "The Knight Bus" has the meaning of being a knight in shining armor...
JG: That's right.
JL: ...kind of rescuing you in the middle of the night. And it has a connotation with the British transport system...
JL: ...but also - I'm just trying to find my notes here - the word has to do with night, the time of the day. So, translating it, you have to pick one or the other, or you have to not translate it at all or translate it as something else. In French, they translated it as "le Magicobus", which is "The Magic Bus", basically. So, that part is completely lost.
JG: Yeah, they went off the board. Rather than call it "The Night Bus" as if it only travelled when it was dark outside...
JG: ...they decided instead, well, that's not true, so we can't do that. And then they couldn't say "The Knight In Shining Armor Bus" because that won't seem to make any sense at all. It's great. So, they just decide we can't show both meanings, let's show what this bus actually is and give it that name.
JL: Yeah, it's just a magical bus and that's it. Because the link that we make with "Knight Bus" has to do with the night, the time of day, the "Night Bus", which is... there are night buses running through London when the tube stops running...
JL: ...and the train stops running.
JL: So, sometimes it's the only way to ride the public transport, so it does look like a knight in shining armor when you see one. I love that play on words on Rowling's part, but for a translator, again, it's a little headache, you know?
JG: How do they deal with that in Portuguese, Amanda?
AP: They just made it "noitebus andante", which is pretty much "a bus that walks at night", quite literally.
JL: Oh, okay.
AP: It does, it does. In fact, I lived in London and I had never thought of the thing of being a night bus, the end buses will save us from the streets. That's a very nice metaphor. I had never thought of that before.
JL: I read that on the Lexicon. [laughs] I wasn't smart enough to think of that myself, but yeah.
JG: Josée, you brought up earlier the names, and this is when you really...
JL: Pandora's Box. [laughs]
JG: Oh yeah, everything from "Harry Potter"... I have written a long essay in a book called Harry Potter Smart Talk about Rowling's use of alliterative initials and her use of reduplicated consonants.
JG: Most obviously in "Harry Potter" but in many other characters, you're going to find either the names begin with the same letter or they have centers which are mirrors.
JG: A center which is almost going to suggest a palindrome, that they're going to run the same way backwards and forwards because the center is a mirrored reflection.
JL: Do you have an example of that? Of the last part that you said? Because the alliteration I know, but...
JG: Harry Potter's name.
JG: The two r's and the two t's...
JG: ...show that kind of thing. "Peter Pettigrew", the same kind of thing. You're going to see this repeated or reduplication of sounds inside the word, which suggests some kind of mirror reflection. Which has an important part inside the book because, in terms of its ring composition, each chapter has a parallel analogy across the page or whatever. And so these Dickensian names that she shows with the initials and with these double consonants in the middle of the names, these names take on... and that's just the form of the name, not the fact that the name will have three or four levels of meaning to them.
JG: Are the names an especial nightmare for a translator?
JL: Well, it must be. I mean, I've never translated a Harry Potter book, though it would be my dream to do so, but I'd say yes. Because you first have to choose, do I translate them or do I not translate them? Then you have to choose how you translate them. Do you translate so that you keep the alliteration? Do you translate the meaning, and then how do you do it? That's not counting the number of times she actually uses the name in a wordplay, and I actually have an example of this, which I sent to you all. So, let's have a look at the "Wood" example. Can John or Keith read the English? Then we'll move on to French and Spanish and Portuguese, and we'll see what has been done in the different translations.
KH: All right, so what we're going to do is we're going to read from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the Scholastic version, page 150.
KH: And we'll take it from "Excuse me..." should we take it from "Professor McGonagall" or "Excuse me, Professor Flitwick"?
JL: Just from "Excuse me, Professor Flitwick."
KH: All right.
"'Excuse me, Professor Flitwick, could I borrow Wood for a moment?'
Wood? thought Harry, bewildered; was Wood a cane she was going to use on him?
But Wood turned out to be a person, a burly fifth-year boy who came out of Flitwick's class looking confused."
JL: So, here we have a perfect example of a name that is an actual thing in the world, so in the way Rowling writes it, she just makes a joke using that name. Harry is wondering, "Am I going to get beaten up? Is that the way it works at Hogwarts?" or whatever. But for a translator, you have to decide, do you translate "Wood"? If you don't, how do I translate the joke? It's one of the examples of [laughs] challenges translators often have to face. So, I'm going to read the French, and you actually don't need to understand the language, we'll explain afterwards.
"'Excusez moi, dit-elle au professeur qui donnait son cours dans la salle.'
