Harry Potter in Chinese, Japanese & Vietnamese Translation


Magical Me



Simplified Chinese (China)
Huì mófǎ de wǒ
huì = 'able, can do'.
魔法 mófǎ = 'magic'.
de = connecting particle
= 'I'.
I Who Can Do Magic
Traditional Chinese (Taiwan)
Shénqí de wǒ
神奇 shénqí = 'magical'
de = connecting particle
= 'I'.
Miraculous Me
Watashi wa majikku da
私は watashi wa = 'I' + topic particle.
マジック majikku = 'magic' (English).
da = 'to be' = 'am'.
I am Magic
Vietnamese (Chinese characters show etymology)
Cái tôi mầu nhiệm cái tôi = 'ego'.
mầu nhiệm 'wonder-working'.
The Wonder-working Ego / I
Mongolian (previous)
Гайхамшигт би
Gaikhamshigt bi
гайхамшигт gaikhamshigt = 'wonderful, remarkable'.
би bi = 'I'.
Wonderful Me
Mongolian (new)
Би шидтэн
Bi shidten
би bi = 'I'.
шидтэн shidten = 'magical one' = 'magician'.
I am a Magician

Lockhart's insufferably conceited 'Magical Me' is translated differently in the various translations. This is due to the unusual structure of the English and the different interpretations that can be put on 'magical'.

Structurally, the title uses an adjective ('magical') to modify a pronoun ('me'). This is the attributive usage of the adjective. Notice that the pronoun in English is normally 'me', not 'I', although 'I' would be possible in very stiff, formal grammar. Using 'I' would take the nuance from one of self-satisfied self-congratulation to extreme pomposity.

Semantically, the word 'magical' means 'relating to, using, or resembling magic', but is more frequently used in the sense of 'beautiful or delightful in a way that seems removed from everyday life'.

Grammatical structure

Grammatically the translated titles fall into two categories:

    Those that follow the English and use an attributive structure with the modifier before the personal pronoun 'me' (or 'I'):
      Magical me
    The Mainland Chinese, Taiwanese, and previous Mongolian translations fall into this camp.

    Those that use a predicative structure:
      I am magical
    The Japanese and new Mongolian translations fall into this group.

    The Vietnamese translation is ambiguous between the two since mầu nhiệm could be interpreted as 'work wonders' (predicative) or 'wonder-working' (attributive).


More important is the choice of expression to translate 'magical'. This covers a continuum, ranging from those that refer primarily to magic at one end to those that mean 'beautiful' or 'delightful' at the other. Only a couple of translators attempt to capture both.

Those that reference magic do so in a couple of ways:

    The Mainland translation uses 会魔法 huì mófǎ 'can do magic'. This fails to convey the sense of the original.

    The new Mongolian translation uses шидтэн shidten, where шид shid means 'magic', -t means 'possessing', and -эн -en indicates belonging to a group. The meaning is 'one who has magic', that is, a magician, which also fails to convey the sense of the English.

    The Vietnamese is slightly more creative by using mầu nhiệm 'work wonders'.

One translation renders only the sense of 'wonderful and delightful' without conveying the reference to magic:

    The previous Mongolian translation uses гайхамшигт gaikhamshigt, a term meaning 'wonderful, remarkable' that is derived from the verb гайхах gaikhakh 'be surprised'.

Two translations attempt to convey the double sense of the English:

    The Taiwanese translator uses 神奇 shénqí, a word that means 'magical, mystical, miraculous, peculiar'. It straddles the supernatural, magical aspect and also the sense of 'strange and amazing'. This is thus a good attempt to render the English.

    The Japanese translator tries to escape the awkwardness of 魔法 mahō 'magic', which literally refers to the exercise of magic and does not necessarily carry positive connotations, by using the English word マジック majikku. The borrowed term has more positive connotations due to its association with the English word 'magic'. This translation also manages to convey to some extent the double sense of the English.

See also One Minute Feasts - It's Magic.

Category: Who's Who / Biography

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