Why I’m Reading Philosopher’s Stone in Spanish

With my upcoming trip to Ecuador with the Global Autism Project, I need to brush up on my Spanish.  I took four years of the language in high school and did a minor during my undergraduate years at Emory University, but I’ve had few opportunities to use it in the 30 years hence, so I am quite rusty.  So, what better way to re-familiarize myself with the language than to read (and listen!)  to a very familiar and beloved story en espanol?  I’m both listening to it on audiobook on my daily commute and reading a copy that my daughter was given in high school. My ultimate plan is to do both at once.

I am pleasantly surprised at how much I can understand, though my familiarity with the English book certainly helps.  I am also intrigued by the minor differences I see between the English and Spanish translations and also by a few changes that I see between the audio and print versions.

Mas depues de la salta!

A few interesting tidbits so far:

  • Harry is not, strictly speaking, “The Boy Who Lived” but rather “el nino que sobrevivio” — at least in the audiobook, making him the “Boy Who Survived,” which has a different ring to it. The print book, however, uses the word for lived…  vivio.
  • The audiobook uses the word for “owl” with which I was familiar: “buho.”  The print book, however, uses the word “lechuza,” which is a word specific for barn or screech owl.  Interestingly, La Lechuza is also a figure from Mexican folklore—  a witch that shape-shifts into an owl.
  • Apparently “knickbocker glory” does not translate into Spanish. Dudley’s tantrum in the zoo restaurant is triggered by a sandwich that isn’t big enough, rather than an elaborate ice cream dessert that did not have enough whipped cream on top.   Interestingly, the audiobook uses the anglicized word “sandwich”  while the print uses the more traditional bocadillo, which can also mean “snack.”  This changes the tone of the scene quite a bit, by making the object of the tantrum a more mundane food item rather than the spectacular dessert (which Dudley got after the giant chocolate ice cream cone, remember…).  Thus, both Dudley’s greed in complaining about the lack of whipped topping,  and the specialness of Harry’s being allowed to finish the treat are diminished.
  • Finally, the voice of Hagrid is amazing— low and grumbly in a way that makes you think “giant.”  I love Robbie Coltrane’s take on the character, but I have to think this voice is more authentic to the character.

I’ll be blogging more about my impressions of the Spanish version as I move through it.  In the meantime, I have my first major funding deadline coming up in slightly more than a month, when I need to have half my goal raised. Please consider a donation in support of the Guayaquil Center here.

Muchas gracias!!!

P.S. People who donate on 12/22/19 will receive a homemade cookie thank-you, and are eligible to win 3 dozen!  I can even do Harry Potter themes!


  1. Hello Louise–my worlds are colliding: Harry Potter + language acquisition! Are you familiar with the work of Stephen Krashen on language acquisition? He’s my go-to man for that, as JG is my go-to man for HP.

    I have spent a little bit of time reading the la piedra filosofal, and one thing I found helpful to me was that the Spanish translation seems to use a smaller and more repetitive vocabulary than the original English. Did you notice that too? It’s interesting that the audio book and the print book are different. Keep posting–I love this!

  2. Louise Freeman says

    Thank you Carrie– I will certainly get a post or two more out of this experience. I hadn’t noticed more repetitive vocabulary, but will keep that in mind when I try the simultaneous book/audio. I listened to the “Nitwit! Oddment! Blubber! Tweak” line last night and did not recognize the words, so I need to look them up. I am interested to see if the audio and print book used the same.

  3. Hello, Louise!

    I was born in Barcelona and my first approach with the Harry Potter books was in their Catalan translation (which, for the first four books was delightful… it changed a Little bit later due to a quarrell between WB and the translator regarding translation name’s copyright).

    Sincé then, I have read the series in all the languages that I speak: English, Spanish, Japanese and Portuguese.

    I have found that some translations are more to my taste than others, ands specially the Spanish translation is one of my least favourites, because it makes some decisions regarding the translation that take out intensity or change the meaning of the text considerably.

    As for the differences you mention between the audiobook and the printed version, I was wondering: are both of them the same version? I mean, the Spain’s Spanish translation is different than the other Spanish speaking countries translation, so maybe you are listening to one translation and reading into another?

    Anyway, I hope you enjoy the experience!

  4. Louise Freeman says

    Thank you for sharing your insights, Beth G! I’ll post more as I make my way through both print and audio. I will look and see if I have European or American translations.

  5. My case is totally the opposite. I’m from Mexico and Harry Potter helped me to learn English, (well, JK Rowling, to be honest).

    It was June 2007 and I didn’t want to wait 8 or 9 months to read the final book in Spanish, and I have read on line that the Spanish translations (Salamandra) weren’t so good, so I bought the scholastic version and started to read it the very day that it was published.

    At first, it was a little confusing, because it was the first time I was reading in English, and I didn’t catch the total sense of the words or the concepts, but I was understanding the general concept due to the context and that I already knew the characters and their stories.

    I have to say that I used a dictionary with translations (I don’t know the word for that kind of book) and I was writing down in a notebook every word that was new to me, and that I noticed that was repetitive as well, and that way I was able to finish the book, and at the end I felt both happy for reading in English for the first time, and sad because it was the last Potter book.

    Then A Casual Vacancy was released, and I read it in English too, after that, The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm, Career of Evil and Lethal White, all in English, I didn’t even read them in Spanish. And now I’m waiting for troubled blood to be published, I pre ordered it in amazon.

    I’m excited because this is the first time I post here, even though I have being reading this blog since I was looking for information about Robert Galbraith.

    So, I wanted to say that I think there are two versions of the books in Spanish , one for Spain and other for Latin America, both by Salamandra, and there are a lot of differences due to translation, I hope someone write a post some day with a list for every book.


  6. Louise Freeman says

    Bienvenidos, Eduardo! Your English is excellent; I think your plan worked!

    I hope someday my Spanish is good enough to tackle Robert Galbraith in translation.

    I hope to post more on the Spanish translations now that I am Ecuador-bound. Please share your insights as a native speaker.

  7. Welcome to the comment threads of HogwartsProfessor, Eduardo! Please join in the Cormoran Strike speculation vis vis ‘Troubled Blood.’ Your perspective on the series is invaluable because no one reads a book as closely and attentively as someone for whom the book’s language is an acquired one (so says the Classical Languages major who crawled through painfully long selections from Homer, Sophocles, Thucydides, Plato, Ovid, Cicero, Virgil, and Aristotle…). Great to have you in the conversation!

  8. Thank you John and Louise, it’s such an honor that both of you have replied my comment.

    Actually, I need to read again the four Strike books, because I don’t remember a lot of things, mainly from the first three books.

    I’ll try to read them in Spanish, it’s a good opportunity to do it, it’d be interesting seeing how good the translation was in this occasion.

    I hope to be interacting more frequently, I haven’t done it because I was catching up with the posts, I haven’t read them all since April last year, but the good thing of being unemployed now is having enough time to do the stuff you like.

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