C'était Flitwick, le professeur d'enchantements.
'Puis-je vous emprunter du bois un instant?'
Du bois? Avait-elle l'intention de lui donner des coups de bâton? se demanda Harry, déconcerté.
Mais Dubois était en fait un élève de cinquième année, un garçon solide qui avait l'air très étonné d'être ainsi arraché à son cours."
So, basically here, the name was translated and the wordplay was kept word for word. And actually, "Dubois", written without the space, is a real last name. There's a popular Québec singer that has that last name.
KH: I actually have a co-worker that's a Dubois.
JL: There we go. So, it's not a name that was made up, so in this case, either it's luck [laughs] on the translator's part... but since it does exist in French, he just used that and the wordplay just flows the exact same way it does in English. And in French, the way they wrote it, is that the first two times we encounter "wood", there's no capital letter, the space is there, just like it would if you wrote about wood in the forest. And the third time, he spells it with the last name like your colleague, Keith. In Portuguese Portugal they actually translated it... they left wood as is, but they put a note in parentheses. Now, Amanda, I'm not sure... what did they do in Portuguese? Can you read the Portuguese excerpt?
AP: I have the Brazilian Portuguese.
AP: Okay, then it starts as:
"'Com licença, Prof. Flitwick, posso pedir o Wood emprestado um instante?'
Wood? Pensou Harry, intrigado. Wood seria alguma coisa que ela iria usar para castigá-lo?
Mas Wood afinal era uma pessoa, um menino forte do quinto ano que saiu da sala de Flitwick parecendo confuso."
You probably know just from the reading that they maintained "Wood".
JL: Yeah. They maintained "Wood" and they didn't add any notes, right?
AP: No, no.
JL: To say that "Wood"... do they explain the whole is "Wood" a stick or... nothing is explained?
AP: Nothing is mentioned. Actually, you don't have a single...
KH: Yeah, I think in one of the Spanish versions, in parentheses they put "Madera". Is that correct?
JL: No, that's the Portuguese from Portugal version.
JL: Yeah, they put that.
[AP and JL laugh]
JL: I don't want to pronounce it and mess it up.
JG: Amanda, how many people... I lived in Japan for four years, and everyone in Japan has to study English for years, probably because of the American occupation. But in Brazil, how many Portuguese readers do you think read "Wood" and have had enough English to say, "Oh, it's a joke"?
AP: Oh, not... probably a very small part of them, actually. English is very poorly taught.
JL: So yeah, in this case, probably the wordplay would get lost, right?
AP: It does.
JL: Okay. So yeah, you won't pick it up. As opposed to in the Portuguese from Portugal translation, with that note in parentheses saying, hey, "Wood" means whatever word in Portuguese. Well, maybe you have a little more chance that the Portuguese reader will say, oh okay, it's the English word, but here's what it means. Then again, your other problem is that editors don't like it a lot when you put a lot of translator's notes...
JL: ...and a lot of lexicons and a lot of...
JL: ...English to Portuguese or English to French dictionaries at the back of the book. So, while you could say, "Oh, here's my solution right there. Let's just explain every single wordplay with a translator's note," well they're going to say no. [laughs]
KH: Yeah, it's kind of like if you tell a bad joke...
KH: ...and you have to explain it. It's not really a joke.
JG: What's interesting to me, as someone who has to read it... I like to read Dostoyevsky but I don't have any Russian.
JG: And so I'm listening to this conversation and I'm saying, wow, I know that olive wood is also important because olive wood is what's primarily used, for example, in the Holy Lands, and in the United Kingdom by extension, for statuary inside churches. And when you go to the Quidditch field, you find that the Quidditch players all have names that are furniture inside churches. You've got the Spinnet girl whose name is a name for an organ. You've got Angelina Johnson who's an angel. You've got all these pictures that are churchy on the Quidditch team as they're flying around or whatever, and it gives you this idea that there's something else going on here, on this Quidditch team, rather than just that. But if the olive wood in English comes across, that's going to be lost almost anywhere in translation.
JL: Yeah. And honestly, I had never picked up that reference before you said it three seconds ago.
AP:[laughs] Neither had I.
KH: That is really a good reference.
JL: I vote that every translator should now have a pocket John Granger at home...
JL: ...whenever they start working on the translation of a Harry Potter book.
JG: Well, from what you're telling me, it would just confound things or whatever.
JL: Oh, for sure. The more knowledge you have... I mean, it's both good and bad, right? The more you understand about these books, the more you realize there is to them... as a translator, I mean, the worse it is, in a way, but also the better it is because it gives you more material to think about and possibly get an idea.
