Bathrobe's Harry Potter in Chinese, Japanese & Vietnamese Translation
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Rendering of Direct Speech in the Japanese Translation of Harry Potter

 

How does Dumbledore speak in Japanese?

 

Dumbledore's speech in the Japanese translation is unique and instantly identifiable; it could not be confused with that of any other character. The Japanese translator has Dumbledore use a style that, for want of a better term, I will call 'venerable old codger' speech -- a stylised, artificial manner of speaking very common in manga, anime, and dubbed movies. It is generally associated with older men.

The tone is set in the very first chapter of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone when Dumbledore encounters Professor McGonagall sitting in Privet Drive in the form of a cat. Just to take a few utterances:

マクゴナガル先生、こんなところで奇遇じゃのう
Makugonagaru-sensei, konna tokoro de kigū ja nō.
'Fancy seeing you here, Professor McGonagall'
まあまあ、先生。あんなにコチコチな座り方をする猫なんていやしませんぞ。
Maa maa, sensei. Anna ni kochikochi na suwari-kata o suru neko nante i ya shimasen zo.
'My dear Professor, I've never seen a cat sit so stiffly'
この十一年間、お祝いごとなぞほとんどなかったのじゃから。
Kono jū-ichi-nen-kan, o-iwai-goto nazo hotondo nakatta no ja kara.
'We've had precious little to celebrate for eleven years'
確かにそうらしいのう。我々は大いに感謝しなければ。レモン・キャンディはいかがかな?
Tashika ni sō rashii nō. Wareware wa ōi ni kansha shinakereba. Remon kyandii wa ikaga ka na?
'It certainly seems so. We have much to be thankful for. Would you care for a sherbet lemon?'
レモン・キャンディじゃよ。マグルの食べる甘いものじゃが、わしゃ、これが好きでな。
Remon Kyandii ja yo. Maguru no taberu amai mono ja ga, washa, kore ga suki de na.
'A sherbet lemon. They're a kind of Muggle sweet I'm rather fond of'

A short inspection reveals some quite noticeable features.

Where standard Japanese requires da, Dumbledore uses じゃ ja.

As a sentence final particle, Dumbledore has a predilection for na and のう , rather than the modern neutral usage ne. This includes constructions like いかがかな ikaga ka na and 好きでな suki de na, which have a quaint feel to them.

As a first-person pronoun, Dumbledore uses わし washi 'I', a pronoun that has largely disappeared from modern Japanese and is identified with older men. It is used in speaking to people of the same age or younger than oneself. Modern men prefer boku, ore, or even watakushi.

In at least two places, the particle wa is run together with the preceding form to yield いやしません i ya shimasen and わしゃ washa, instead of いはしません i wa shimasen and わしは washi wa respectively.

Dumbledore uses the written form なぞ nazo rather than the ordinary form など nado.

There are no honorifics and, with the exception of いやしません i ya shimasen, the ます -masu form is barely used.

The use of じゃ ja and のう is particularly striking. じゃ ja is extremely provincial-sounding, のう is even more so. Together, じゃのう ja nō is a highly provincial or rustic collocation.

The translator continues to have Dumbledore use this style of speech in later books. Take these sentences from the section in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets where Harry and Ron have just arrived at Hogwarts in a flying car:

ミスター・ウィーズリー、今日というわけではない。しかし、君たちのやったことの重大さについては、はっきりと二人に言っておかねばのう。今晩二人のご家族に、わしから手紙を書こう。それに、二人には警告しておかねばならんが、今後またこのようなことがあれば、わしとしても、二人を退学せざるをえんのでな。
Misutaa Wiizurii, kyō to yū wake de wa nai. Shikashi, kimi-tachi no yatta koto no jūdai-sa ni tsuite wa, hakkiri to futari ni itte okaneba nō. Konban futari no go-kazoku ni, washi kara tegami o kakō. Sore ni, futari ni wa keikoku shite okaneba naran ga, kongo mata kono yō na koto ga areba, washi to shite mo, futari o taigaku sezaru o en no de na.
'Not today, Mr Weasley. But I must impress upon both of you the seriousness of what you have done. I will be writing to both your families tonight. I must also warn you that if you do anything like this again, I will have no choice but to expel you.'

This is Dumbledore at his most threatening, at least as far as his students are concerned. And although it is considerably more formal and elevated in tone, the quaint speechways still intrude: the use of わし washi and のう , as well as おかねばならん okaneba naran rather than おかなければならない okanakereba naranai and せざるをえん sezaru o en instead of せざるをえない sezaru o enai. These are based on the negative form -nu (or -n) rather than ない -nai and are semi-archaic, literary, or dialectal.

