Harry Potter in Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese & Mongolian Translation
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Chapter 16: The Chamber of Secrets

 

Chinese (Mainland)
密室
Mìshì
密室 mìshì = 'secret room/sealed room'. The Secret Room
Chinese (Taiwan)
密室
Mìshì
密室 mìshì = 'secret room/sealed room'. The Secret Room
Japanese
秘密の部屋
Himitsu no heya
秘密 himitsu = 'secret'.
no = connecting particle
部屋 heya = 'room'.
The Secret Room/The Room of Secrets
Vietnamese (Chinese characters show etymology)
Phòng chứa bí mật phòng () = 'room'.
chứa = 'hold, contain'.
bí mật (秘密) = 'secret'.
The Room containing Secrets
Mongolian (previous)
Нууцат өрөө
Nuutsat öröö
нууцат nuutsat = 'secret, mysterious'.
өрөө öröö = 'room'.
The Mysterious Room
Mongolian (new)
Нууцат өрөө
Nuutsat öröö
нууцат nuutsat = 'secret, mysterious'.
өрөө öröö = 'room'.
The Mysterious Room

The Chamber of Secrets is a room deep under Hogwarts accessible only by a secret entrance. The English name has two interesting features:

  • A 'chamber' is basically a kind of room. The word was borrowed from Middle French chambre 'room' and originally referred to a private room. In modern-day English, a chamber is a large room used for formal or public events or an enclosed space or cavity (like a burial chamber). Rowling no doubt used this word deliberately, both for its suggestion of a relatively large and grandiose space, and for its association with the dead.
  • The chamber itself is secret, but the name implies not that it is a secret or hidden room but that it contains secrets of some kind.

Chamber

Not all languages have the right nuances in vocabulary to render the sense of 'chamber' as used in the English. It's noteworthy that chambre, as used in the French translation, is the ordinary word for 'room'. Indeed, all of the languages covered here use a form that means simply 'room'.

    While Chinese has the word 房間 / 房间 fángjiān for 'room', both Chinese versions use the suffix -shì, which is used in the names of all kinds of room (e.g., 卧室 wòshì 'bedroom', 教室 jiàoshì 'classroom', 会议室 / 會議室 huìyìshì 'meeting room', 温室 wēnshì 'greenhouse').

    Japanese can also form words with the same suffix, e.g., 寝室, shinshitsu 'bedroom', 教室 kyōshitsu 'classroom', 会議室 kaigishitsu 'meeting room', 温室 onshitsu 'greenhouse', but the translator chooses to use the independent word for 'room', which is 部屋 heya.

    Vietnamese uses phòng, borrowed from Chinese , which is an independent word meaning 'room'.

    Both Mongolian versions use the word өрөө öröö, which is the ordinary Mongolian word for 'room'.

Secret

As we saw above, the English title implies that the chamber contains secrets. Interestingly, while all of the translations use words meaning 'secret', very few of them convey the sense of the original English.

    Both Chinese versions use the established expression 密室 mìshǐ, literally 'secret room', which refers to a hidden or secret room. This is by no means incorrect -- after all, the chamber of secrets was a well-hidden room that took Tom Riddle years to find -- but that is not the meaning of the title in English.

    Japanese calls it 秘密の部屋 himitsu no heya, also having the primary meaning 'hidden or secret room', and only secondarily 'room of secrets'.

    The Mongolian title uses the word нууцат nuutsat 'mysterious, secret'. While this can be interpreted as meaning 'containing secrets' -- нууц nuuts is the Mongolian word for 'secret' -- its meaning is closer to 'mysterious, unknown'. Нууцат nuutsat is used in the Mongolian translation of Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island (known in Mongolian as Нууцат арал nuutsat aral 'mysterious island') and is also used to describe the mystery planet Mars. The meaning is thus different from that implied by 'the chamber of secrets' in English.

    The Vietnamese translation is clearest among the four in emphasising that the chamber contains secrets. Its name is Phòng chứa bí mật, where chứa means 'containing, holding'.

(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 15
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