JG: Well, here's a challenge for both of you, okay?
JG: Probably my favorite name in the entire series is "Peter Pettigrew" because...
JG: ...not only does it have the alliterative initials, but it has the double t's in the last name. And it's almost a mirror reflection, "Peter" and "Pettigrew" start off with the same consonant set. But when you get into the meaning of the thing, Peter Pettigrew is a coward, and on American and United Kingdom playgrounds, the word "Peter" is synonymous with a playground word for "penis". So... and "Pettigrew" means it didn't grow to be very large. So, here's a coward who has a small penis, right? Now, how do you translate that name so that it communicates that wonderful sense of this guy who's got a small package, who is also lacking in masculine virtue? How do you share that kind of thing? Which, again... I mean, most Americans, when you explain that to them, they just kind of blush and put their hand to their forehead and do the "Oh my goodness", you know? But that's obviously... I mean, Rowling must love that kind of thing. She's got "Mr. Small Package in His Pants" as the coward of the story... what does a translator do with that?! If they translate it literally... does every country have a name that boys use for their penis? That they could translate that to?
JL: Well, I know that... you had asked us that question at Convention Alley, and I know that personally, when I saw your hand go up, I was actually shaking in fear.
JL: Because I had just heard your talk and I knew I was going to get asked a tough question. I didn't even know before you asked me that, that "Peter Pettigrew" meant basically a coward with a small penis. I don't know if you knew before John said it, Amanda.
AP: No, I didn't.
JL:[laughs] So, the odds are that the translators didn't know either, when they translated, or if they did, they kind of scratched their heads and went, "What am I going to do with this?"
JG: Every language has a Peter equivalent because of Scripture, right? Because of Saint Peter? Every language has a John or a James. Every language, or at least romance language, has an equivalent.
JG: What is "Peter" in French?
JG: And in Portuguese?
JG: Right, so is that how it was translated? Is it...
JL: No. In French... in Spanish, it's "Pedro". In French, it remains "Peter" but they did translate "Pettigrew", they actually translated it as "Pettigrow", which... they kept the "w" which is not very common, like you never see that in French. So, it's kind of a tip of the hat to the English, to the fact that Harry Potter happens in England and in an English country.
JL: But also, "gros", if you write it with an "s", means "fat".
JL: And "petit" means "small". So, it's almost translated as "small and fat"...
JL: ...which is actually a different wordplay, but it does work with Peter Pettigrew's physical description, at least.
JG: Yes. Yes.
JL: But note, the second meaning that probably you and very few people discover...
[JG and JL laugh]
JL: ...reading those books, wasn't picked up and wasn't translated at all.
JG: Well, you can do the same thing with "Sirius Black"...
JG: ...where Sirius's name means... in English, "serious" means someone who takes themselves more earnestly than other people do. It also means the "dog star", and of course, being the "dog star", it plays with him being the Grim or the big black dog. What do you do with that kind of thing?
JL: "Sirius Black", in French, was actually not translated at all.
JL: He's just "Sirius Black". I do know, though... Sirius Black is a good example because, when you're translating names, you can translate them or you can choose not to. One of the golden rules is to be consistent, and you talked about Sirius Black in the first episode where you mentioned that Sirius Black is just mentioned in passing in Philosopher's or Sorcerer's Stone, "Oh, I just borrowed this motorbike from Sirius Black." And then in Prisoner of Azkaban, he's basically the star.
JG: That's right.
JL: And in German, in the first book - which I won't pronounce, because my German is not strong enough - he's called "Sirius Schwarz" which is the English for Black.
JL: And it's actually nice because you have an alliteration that's added there just by coincidence. But then in Azkaban, they revert to "Sirius Black".
JG: Oh! [laughs]
JL: So, that means... to an English reader, that little reference that's been made between "1" and "3" is lost. So, it's actually very important to change... to not change anything like that. I know that in French, they did that between... with Fudge in Philosopher's Stone, they translated his name, and then from Chamber of Secrets onwards it wasn't translated.
JL: Another phenomenon that they did in the Thai translation... all the languages, basically, that don't use our alphabet, they have to do what is called transliteration which means reproducing the sound from English in...
JL: ...their alphabet, because they don't have the same letters we do, so they have to do something, right?
JL: In Philsopher's Stone, they wrote Hermione's name with the accent on the "my", so Her-MY-oh-nee. But then, in Order of the Phoenix, they switched that to Her-my-OH-nee, with the accent on the "oh". You have to keep in mind since this is a different alphabet, it means it's... if you just change the way it's pronounced, you're changing the way you're writing the name, so it's as if I decide that instead of your name being "John" today, John, I decide that your name is now "James", or "Felix", or whatever.
