Harry Potter in Chinese, Japanese & Vietnamese Translation


The Titles of Magical Books in Harry Potter


Saucy Tricks for Tricky Sorts


Chinese (Mainland) 对付恶作剧的锦囊妙计
Duìfù èzuòjù de jǐnnáng miàojì
对付 duìfù = 'to deal with'.
恶作剧 èzuòjù = 'practical joke, mischievous prank'.
de = connecting particle
锦囊 jǐnnáng = 'brocade bag'.
妙计 miàojì = 'excellent plan, brilliant scheme'.
Bag of Tricks for Dealing with Mischievous Pranks
Chinese (Taiwan) 淘氣巫師的惡作劇寶典
Táoqì wūshī de èzuòjù bǎodiǎn
淘氣 táoqì = 'mischievous'.
巫師 wūshī = 'wizard'.
de = connecting particle
惡作劇 èzuòjù = 'practical joke, mischievous prank'.
寶典 bǎodiǎn = 'treasured book'.
Treasured Book of Mischievous Pranks for Mischievous Wizards
Japanese トリック好きのためのおいしいトリック
Torikku-zuki no tame no oishii torikku
トリック好き torikku-zuki = 'trick-lover' (トリック torikku 'trick' + 好き suki 'like').
ため no tame = 'for, for the benefit/purpose'.
no = connecting particle
おいしい oishii = 'delicious'.
トリック torikku = 'trick'.
Delicious Tricks for the Trick Lover
Vietnamese Mánh Độc Để Chơi Khăm mánh = 'trick'.
độc () = 'wicked'.
để = 'in order to'.
chơi khăm = 'play practical jokes, dirty tricks'.
Wicked Tricks in Order to Play Practical Jokes

This seemingly simple expression has pitfalls in every word that actually trip up two of the translators.

    Saucy tricks carries nuances that are hard to translate directly, especially the word 'saucy'. 'Saucy' refers to an attitude that is overly familiar for one's position or station, e.g., children may be saucy or cheeky when they talk back to adults, men may be regarded as saucy when they take small liberties with women. 'Saucy' may indicate disapproval or approval, depending on the speaker's intent. Often the actions it describes are winning or attractive precisely because they dare to go beyond the bounds of acceptable behaviour.

    Here the term is one of approval, implying that the tricks in question are slightly cheeky or impertinent, but attractive for their boldness or flair. Neither of the Chinese translators tries to capture this nuance. The Japanese translator uses おいしい oishii ('delicious'), conveying the idea that these tricks will be appreciated for their flair. The Vietnamese translator uses độc meaning 'wicked', which is less successful in conveying the nuance.

    For shouldn't trip up any translators, but both the Chinese (Mainland) and Vietnamese translators manage to get it wrong. The Mainland translator, as elsewhere, assumes that 'for' means 'designed to deal with'. There's no reason that it couldn't mean this, but it just doesn't. What it means is: 'for the use of' or 'for the benefit of'.

    The Vietnamese translator interprets 'for' as meaning 'in order to', forcing her to place a verb after it ('in order to play practical jokes'), completely departing from the English meaning of 'tricky sorts'.

    The Japanese translator indicates that the tricks are 'for the benefit or purpose of'. The Taiwanese translator simply uses de, the ubiquitous connecting particle. The meaning is literally 'mischievous pranks of mischievous wizards', but this is all that is needed to convey the nuance of the English.

    Tricky sorts means 'tricky people'. 'Sort' here is a slightly slangy expression. Understanding this is the crux of translating the title correctly.

    Having already mistranslated 'for', the Chinese translator moves even further away from the English original by translating 'tricky sorts' as 'practical joke' or 'mischievous trick'. The Vietnamese also, as noted above, changes 'for tricky sorts' into 'in order to play dirty tricks/practical jokes'.

    The Japanese translator correctly renders it as トリック好き torikku-zuki or 'trick-lover'. The Taiwanese translator also correctly interprets this as 淘氣巫師 táoqì wūshī 'mischievous wizard'.

Bag of Tricks:

The Chinese word 锦囊 jǐnnáng means 'brocade bag'. The expression 锦囊妙计 jǐnnáng miàojì (literally 'brocade bag of excellent plans') means 'wise counsel' or 'instructions for dealing with an emergency'. It derives from an episode in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, an ancient tale of military wiles and exploits set in the 3rd century AD.

    In the story, the king of Wu invited Liu Bei, ruler of the kingdom of Shu Han, to come and marry his young sister. The king's plan was to quietly take Liu Bei hostage. However, Liu Bei's strategist, the legendary Zhuge Liang, smelt a trap and gave a set of instructions in a brocade bag to the general accompanying Liu Bei. Each time a problem came up Zhuge Liang had foreseen it and provided a suitable strategy.

    The first instruction was: 'Spread word of the proposed marriage around when you arrive'. The king of Wu had originally planned to take Liu Bei captive without any fuss, but with the marriage already public knowledge he had no choice but to go ahead with it.

    After the wedding, the king of Wu detained Liu Bei in Wu by providing him with a life of luxury and pleasure. The second message instructed Liu Bei's general to sound a false alarm that Shu Han was being attacked by a third country. Liu Bei had to leave for home to deal with the emergency.

    When the troops of Wu tried to prevent Liu Bei from leaving, the third instruction was to have Liu Bei's new bride, sister of the king of Wu, come out and handle it. Naturally, the troops of Wu didn't dare disobey the king's sister.

    In this way, the 'brocade bag of excellent plans' came into popular use to mean resourceful schemes for dealing with problems, in this case, a book of statagems.

Another famous brocade bag in Chinese history was that used by the Tang dynasty poet Li He to scribble down lines of poetry when he was out riding on his horse, to be assembled into complete poems later.

Category: Spells and Charms (Popular)

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