Vox contributor Gina Barton explains the unique challenges of translating Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and the other books in the series to more than 60 languages. The book’s use of invented words, clever wordplay, and references to distinctly British culture presented translators who had to work independently of author J.K. Rowling with some interesting problems.
The Harry Potter books have sold more than 400 million copies worldwide and been translated into more than 60 languages. The books are filled with a tricky mix of wordplay, invented words, songs, allusions, British cultural references, and more. Translators were tasked with adapting J.K. Rowling’s devices to fit the language and culture of their target audience.