JL: And basically the translator explains this change in just an introduction to the fifth book, so the fans were obviously livid.
JL: It's as if Jo Rowling had written an introduction in Order of the Phoenix saying, "Oh, from now on, Hermione is going to be called "Hermia", just because I decided to."
[AP and JG laugh]
JG: That's crazy you say that. When I first read the books, I'm reading them out loud to my kids, it's the year 2000, it's before Goblet of Fire comes out, and I'm reading it out loud, and I get to Hermione's name and I say to my wife... I show her the name and I say, "This is 'Err-me-own,' right?" and she says, "Absolutely," because my wife grew up in Europe and she grew up in Turkey and Italy and she studied French, so she sees Hermione's name and says "Err-me-own".
JG: So, I read the first three books out loud and it's Harry, Ron, and "Err-me-own", and we get Goblet of Fire and Viktor Krum gets his lesson.
AP: Then she describes...
JG: And my kids are doing the, "Wait a minute, dad, you're telling me for three books now..."
[AP and JL laugh]
JG: "...you've been totally..."
JL: You've been mispronouncing it, yeah.
JG:[laughs] That's right, I'm Viktor Krum here. And I look at my wife and do the "What?!" and she says, "It's an anglicization!"
JG: "It's not how that name is pronounced!"
JL: Well, in French, in the movies, "Hermione" is pronounced "Err-me-own".
JG: Okay, phew!
JL: That's the way it's pronounced. So, you were right in French, John.
[AP and JG laugh]
AP: And in Portuguese, the movies pronounce "Err-me-own-ee", too.
JL: Yeah. I mean, it does vary, but the main... you have to make sure not to make these changes. I mean, to some extent... translating names can also lead to mistakes. I know in the Italian translation, they translated Dumbledore's name, but they thought that the "dumb" in "Dumbledore" meant silent.
JG: Oh, wow!
JL: So, they translated it as... well, I don't know if it's pronounced "silenté", but basically they translated it as "silent". But we know now that it doesn't mean dumb, it comes from Old English, it means bumblebee, and blah blah blah.
JL: But also, that's one thing you have to keep in mind. I mean, when the books come out and the translators do their work, they don't have access... at the time, websites like the Lexicon weren't updated, all these wikis and whatnot weren't up to date, the books had just been published. Also, all the sites that analyze those names weren't up to date. Also, the other thing is that time was against translators back then, because if we take a Time-Turner and give it...
JL: ...a few thousand spins and go back to whenever the books were published...
AP: I found the Italian name here, for Dumbledore.
AP: It's pronounced "Albus Silenté".
JL: Silenté? Okay.
JL: So, my pronunciation was okay.
JG: The mute, that's funny.
JL: Yeah, the mute.
JG: Joseé, this is a great question you bring up.
JG: I mean, the Latin edition of Philosopher's Stone is, as I said, the best-selling book in Latin in two thousand years.
JG: But it took five or six years after...
JG: ...Philosopher's Stone had come out before they translated it into Latin.
JG: And we see a big lag time that are between different languages. Like, the German and the French comes out pretty promptly after the English.
JG: But we see a... but if you want it in Mandarin, or you want it in Russian, you can wait a couple of years sometimes before you get an official edition. What's the story with that? Why is that the case? You're going to get online bootleg translations as fast as the English one...
JG: ...but the official edition takes years sometimes. What is that about?
JL: Well, that's the thing. Back then, the translators were embargoed the same as we fans were, which means...
JG: Oh my goodness.
JL: Yeah. Besides... I think Jim Dale and Stephen Fry had access to the translation... the original books ahead of time so that the audiobooks could get published at the same time. But the translators were embargoed so that meant that... I don't know if they received the book by email, or they had to go to a bookstore to pick it up at midnight the same as we did...
JL: ...but basically they were embargoed. So... I read something about Ménard, which was the French translator. He basically had to translate 600 pages in English. He started in the dead of night between July 15th and July 16th, and he finished in less than two months.
JL: He worked from, like, six to midnight, every day, nonstop, seven days a week, so that the sixth book translation would be out. I mean, translation speed can vary. I don't know... Amanda, how many translators were there for the Portuguese?
AP: A single one. Only one.
JL: Just one?
