Harry Potter in Chinese, Japanese & Vietnamese Translation

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The Names of Gadgets and Objects in Harry Potter
Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese Translation




Chinese (Mainland) 时间转换器
Shíjiān zhuǎnhuàn-qì
时间 shjiān = 'time'.
转换 zhuǎnhuàn = 'to switch, change, transform'.
= 'instrument, implement'.
Time-switching device
Chinese (Taiwan) 時光器
時光 shíguāng = 'time'.
= 'instrument, implement'.
Time device
Japanese 逆転時計タイムターナー
Gyakuten-dokei / Taimutānā
タイムターナー taimutānā = 'timeturner (phonetic)'.
逆転 gyakuten = 'to be reversed'
時計 tokei = 'clock/watch'.
Reverse watch / Time turner
Vietnamese cái Xoay Thời gian

đồ điều khiển thời gian
cái = 'thing'.
xoay = 'to turn, change direction'.
thời gian (時間) = 'time'.

đồ = 'object, article, thing'.
điều khiển (調遣) = to lead, guide, direct, control'.
thời gian (時間) = 'time'.
Time turner (=change direction)

Time controller
(Where a Vietnamese word has been borrowed from Chinese, the original Chinese character is shown in parentheses.)

The Time-Turner is a magical device given to Hermione by Professor McGonagall in Book 3 to enable her to go back in time a few hours and attend additional classes. It is a tiny sparkling hourglass attached to a very long golden chain. Hermione puts the Time-Turner to good use at Book 3 Chapter 21 (Hermione's Secret) to go back with Harry and rescue both Sirius Black and the Hippogriff. The Time-Turner appears again in Book 5 Chapter 35 (Beyond the Veil), where a cabinet that shatters and repairs itself repeatedly is suspected to contain Time-Turners. (See Harry Potter Lexicon: Magical Items and Devices).

'Time-Turner' as a name seems easy enough until you look at it closely. 'Turn' in English has a broad range of meanings. The following are the basic senses: (1) move around an axis (i.e., rotate or revolve), (2) to reverse the sides of (as in 'turn over'), (3) to bend, divert, or direct in a different direction, (4) to bring about a change (i.e., to convert or transform).

The name of the Time-Turner seems to be based on (1) the fact that the hourglass of the Time-Turner is literally 'turned over' in order to take effect (the more turns, the further back it takes you) and (2) it serves to 'turn back time', which is related to a reverse in direction, where the future is ahead and the past is behind -- going into the past is a 'turning back'. It is possibly also related to the meaning 'transform/convert', i.e., things are 'turned back' to what they used to be.

These complexities in the meaning of 'turn' give rise to problems in translation.

The Mainland Chinese version fairly literally refers to a 'switching over' of time. The verb 转换 zhuǎnhuàn (traditional characters 轉換) means 'to change, switch, transform' and can be used for changing direction or changing topics, among other things. Significantly, 转换 is made up of the verb zhuǎn 'to turn, shift, change, or transform' and huàn meaning 'to exchange, change, substitute, or convert'. The concept is thus one of 'switching' over to another period of time.

The Taiwanese translator decides to simplify matters by calling the Time-Turner a 時光器 shíguāng-qì 'time device'. This removes any possible problems in the interpretation of 'turn'.

The Japanese translator uses 逆転時計 gyakuten-dokei, literally 'reverse clock/watch' -- a clock or watch that completely 'reverses' the direction of time. That is, it implies a clock or watch that goes backwards. A phonetic rendition is added above in furigana to show the original English name. Since the English is quite simple, most Japanese would have no trouble figuring out the meaning and how taimutānā relates to 逆転時計 gyakuten-dokei.

In Book 3, the Vietnamese translator uses the term cái Xoay Thời gian. Xoay means 'to turn on axis (rotate)' or 'change direction', which seems to be the desired meaning here.

In Book 5, where Harry suspects that the cabinet contains Time-Turners, the Vietnamese translator forgets her earlier translation and uses đồ điều khiển thời gian, or 'time control article', a device for controlling or handling time.

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