Harry Potter in Chinese, Japanese & Vietnamese Translation


Self-Defensive Spellwork



Simplified Chinese (China)
Zìwèi mózhòu-jí
自卫 zìwèi = 'self-protection'.
魔咒 = mózhòu = 'spell'.
-jí = 'collection'.
Collection of self-protective spells
Traditional Chinese (Taiwan)
Zìwǒ fángyù shīzhòu-fǎ
自我 zìwǒ = 'self''.
防禦 fángyù = 'defence'.
施咒 shīzhòu = 'cast a spell'.
= 'method'.
Self-protective spell-working methods
Jiko bōei jumon-gaku
自己 jiko = 'self'.
防衛 bōei = 'defence'.
呪文学 jumon-gaku = 'study of spells'.
Self-defence spell-study
Vietnamese (Chinese characters show etymology)
Thực Hành Thần Chú Tự Vệ thực hành (實行) = 'to realise, carry out'.
thần chú (神咒) ='incantation/spell'.
tự vệ (自衛) = 'self-defence'.
Carrying out self-defensive spells

The Mainland translation is short and to the point, the others less so. The sticky issue for the translators is the word 'spellwork'.


自我防禦 zìwǒ fángyù and the Japanese 自己防衛 jiko bōei are quite literally 'self-defence'. In the Mainland and Vietnamese translations, the much more economical 自卫 zì-wèi (traditional characters 自衛) and tự vệ are used, a demonstration of the ability of Chinese word-building to express concepts succinctly. (自衛 jiei is found in Japanese and is used in the name of the Self-Defence Forces, 自衛隊 Jiei-tai, equivalent to the Army, Navy, and Air Force of other countries. However, 自己防衛 jiko bōei is the more common term for 'self defence'.)


'Spellwork' does not simply mean 'casting spells'; it refers to technical skill in deploying spells in quite a practical sense. 'Spellwork', like 'teamwork' and 'footwork', implies the ability to carry out manoeuvres quickly and efficiently, an ability which is built up through thorough practice and training, and includes appropriate use and effective implementation in specific situations.

In translating 'spellwork' into English, two matters need to be considered:

    (1) Can the nuances of 'spellwork' be conveyed in translation?

    (2) If so, is the effect simple and effective or is it clumsy and unnatural?

This leads to two different approaches in the four translations:

The Taiwanese and Vietnamese translators choose to convey the specific meaning of 'spellwork'.

    The Taiwanese translator uses 施咒法 shīzhòu-fǎ or 'methods of casting spells', which largely captures the fact that this book is about the way that spells are cast.

    The Vietnamese translator uses thực hành, 'to realise, implement, carry out'. Although slightly clumsy, this also captures the applicational aspect of the term 'spellwork'.

The Japanese and Chinese translators choose not to convey the specific meaning of 'spellwork', substituting more general expressions:

    The Japanese translator uses 呪文学 jumon-gaku ('study of spells' or 'spell-ology').

    The Mainland translator uses a straightforward 魔咒集 mózhòu-jí or 'collection of spells'.

What is interesting is that the suffix () -shù or -jutsu, which means 'art' or 'technique', does not make an appearance in any of the four translations. For an example of the use of , see Practical Defensive Magic and Its Use Against the Dark Arts.

Category: Spells and Charms (Educational and Academic)

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