JL: Okay, it was the same in French. I know in Portugal they had a few. There are some languages where they had a few translators which means they're going to say, "Okay, Josée and Amanda, you're translating together. Josée, you're going to translate Chapters 1 to 12. Amanda, you're going to pick up from 13 and you're going to go to the end," and then we have to speak to each other because we have to make that sure that we translate the same things with the same names, right?
JG: Well, this has caused... in Japan, what they did online was fans would choose... people that were...
JL: Oh yeah, those illegal translations popped up pretty fast.
JG: Right. They had thirty-five translators all doing one chapter each.
JG: They all did it in a day, and the next day, a translation. But as you point out, these translations had nothing to do with each other. There might as well have been thirty-five different books because...
JG: ...the characters all had different names, it was madness!
JL: Yeah, it's almost like fan fiction.
JG: That's right.
AP: Pretty much.
JG: But they had a translation online they could read if they wanted... if crazy fans...
JG: ...really wanted to know what was going on.
JL: Well, that's the thing, and doing that, embargoing the translation, did boost up the English novel sales. I mean, the English edition was one of the first books to be on the top of the bookseller list in France, and it had never been seen before, but French readers didn't want to wait so...
JL: ...even if their English weren't perfect, they decided to go and pick up that English book and try to plow through it. But how much... my English is pretty strong, being a translator, but someone whose English is not as strong will want to have the French translation as fast as possible. So yeah, maybe they'll go to the web and they'll look for those bootleg translations and read those. Of course it's not the same as reading the professional one, but hey, I want my Harry Potter book...
JG:[laughs] That's right.
JL: ...so I'll do whatever it takes.
JG: I want to know the story.
JL: Yeah, I want to know the story. I want to know, what are the Deathly Hallows? I don't know. And also... I mean, can you just imagine the whole spoiler environment...
JL: ...we were trying to prevent ourselves from before the release of a new book? Can you just imagine for a French reader or a Portuguese reader, who doesn't understand English, having to wait all those extra months... or years, as you say, John! It's a nightmare! [laughs]
AP: I know.
JL: I'm glad I know English.
AP: And actually, this problem with the translation lag or something... it was one of the reasons that I ended up learning English.
JG: That's great!
AP: Which is funny. I read Books 1 to 5 in Portuguese and when I was waiting for number six, I just thought, "I can't do this!"
[AP and JG laugh]
AP: "I can't do this again!" So, I just bought the book in English and I'll see what I can do with it. And, well, it turns out, it was pretty good.
JG: This leads to a question I have... that's wonderful, Amanda, and I think that's much more common than we think.
JG: I had a professor at the University of Chicago named Jonathan Z Smith. He's a giant in early Christian literature. The guy reads fifteen to twenty languages, twelve of which are dead.
JG: And I asked him once, I said, "How do you study all of these languages?" and he said, "Well, almost all of these languages have either the Old Testament or the New Testament in their... have been translated into these languages." He says, "I know those scriptures backwards and forwards, and so I find a translation." He said his favorite was the Sermon of the Mount. He said... he's reading it in these bizarre languages of the third to fifth centuries, dialects of the crescent, and he said, "I know that Jesus wouldn't have said that." He knows the words so much that it's easy for him to learn the language. And I use that as a Latin teacher. I would use Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in Latin. Even though it's the equivalent of third-year level Latin, I could use it in a second-year class because the students were so familiar with the story...
JG: ...they were able to handle... very good! And isn't that what you were doing though with your English, is that you knew what Harry, Ron and Hermione would and wouldn't say, and so you would be struggling with this but you would say, "No, Ron couldn't have said that, that's much too intelligent for Ron. [laughs] Let me see what else this could possibly mean," or whatever. I mean, did it help you - knowing the characters and the framework of the story - as you plowed through Half-Blood Prince in English for the first time?
AP: A little bit, actually. I did this strategy you described with Italian language because I just took... because I finished... I am in intermediate... Italian is my third language, so I decided I would get a Harry Potter book and read it in Italian so I could evolve linguistically. But since I didn't know the story before reading Half-Blood Prince, it was quite an adventure and...
JG: Oh. [laughs]
AP: It was exciting.
JL: I mean, it takes us...
JG: It was an adventure for those of us for whom English is their native language.
JG: I can only imagine trying to figure this out.
AP: Yeah, I had learned a good deal of English by that time through fan fiction, actually.
JL: Well... and I know... I mean, it takes us... I don't know about you, Amanda, but it takes us a little more time usually to read in our second language than it does in our first.
JL: I know that personally whenever a book would be released, I would read it throughout the weekend wherever I went. I remember reading about Dumbledore's death in a renovation store.
