Thursday, 7 July 2011

Harry Potter Re-Read: Translation Edition (Translation Thursday)

Swedish HP1As many of you probably know by now I speak and read both English and Swedish fluently. I’ve always spoken Swedish fluently and understood English fluently but didn’t start speaking English regularly until I was in my teens, the same goes for reading in English. What does this have to do with Harry Potter? Well, one might think that I would be able to comment on the translation of the books into Swedish. I can’t. I’ve only read one short passage out of a Harry Potter book in Swedish and that was for a translation module in grad school.

Swedish HP2Anymore I actively avoid reading books that are originally published in English in Swedish translation. Translation is great. It is an art in itself. But things can change in translation. There is a reason why we have the expression “lost in translation”. I fully agree with Laura Watkinson in the interview I posted on June 27th, words can have many meanings and unless you know what the author intended then translation can be tricky. My classmates and I could have pitched battles regarding our interpretations of words and translations. I occasionally take on some translation work. It. Is. Hard.

Swedish HP3However, despite knowing that it is hard, poor translations annoy the living daylights out of me. Often when watching American tv shows the character will say one thing, and the translation will be the opposite. And this is my fear about reading the translated Harry Potter books. I love these books so very much. What if the translator has done a poor job?! (Absolutely not saying they have. I’ve read two pages and they were fine, I have no rational basis for my fear…but you know Smile). One day maybe I will be brave enough


Copyright ©2011 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.


MisterMumi said...

For us that are not fluent in English I think reading a translated text can actually reduce the number of misunderstandings, since one can assume that the translator is better at English that oneself is. At least that's how i think about it! :)

theeclecticreader said...

I have the same problem.
My first language is Portuguese and for a long time I only read in my language. Recently I've start to read in English, and I reread some of the books I had read in Portuguese. Sometimes the Portuguese translation was very bad and the translated book lost some of its essence.
Luckily the HP translations are very good and I could appreciate the series both in English and in Portuguese without many differences between the original and the translated book.

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more with you.
If you are lucky enough to be fluent in two different languages why "ruin" an original good read?

Swedish authors are quite popular these days in my country (Spain) but I found myself questioning the translation constantly. It was not a Swedish translation but a Spanish one of a Swedish author, and I just did not enjoy it as I knew some bits just did not make a lot of sense in the target language.

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