Harry Potter in Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese & Mongolian Translation


Chapter 3: The Letters from No One


Simplified Chinese (China)
Māotóuyīng chuánshū
猫头鹰 māotóuyīng = 'owl'.
chuán = 'transmit' or 'pass on'.
shū = 'book' or 'letter'.
Owl Message(s)
Traditional Chinese (Taiwan)
Cóng tiān ér jiàng de xìnhán
cóng = 'from'.
tiān = 'heaven/sky'.
ér a literary grammatical particle roughly meaning 'and'
jiàng = 'descend'.
de = connecting particle
信函 xìnhán = formal word for 'letter'.
Letters Coming Down from the Sky = Unexpected Letters
Shiranai hito kara no tegami
知らない shiranai = 'not know' (shiru = 'to know').
人から hito kara = 'person' + 'from' = 'from a person'.
no = connecting particle
手紙 tegami = 'letter'.
Letters from an Unknown Person
Vietnamese (Chinese characters show etymology)
Những lá thư không xuất xứ những = plural marker for thư('letter').
= counter for letters, etc.
thư () = 'letter'.
không = 'not/no'.
xuất xứ (出處) = 'source'.
Letters With no Source
Mongolian (previous)
Эзэнгүй захиа
Ezengüi zakhia
эзэн ezen = 'owner'.
эзэнгүй ezengüi = 'ownerless'.
захиа zakhia = 'letter'.
Ownerless Letter(s)
Mongolian (new)
Нууцлаг захидлууд
Nuutslag zakhidluud
нууцлаг nuutslag = 'secret, mysterious'.
захидлууд zakhidluud is the plural of захидал zakhidal = 'letter'.
Mysterious Letters

'Letters from No One', believe it or not, can be difficult to translate into foreign languages. In English, if you say 'I got letters from no one' it usually means 'I got no letters'. But in this chapter, 'letters from no one' doesn't mean Harry got no letters (he got lots of them!); it's a witty way of saying that the letters came from somewhere unknown. Translators have to come up with ingenious ways of saying this.

    The Taiwanese version uses the expression 從天而降 cóng tiān ér jiàng, 'come down from the sky', which refers to something that occurs suddenly, unexpectedly, or with no apparent cause. (The ér in 從天而降 cóng tiān ér jiàng means something like 'and' but is here a kind of filler to create a four-character expression.)

    The Japanese version refers to letters from an 'unknown person' (知らない人 shiranai hito).

    The Vietnamese version refers to letters with no source (không xuất xứ). (Note: The page headers in the Vietnamese version give the slightly different title of Những bức thư không xuất xứ, where bức is an alternative to as a counter/classifier for letters.)

    The old Mongolian translation uses эзэнгүй захиа ezengüi zakhia meaning 'ownerless letter(s)', that is, letters that belong to no one. This is a good approximation of the English.

    The new translation settles for нууцлаг захидлууд nuutslag zakhidluud 'mysterious letters'

The Mainland Chinese version avoids the problem entirely by calling them 猫头鹰传书 māotóuyīng chuánshū ('owl messages'). This is modelled on the concept of 'carrier pigeons', known (among things) as 传书鸽 chuánshū-gē 'transmit letter pigeon' in Chinese.

(A summary of this chapter can be found at Harry Potter Facts. Detailed notes on the chapter can be found at Harry Potter Lexicon)

Chapter 2
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