JL: I would bring them because usually it took me a few days, whereas I had English friends who were done within eight hours, you know?
JL: And it took me longer but... I mean, I preferred to plow through it in English as fast as I could than wait for those translations. And... I mean, especially once you get a certain level of comprehension in English you realize that the French... like some things get lost in translation, for sure.
JL: So, I'd rather read the original...
AP: Same happens with me. The Brazilian translation is far from being really good, so I just... I really prefer...
JG: Well, again the only foreign language I've read this book in is in Latin, which is not a street tongue or whatever.
JG: But I'll tell you this: I think it was, like, the fifth or sixth time that I read the book when I read it in Latin slowly in class with people that were just beginning to learn Latin, and what I was amazed at was the things that I learned that I wouldn't have learned ever in English...
JL: Oh, yeah.
JG: ...because I was reading it so much more slowly...
JG: ...and attentively... I remember the first time when I realized that the word "Potter" was assonant with the word for "father" in Latin.
JL: Oh, wow.
JG: I had a student say, "Oh, 'Harry Potter' is a joke with 'potter'," and I went, "Oh my goodness!" Not only is... because "potter" as a person who makes pots is all through Scripture as a symbol of the father, the person who shapes the human vessel or whatever. So, his name meant "heir of God" in a way, just with "Harry Potter". But then I realized, "Oh my gosh, it's actually 'heir of the father'..."
JG: "...when you give it the Latin emphasis as well." I remember almost having to sit down in my chair, thinking, "How did I miss that?" I'm a guy who actually teaches Latin and I didn't see that until one of my Latin students said, "Oh, 'pater' is pronounced..." the person kept saying "pater" and I said, "No, no, it's pronounced like 'Harry Potter'." And the person said, "Oh, I never would have caught that!" and I thought, "I didn't catch that either!"
JG: When you read it in a foreign language, even if it's the original language, don't you get more of a sense of the book? As you said, your English-speaking friends read an 800 page book in eight hours.
JG: Which means that they were literally just turning pages.
JL: Oh, yeah.
JG: So, they're skimming and they're missing stuff, but you were struggling with the thing.
[AP and JG laugh]
JG: And I think you probably got a lot more out of it, didn't you?
JL: Probably... I don't think so. Honestly, me reading in a weekend is the equivalent to you reading in eight hours.
JL: It's just that I read that much slower in English than I do in French. The first time I remember reading Harry Potter books... I mean, I was swallowing them more than I was reading them, I think.
[JG and JL laugh]
JL: I just wanted to know what happened...
JL: ...and to know if my theories were right, and who was going to die in Deathly Hallows and that sort of thing. It's afterwards that you digest it and you read it a lot more slowly and take your time and find all those hidden things and...
AP: When you can finally stop crying from all the death.
JL: Yes, of course.
AP: That's important.
JG: You're both translators and you feel that you're not fluent because it takes you a weekend instead of eight hours. Obviously to someone like me, you're more than fluent. But what... do you go back and read it in English or in French more often than not?
JL: Honestly, John, I've read the first four books in French, I think I started reading through Book 5, and "6" and "7", I bought them to add to my crazy Harry Potter book collection.
JG: To have the set.
JL: I'm not even sure I read them. I mean, I do skim through them sometimes, but sometimes just... I don't know, I just looked at things like the translation to "U-No-Poo" and some words...
[AP and JG laugh]
JL: I mean, in French, "Severus Snape" becomes "Severus Rouge". There are things that just... they make my toes curl.
JL: And I'd rather read the original English and that's what I've been reading, that's the audiobooks that I'm listening to, is English, and... yeah.
AP: Same here.
JG: Amanda, what about you?
AP: Same here. Once I, sort of say, finished [laughs] learning English, I never went back to Brazilian translations.
JL: Yeah, for sure.
KH: That brings me to a point. You said earlier, John, that the Latin version of the book was the best-selling book in Latin in two thousand years. What is the best-selling translation?
JL: I don't even think the figures are published that much. Well, it's probably proportional to how many people speak a language, if I had to take a guess.
KH: Well, then Chinese would be number one.
JG: I would say that, too, except there were so many bootleg translations of the Chinese, they'll never have a number for it. I mean, there were bootlegs... there were people that were making up whole new Harry Potter books that were selling wonderfully during the inter librum, and nobody in China knew that they were books that were not by the author.
KH: I almost wonder though if it's Japan and Japanese, because they do seem to have... I think I just read... in fact we posted it when the Universal Studios Japan...
KH: ...announced The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. They did say that the second largest market outside of US was Japan.