The following examples come from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, in which Dumbledore continues to use the same speech patterns.

これは、ハリー、トレローニー先生はもしかしたら、もしかしたのかも知れんのう。こんなことが起ころうとはのう。これでトレローニー先生のほんとうの予言は全部で二つになった。給料を上げてやるべきかの。
Kore wa, Harii, Torerōnii sensei wa moshika shitara, moshi kashita no ka mo shiren nō. Konna koto ga okorō to wa nō. Kore de Torerōnii sensei no hontō no yogen wa zenbu de futatsu ni natta. Kyūryō o agete yaru beki ka no.
'Do you know, Harry, I think she might have been. Who'd have thought it? That brings her total of real predictions up to two. I should offer her a pay rise...'
これはもっとも深遠で不可解な魔法じゃ。ハリー、わしを信じるがよい.....いつか必ず、ペティグリューの命を助けてほんとうによかったと思う日が来るじゃろう。
Kore wa mottomo shin'en de fukakai na mahō ja. Harii, washi o sinjiru ga yoi..... Itsu ka kanarazu, Petiguryū no inochi o tasukete hontō ni yokatta to omou hi ga kuru jarō.
'This is magic at its deepest, its most impenetrable, Harry. But trust me ... the time may come when you will be very glad you saved Pettigrew's life.'
ハリー、わしは君の父君をよう知っておる。ホグワーツ時代もそのあともな。
Harii, washi wa kimi no chichi-gimi o yō shitte oru. Hoguwātsu jidai mo sono ato mo na.
'I knew you father very well, both at Hogwarts and later, Harry.'

愛する人が死んだとき、その人は永久に我々のそばを離れると、そう思うかね?大変な状況にあるとき、いつにも増して鮮明に、その人たちのことを思い出しはせんかね?君の父君は、君の中に生きておられるのじゃ、ハリー。
Ai-suru hito ga shinda toki, sono hito wa eikyū ni wareware no soba o hanareru to, sō omou ka ne? Taihen na jōkyō ni aru toki, itsu ni mo mashite senmei ni, sono hito-tachi o omoi-dashi wa sen ka ne? Kimi no chichi-gimi wa, kimi no naka ni ikite orareru no ja, Harii.
'You think the dead we have loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don't recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble? Your father is alive in you, Harry.'

There are several additional features that are found in these utterances:

The archaic and dogmatic sounding 信じるがよい sinjiru ga yoi 'should believe', now mainly used in samurai dramas and, of course, anime, manga, and dubbed movies.

Dumbledore uses よう , West Japanese dialect for よく yoku, and the ておる -te oru verb form, also a Western dialect form equivalent to standard ている -te iru.

Dumbledore uses かね ka ne, indicating a question directed at Harry: 'Do you really think...?' This ne indicates a direct question, soliciting Harry's response. In this it differs slightly from na and のう , which can just as easily be used when speaking to oneself.

Finally, a couple of sentences from Dumbledore's speech to the school at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

セドリックはハッフルパフ寮の特性の多くを備えた、模範的な生徒じゃった。忠実なよき友であり、勤勉であり、フェアプレーを尊んだ。セドリックをよく知る者にも、そうでない者にも、セドリックの死は皆それぞれに影響を与えた。それ故、わしは、その死がどのようにしてもたらされたものかを、皆が正確に知る権利があると思う
Sedorikku wa Haffurupafu-ryō no tokusei no ōku o sonaeta, mohan-teki na seito jatta. Chūjitsu na yoki tomo de ari, kinben de ari, fea-puree o tattonda. Sedorikku o yoku shiru mono ni mo, sō de nai mono ni mo, Sedorikku no shi wa mina sorezore ni eikyō o ataeta. Sore yue, washi wa, sono shi ga dono yō ni shite motarasareta mono ka o, mina ga seikaku ni shiru kenri ga aru to omou.
'Cedric was a person who exemplified many of the qualities which distinguish Hufflepuff house. He was a good and loyal friend, a hard worker, he valued fair play. His death has affected you all, whether you knew him well or not. I think that you have the right, therefore, to know exactly how it came about.'
セドリック・ディゴリーはヴォレでモート卿に殺された。
Sedorikku Digorii wa Vorudemōto-kyō ni korosareta.
'Cedric Diggory was murdered by Lord Voldemort.'

