Bathrobe's Harry Potter in Chinese, Japanese & Vietnamese Translation
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The Titles of Magical Books in Harry Potter


Quintessence: A Quest


Chinese (Mainland) 第五元素:探索
Dì-wǔ yuánsù: tànsuǒ
第五 dì-wǔ = 'fifth'.
元素 yuánsù = 'element'.
探索 tànsuǒ = 'to explore, probe, seek'.
Quintessence: (a) probe
Chinese (Taiwan) 第五元素:一場探索
Dì-wǔ yuánsù: yì-chǎng tànsuǒ
第五 dì-wǔ = 'fifth'.
元素 yuánsù = 'element'.
一場 yì-cháng = measure word/classifier for processes
探索 tànsuǒ = 'to probe, explore, seek'.
Quintessence: a probe
Japanese 精の探求
Sei no tankyū
sei = 'spirit, essence; energy, vigour, vitality'.
no = connecting particle
探求 tankyū = 'quest, research, pursuit'.
Pursuit of spirit
Vietnamese Tinh Chất: Một Cuộc Tìm Kiếm tinh chất (精質) = 'pure substance, essence'.
một = 'a'.
cuộc = measure word/classifier meaning 'event, state, condition, situation'.
tìm kiếm = 'to look for, search, seek'.
Essence: a search


Originally, 'quintessence' referred to the fifth and highest element in ancient and mediaeval philosophy, an element that permeates all nature and is the substance that composes the celestial bodies. In normal usage, however, it simply refers to the essence of a thing in its purest and most concentrated form.

The two Chinese translations use the original meaning, 'the fifth element'. The Japanese and Vietnamese translations use the less technical meaning of 'essence'.

A quest:

A quest is a seeking for something, a pursuit or search. Here the English uses the indefinite article 'a'. This seems to imply that the book represents or sets out a specific attempt to find quintessence.

It is possible to ignore the indefinite article and simply speak of 'seeking quintessence'. The Chinese (Mainland) and Japanese translations follow this line.

The other alternative is to translate the article. This raises the problem of classifiers. In specifiying 'a' quest in CJV languages, it is necessary to use the most suitable classifier or measure word. The Taiwanese translator chooses cháng, which indicates a process, for example, rainfall or snowfall, a battle, or an illness. The Vietnamese translator chooses cuộc, which is used for extended actions such as operations, investigations, or strikes.

Category: Wizardry

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