JG: That was for the movies but I bet you're right, Keith.
KH: They said the market.
JG: Well, they actually... they gave the numbers that they made more money on the movies than they did in the United Kingdom. It's the article I read. I mean, I'm not... as you know, there are fifteen different articles about the Osaka park or whatever. But I bet you're right. The Japanese are really wild about Harry, so that makes sense to me.
JL: And I mean, if you're going to look at figures, too, you also have to take into account how many people know how to read. Because obviously, a country like Japan, you have no real struggle with education and things like that.
JG: Right, a hundred percent literacy, yeah.
JL: Yeah, literacy. But in India, for example, you do have a lot of people living there, but how many people there know how to read and know how to read enough to read something like Harry Potter? There are countries, though, where translations have been published specifically to promote literacy. I know that's the case for the Khmer translation in Cambodia. There was a journalist that went there and realized how few books were out there for the kids to read, so he decided to translate... I'm not sure if he translated the full series, but he did translate Philosopher's Stone and I think he did translate Chamber of Secrets, too. So, that to me is a wonderful story and I'm dying to get my hands on that translation.
JL: Because to me... I collect translations of Harry Potter. I have Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in languages I don't even read or write or know.
JG: How many do you have? How many do you have?
JL: Oh, that's a good question.
JL: I do have... I don't have Portugal from Brazil actually, Amanda. I'll have to talk to you.
JL: I do have Hebrew that I don't speak, I have Croatian, I have German...
JL: ...Portuguese from Portugal, French, obviously, US, UK, and Canadian even though they're all the same. So yeah, I do have a few.
KH: I have the Russian Order of the Phoenix.
JL: I'm jealous. [laughs]
JG: How did you get it?
KH: Five bucks, baby.
JL: Yeah, I actually need to get it in Latin, too. I've been hearing you speak of Latin throughout this hour, John, and I need to get that one, too.
JG: Oh, you can get those at a good price but I'll tell you, but if you want to buy the Greek one, you missed your... I think it's out of print now, so the cheapest copy that you can get on Amazon, for instance, is well over fifty bucks.
JG: And they sell it at over 200. So, I think they had... they did a very short run on the Ancient Greek edition, it didn't sell very well and they just stopped it.
JL: When I was in the UK, I purchased a book that cost me how much, Keith? Is it a hundred and fifty?
KH: It was a hundred and... no, it was a hundred pounds so that was a 160 bucks for you.
AP: Pounds are not nice.
JL: But it was...
JG: What was that?
KH: It was a nice book, though.
JL: Yeah, it was a collector's edition. First edition, first print of Chamber of Secrets, I think.
KH:Chamber of Secrets, yeah.
JG: Oh my goodness.
JL: So yeah, I...
KH: Yeah, we were looking at books all weekend. I got two books from the British collection over there.
JL: Yeah, yeah.
JL: So yeah, definitely... I'm not... I don't really mind spending [laughs] for my collection when it's something I really want. But yeah, for sure, I'd love to own all of those seventy-four translations. Probably won't happen, but yeah.
JG: Well, that's an excellent place for us, maybe, to wrap this up, Keith, is...
JG: That this series is a shared text not only across all the divisions within a language that all of us in the United States... black, white, brown, yellow, red, whatever, almost everybody, of almost all age groups, [laughs] certainly of male and female, of political divides. Everybody can speak a language, you know? We were in the middle of a presidential election, and I know that, like, 2008 when it was... the Democrats had bumper stickers that said "Republicans for Voldemort" or whatever.
JG: Everybody knows Harry Potter and so can speak this language. That's not only true within a specific country in a language, it's true across these things so that...
JG: You can definitely go from Buffalo to New York and cross the lake and get to Ottawa, and have a conversation and make Harry Potter references and everybody will know it, but you can do that in the Cashmere, [laughs] you can do that in...
JL: The only thing, though, is if you cross in Québec you have to change all the names.
[JG and JL laugh]
JL: Because it's all the French names.
[AP and JL laugh]
AP: But it's some sort of extra linguistic thing. It's now part of a world culture when you think about Harry Potter.
JG: Absolutely, so hence the importance of the quality of the translation, and the speed of the translation. It's now become the common understanding, the imaginative foundation to which everyone can make reference. It used to be in the English speaking world, everybody knew the Bible, everybody knew Pilgrim's Progress, everybody knew Plutarch's Lives. Now that's not true, very few people know those three books backwards and forwards. But now around the world globally, people have an experience of Harry Potter. I'll tell you a story that a good friend named Don Holmes, who lives in Bellingham, Washington... he had an exchange student from eastern Turkey. Way, way... close to the edge of the Earth, he said. You could hear the water going over the side.
