Part of what makes the Harry Potter phenomenon so intriguing is the fact that the story has managed to permeate across international borders everywhere. The book has been a major hit in more languages than any other book in recent publishing history. The book has been so popular around the world, that it is estimated that it has been published in over 200 different countries. The Harry Potter series was created by JK Rowling, a British writer who has managed to tap into an apparently innate desire to experience the wonder of magic and fantasy. It is now believed that the Harry Potter book series encompass the most widely read works in all the history of children’s literature. Over 300 million copies have been sold worldwide. Many people are surprised to learn how many languages the book has been translated into. Here is a list of the different languages that the Harry Potter series has been translated into. A caveat: it’s a very long list!
The Harry Potter books, originally published in English by Bloomsbury of London, has been translated into the following languages: Afrikaans, Albanian, American English, Arabic, Basque, Bengali, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, non-UK English (Australia & Canada), Estonian, Faroese, Finnish, French, Galician, Georgian, German, Low German, Greek (modern and ancient), Greenlandic, Gujarti, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Latin, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Marathi, Malay, Malayalam, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese (Portugal and Brazilian Portuguese), Romanian, Russian, Scots Gaelic, Serbian, Sinhala, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish (Castilian and Latin American Spanish), Swedish, Tamil, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Valencian, Vietnamese, and Welsh.
All of these languages constitute official translations of the Harry Potter books. It is believed that there are even more translations, which are not necessarily official or mandated by the publisher of the books. It is no surprise after scanning the list of official translations that there are several issues in translation which inevitably must arise. Many of these difficulties arise from cultural differences. For instance, most readers would agree that the culture depicted in the Harry Potter books are definitely English nature. The themes and stories in the Harry Potter series depict children who are learning at a boarding school. There are many cultural traditions, motifs, and nuances that will be unfamiliar to readers who are reading the books in translation. These aspects of any book must be taken into account when an official translation is being done.
Another issue that invariably arises in translation has to do with how the characters speak. For instance, take the character of Hagrid. He does not necessarily speak like the other characters in the novel. Each character, in fact, speaks differently in order to reveal their interior character, their background, education, and personality. Many of the forms of speech and expressions that are used in the Harry Potter books are also idiomatic and regional. Clearly, these cannot be translated verbatim, as readers who are approaching the text through the lens of translation will probably not understand the meaning of such passages. The official translations usually take this into account and translate idiomatic expressions, slang, and regional forms of speech so that they make sense to Harry Potter readers in other countries. In some cases, the interpreter must make up terms so that they make sense to readers in other countries. Another problem with the Harry Potter books is the fact that there is so much odd language. For instance, there are many spells, magical words and incantations that are made up for the book. These must be translated in a way so that they read naturally to readers in other countries.