魔法省はわしがこのことを皆に話すことを望んでおらぬ。皆のご両親の中には、わしが話したということで驚愕なさる方もおられるじゃろうーーその理由は、ヴォルデモート卿の復活を信じられぬから、または、皆のようにまだ年端もゆかぬものに話すべきではないと考えるからじゃ。しかし、わしは、たいていの場合、真実は嘘に勝ると信じておる。さらに、セドリックが事故や、自らの失敗で死んだと取り繕うことは、セドリックの名誉をけがすものだと信ずる。
Mahō-shō wa washi ga kono koto o mina ni hanasu koto o nozonde oranu. Mina no go-ryōshin no naka ni wa, washi ga hanashitai to yū koto de kyōgaku nasaru kata mo orareru jarō -- sono riyū wa, Vorudemōto-kyō no fukkatsu o shinjirarenu kara, mata wa, mina no yō ni mada toshiha mo yukanu mono ni hanasu beki de wa nai to kangaeru kara ja. Shikashi, washi wa, taitei no baai, shinjitsu wa uso ni masaru to shinjite oru. Sara ni, Sedorikku ga jiko ya, mizukara no shippai de shinda to tori-tsukurou koto wa, Sedorikku no meiyo o kegasu mono da to shinjuru.
'The Ministry of Magic does not wish me to tell you this. It is possible that some of your parents will be horrified that I have done so -- either because they will not believe that Lord Voldemort has returned, or because they think I should not tell you so, young as you are. It is my belief, however, that the truth is generally preferable to lies, and that any attempt to pretend that Cedric died as the result of an accident, or some sort of blunder of his own, is an insult to his memory.'

This solemn language comes much closer to standard Japanese. Nevertheless, the use of じゃ ja and わし washi continues, おる oru still appears, and the negative ending -nu and certain rather formal expressions like 信ずる shinzuru (instead of 信じる) can still be seen. What is missing are sentence-final particles like na and のう , but this due to the style of discourse -- Dumbledore is delivering a speech, not holding a conversation. There are a couple of honorifics when Dumbledore says ご両親の中には ... 驚愕なさる方もおられるじゃろう go-ryōshin no naka ni wa ... kyōgaku nasaru kata mo orareru jarō 'It is possible that some of your parents will be horrified'. This is a very low level of honorifics compared with what is normal in Japanese speeches.

 

'Venerable old codger speech' as used by Dumbledore is typical of older men in anime, manga, and dubbed movies. It sounds rustic, old-fashioned, and comical but also has a very likable, familiar and folksy feel. It is a plain-speaking style not obsessed with the rigid, structured politeness of everyday life in modern cities. The suggestion is not a lack of education, but a background, or an era, where standardised ways of speaking are irrelevant. Speakers represent what is venerable and old, a kinder and more innocent society, away from the prosaic and everyday world of modern Japan.

Where does this colourful 'venerable old codger' speech come from? In fact, it has has many features typical of Hiroshima dialect -- among them the use of じゃ ja, のう , わし washi, ておる -te oru, and negative -n. (For information on Hiroshima dialect, see Hiroshima Dialect, 広島弁口座, or 広島弁を使ってみよう). Of course, Dumbledore's speech is not actually Hiroshima dialect per se; like many speech styles in manga and anime, it draws on features of existing dialects to synthesise a particular style of speaking. As fans are aware, much of the language in manga and anime is purely playful and doesn't hesitate to mix dialects.

Having Dumbledore speak in this 'venerable old codger' manner is quite fitting. This ancient, unselfconscious, non-standard style of speech sets Dumbledore apart from the standard Japanese of most of the characters, including both the students of the school and the younger generation of teachers. It is a style that exudes benevolence and is completely lacking in guile. It gives him dignity, wisdom, and the patina of age. At the same time, Dumbledore also sounds somewhat comic. This is quite acceptable in the world of manga and anime, where playfulness and creativity in speech styles are perceived as adding to, not detracting from the overall effect. Indeed, the high-spirited use of language is one of the most attractive features of the genre.

The Dumbledore that Rowling paints shares some of the playfulness so beloved of manga and anime. Dumbledore starts out in Harry Potter and Philosopher's Stone in a comical vein with his liking for sherbet lemon and his speech to the students of Hogwarts in Harry's first year: 'I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! Thank you!' In the Japanese translation, this becomes:

歓迎会を始める前に、二言、三言、言わせていただきたい。では、行きますぞ。そーれ!わっしょい!こらしょい!どっこらしょい!以上!
Kangei-kai o hajimeru mae ni, futa-koto, mi-koto, iwasete itadakitai. De wa, ikimasu zo. Sōre! Wasshoi! Korashoi! Dokkorashoi! Ijō!

(Sōre! Wasshoi! Korashoi! Dokkorashoi! are something similar to 'Hey! Heave-ho!' in English.)

In the light of this, the translator's choice of old codger speech must be seen as highly fitting for the character for Dumbledore.

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