Harry Potter in Chinese, Japanese & Vietnamese Translation

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Treatment of Puns and Word Play in Translating Harry Potter
(Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese)


The Mirror of Erised


Harry stumbles on the Mirror of Erised as he is escaping from the screaming book in the Library's Restricted Section on the night of Christmas Day. It is a magnificent, gold-framed mirror with a mysterious inscription carved around the top: Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi. It's only on his third visit that Harry learns from Dumbledore the mirror's name, the Mirror of Erised, and what it actually shows. As befits a mirror, the words around the frame must be read backwards to understand their meaning: I show not your face but your heart's desire.

The translators face two separate but interrelated problems with this name:

Chinese (Mainland version):

Problem (1): Transcribing the inscription

Problem (2): Naming the mirror

Chinese (Taiwan version):

Problem (1)

Problem (2)

Japanese version:

Problem (1)

Problem (2)

Vietnamese version:

Problem (1)

Problem (2)


Chinese (Mainland) - the Daoist inscription and Magic Mirror name are nice touches.

Chinese (Taiwan) - the characters chosen for 'Erised' are a saving grace.

Japanese - perfect in just about every way.

Vietnamese - at least an attempt is made to explain the meaning. It's rather lame putting it in a footnote, though.

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