MuggleNet Academia: ‘Parseltongue, Gobbledegook, and Troll: On the Difficulties of Translating Harry Potter’ Show #3

My co-host at MuggleNet Academia, Keith Hawk, has written to let me know that our third show, this one on Potter translations, is up and available for downloading today. ‘Parseltongue, Gobbledegook, and Troll’ is something of a departure for us as this program is less academic per se — on the artistry and meaning of the books — as it is about the books as books and how they succeed or fail when translated into another language.

Our special guest is Josee LeBlanc, a Potter Pundit from Canada who works with government agencies and their French and English translation issues. Joining her as our student representative is Amanda Pavani from Brazil, a polyglut and Potter-phile of the first rank. From the show synopsis:

When we read the Harry Potter series, we notice them all. Those clever wordplays, alliterations, rich accents and meaningful last names Jo Rowling conjured up from the tip of her pen. Yet, while we sometimes pause to analyze the second or third meanings of Dumbledore’s name or marvel over how all those Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes inventions just seem to roll off your tongue (Canary Cream, Ton Tongue Toffee, etc.), most of us never think about the amount of work involved to translate it all into another language. In the case of alliterations, when the words don’t match in the target language, what should be translated: the sounds (Wimbourne Wasps) or the meaning? How do you translate Hagrid or Seamus’ accent? How about Fleur Delacour’s or Madame Maxime’s accents in French? And what about wordplays that can’t be translated literally; what should be done about those?

You can read more about the show here or download it immediately at this link. Please be sure to share your feedback at MuggleNet and let us know what subjects you’d like to explore and whom you’d like us to invite on as our guests!

Shows featuring Washington & Lee’s Suzanne Keen in a discussion of the Hogwarts Saga as Serious ‘Series’ fiction and Lawrence Unibersity’s Edmund Kern, author of The Wisdom of Harry Potter, on sex and gender issues in Harry Potter can be downloaded at iTunes here. Transcriptions available, too — Enjoy!


  1. miles365 says

    Another great episode. I’ve just started learning Latin; I think once I’ve made it through the first semester, I’ll have to check out the HP Latin translation.

  2. Shaylynn says

    I was surprised when I opened “Harry Potter and der Stein der Weisen” (German) at how much of the wordplay was lost. This was my first time trying to read a novel in a foreign language (and I chose Harry Potter because even though I understand less than half the words and grammar, I know the story intimately enough to keep track of what is going on). Most of the proper names were translated verbatim, with spellings changed for easier German pronunciation (Hermine), but sometimes I was totally confused with the substituions (Magda/Marge). Unfortunately its slow reading and I still haven’t gotten to the parts with all the awesome wizarding items.

  3. Hello
    Loved the show about thee translations as a French living in London UK for the past 23 years the show stroke a cord to me especially the translation on the names in French and as your colleague said made her toe curls !!
    The one I would like to say is that (a common mistake) hogwart is not in England it is in Scotland ! Both are in the UK (united kingdom) or even Great Britain (that’s not including. Otherness Ireland)
    Sorry about the geography lesson but it does make me cringe when that mistake is made !!
    Thank you for a great entrainment during my would be boring commute !


  4. Sorry about typos on previous comment that is what happen when you type on a bus in you IPhone !!!

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