Well… at least in France he does. He also doesn’t know what a Prefect is, hates Professor ‘Rogue’ and has his Quidditch matches refereed by Madame Cheap Wine. Intrigued? I’ve been reading Harry Potter in French! 🙂
During my first month in France I picked up ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ in French to improve my French (or ‘Harry Potter and the School of Sorcery’ as it is called in France’ (reasons for the change I can’t seem to find, except that Wiki tells me the translator preferred his title to the original… pfff) I’ve been able to pick up French words and phrases that I probably wouldn’t be able to pick up in every day life, like ‘to cast a spell’, ‘cauldron’, ‘magic wand’ and ‘dungeon’. I’ve also noticed just how many changes there are when Harry Potter is translated, some words are changed completely (e.g. Hogwarts becomes Poudlard) yet things stay the same (e.g. Hagrid stays Hagrid, as does Weasley, Granger and Quidditch)
But before we get onto the changes… aren’t the French covers pretty? *sparkly eyes*
- Hogwarts = Poudlard The first difference I noticed was that Harry receives his Hogwarts letter and sees a lion, eagle, snake and badger encircling the letter ‘P’. The translator interpreted the word ‘Hogwarts’ to be an inversion of ‘Warthog’ so he thought he would have to do the same thing with two French words. He also looked at the word ‘wart’ and the word ‘hog’, ‘poud’ coming from the word wart and ‘lard’ implying fat/pig.
So what do French Harry Potter fans think when they see the Hogwarts crest with a giant H in the middle and not a P? “We think it stands for Harry” one of my French friends told me.
- Muggle = Moldu This translation I don’t get, I believe the French translation implies the word mixed/not pure, but I know J.K Rowling wanted a term that was cute and cuddly. I asked a French friend if she thought the word had a cute/cuddly connotation and she said no. Conclusion – bad translation.
- The Sorting Hat = Le Choixpeau I love this translation – so much I might even like it more than the original. The word is a pun on the French word for hat ‘chapeau’. In French the verb to choose is ‘choisir’ the word for a choice is ‘un choix’, so the translator combined the word hat ‘chapeau’ and choice ‘choix’ to form the ‘choosing hat’, which it’s very poetic in French. Bravo Monsieur Traducteur! 🙂
- Diagon Alley = Chemin de Traverse Another translation I like is Diagon Alley. To translate the word literally ‘jeu de mot sur diagonale/diagon-allée would be impossible in French. So he used the French for a path ‘chemin’ and then the French word for crooked/askew ‘traverse’, but just like ‘Diagon Alley’ has a nice even ring to it so does ‘crooked path’ in French. ‘Chemin de Traverse’ has a nice soft sound and an even amount of syllables like the original to create a poetic sound.
- O.W.L’s = B.U.S.E I was impressed by this translation too, because the translator needed to find an acronym in French for a wizard exam but also try to keep the second meaning – that the acronym is the world for OWL. The French word for owl is ‘hibou’ but this must have been impossible so the French ended up with B.U.S.E (in English it stands for Universal Elementary Sorcery Certificate) and the word ‘buse’ is the French word for a buzzard, a North American bird.
Some translations of names make sense to me, and others I barely notice the difference – Malfoy become Malefoy to give it a more French look. Then there’s ‘Madame Bibine’, who is Madame Hooch. The translator took the word ‘hooch’ to mean a whiskey of bad quality, which is apparently what the word means (?) and bibine is another French word for bad quality wine. So we have ‘Madame Cheap Wine’ or maybe Australian’s would say ‘Madame Goon’ 😛
Then there are translation such as Snape becomes Rogue (also an English word) because the translator felt that the word ‘Snape’ had a connotation of someone who was irritable and illustrated his character, so it had to be translated.
One thing that struck me as strange was that when Ron tells Harry that his brother is Prefect Harry asks him what it is. Ron then explains that it’s a type of supervisor at school, then asks him ‘didn’t you know that’?
Harry replies: ‘I don’t get out much’
Aw…. poor Harry! Never learned what a prefect was 😛 I thought the paragraph was strange and after some digging found out it wasn’t in the original as I thought, it makes sense since that is a foreign concept to French people but it’s also a foreign concept to Australians, and I remember not knowing what a prefect was but figuring it out from the context.
The weird part is Harry’s explanation, that he never found out what prefect meant because he doesn’t… go out? LOL
A few final things…
There are a few other smaller things that get lost in translation, like Hagrid’s accent which the French translator left out. One article believes the translator feared that to give him an accent in the French version would give the character a vulgar side or rural connotation which the English don’t have (I always assumed Hagrid was Scottish?).
In my opinion Hagrid’s accent gives him a soft, gentler side – perhaps it implies he’s a bit simple, more ‘brawn over brains’ but as an English speaker it makes me warm to Hagrid – maybe this is something a French person would interpret differently.
The French also have some advantages when reading Harry Potter, since there are a few key words that are in French in the series. The word ‘Voldemort’ when taken apart becomes ‘vol de mort’ which depending on how you translate it, means thief of death/flight from death. The character Fleur Delacour when pulled a part means ‘fleur de-la-cour’ = flower of the court. A French person knowing this might even enjoy the meaning of these names and attach them to the character better than an English-speaker would.
Just like I might chuckle at the words for the spells if I could read Latin.
So there we are – a small guide to Harry Potter in French, there are a lot more differences but those are the ones that stand out to me the most.