[AP and JL laugh]
JG: They flew into Ankara, and then drove across Turkey to the far eastern side of the nation, close to where they lived. And they left the road... he said five hours they were off the road, driving to where this guy grew up. He gets to their house and it's largely just a big mud hut where most of the house was underneath the ground and they were burning cattle chips for fuel. He goes inside this guy's house, he thinks he's gone to, like, the third century BC.
[AP and JL laugh]
JG: And the guy's younger brothers are wearing Harry Potter shirts.
JL: There you go. [laughs]
JG: And they knew the stories! They knew the stories!
JG: Now, that's reach in a way that very few stories have, and we can thank translators like the two of you...
JG: ...who have really brought this kind of thing, made this phenomenon the global thing that it is.
JL: I think Harry Potter is actually the second most translated book - or book series, whatever - after the Bible, if I'm not mistaken.
JG: I'm sure that, yeah, the Qur'an has been probably translated... or the Book of Mormon or whatever. But yeah, outside of God and Chairman Mao, Joanne Rowling owns the field.
JG: In terms of fiction and this and that, I don't think she has any competitors.
AP and JL: Yeah.
JG: Hence the 500 million figure. I mean, what author that hasn't... there are authors like Enid Blyton and others that have written five or six hundred books, that have sold more books than Joanne Rowling has, but she's only written seven or eight books. That's an amazing achievement. I mean, I heard the Christies outsold Joanne Rowling but she wrote, what, seventy books?
JG: So, it's a different world than what we're talking about.
JL: And I mean, the Bible was printed in the, what, 15th century at first?
JL:[laughs] And Harry Potter has been around for, what, twenty years?
JG: Fifteen years.
JL: Fifteen years. Yeah, that's right.
AP: Since '97, yes.
JL: Yeah, '97. Yeah.
AP: Oh, I feel so old.
[JG and JL laugh]
JL: Well, I have a colleague who told me he learnt to read on the Harry Potter books.
JL: I think it was two weeks ago.
AP: Okay, that's the next level.
JL:[laughs] Man, that makes me feel old.
AP: I used to feel old about learning English, this guy has learnt how to read! [laughs] That's something else.
JL: Yeah, that's it! So it did make me feel a little old.
KH: This is a great time to end the show here. Now, I'll tell you, if you're an inspired person by this show to go out and purchase another language...
KH: ...that you might be interested in learning, you can go get a Harry Potter book series in a different language. Check it out, learn from the translations and the transliterations that we just talked about on this show, and learn a language!
JL: Yeah, for sure. It would be great.
JL: And buy the DVDs from another country, listen to them with subtitles, or - there are many options out there to learn a second, third, fourth, sixty-seventh language.
AP: Living or dead.
JG:[laughs] Seventy-fourth, yeah!
KH: That's brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. All right. Well, John, looks like another successful show and that's all thanks to these two lovely ladies. Josée!
KH: My friend!
KH: Thank you so much for joining us.
JL: It was a pleasure.
KH: And Amanda!
AP: Thank you!
KH: You did a fantastic job today.
JL: Yes, thank you for being here.
KH: So, please join us on the next show. It will be in about three more weeks or so, and John and I will be picking out a topic of discussion to go on that show. In the meantime you can also, like I said at the beginning of the show, go to the website MuggleNet Academia and put in your request to be a part of the show. We are looking for students. If you have a specialty in your college or that you have graduated from, and you are interested in being a part of this show, please do so. We also ask for reviews and ratings on iTunes. If you like what you've heard, pass it along. Put the word out there, so other people can get us recognized.
[Show music begins]
KH: We are on the "New and Noteworthy" section of iTunes, so we're very proud of that. For only being two or three shows in, that's pretty good. Also, I want to thank Theater Nation for the music on the show. And on behalf of MuggleNet.com, my name is Keith Hawk.
JG: I'm John Granger at HogwartsProfessor.com.
JL: My name is Josée, I'm a professional translator in Canada.
AP: And I am Amanda Pavani, a guest student majoring in translation at the Federal University of Minas Gerais.
I think we'd better check with Puddlemere United whether Oliver Wood's been killed during a training session, because she [Angelina] seems to be channeling his spirit.
Harry Potter Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 13, Page 264
Demelza Robins, the Gryffindor Chaser in Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince, is named after Daniel Radcliffe's favourite charity: the Demelza House Children's Hospice, which cares for terminally ill youngsters in Kent, East Sussex and South London.