Harry Potter: In the Harry Potter books, the first approach (straightforward phonetic transliteration) is largely adopted.
In a few cases, names are translated semantically, such as Sirius Black, Moaning Myrtle, and the names of the four friends. In some exceptional cases, the Chinese translators come up with completely new names, such as the name for Peter Pettigrew (Mainland edition).
Since there is a lot of choice in transliterating names, it's not surprising that the Mainland and Taiwanese versions of Harry Potter often differ. However, the differences are less than might be expected -- it's fairly obvious that the Mainland translator of Book 1 referred extensively to the Taiwanese version. For instance, 'Harry' is called Ha1-li4. Since the standard Mainland Chinese transliteration of 'Harry' is Ha1-li3, the adoption of Ha1-li4 in the Mainland translations suggests that it has been borrowed from the earlier Taiwanese translation. The differences between the two are greater in Books 2 and 3 where the Taiwanese version appeared later than the Mainland edition.
Foreign names in Japanese are usually transliterated into katakana (syllabic phonetic script).
Transliteration into katakana is done according to unwritten but fairly clear rules. The main problem in representing foreign words is the fact that Japanese mostly consists of simple, open syllables. A short but phonetically complex foreign name may thus require a string of syllables in Japanese, e.g., 'McDonald' becomes Makudonarudo, 'Rumsfeld' becomes Ramuzuferudo, 'Scarlett O'Hara' becomes Sukaaretto Ohara.
For English it should be kept in mind that the transliteration is normally based on British English. The 'r' in 'part' ( paato) or at the end of 'potter' ( pottaa) disappears. The 'o' in 'pot' is rounded and short, shortness being indicated by a doubling of the consonant ( potto). An American might be tempted to render 'pot' as paato, reflecting American pronunciation, but this is not the usual practice in Japanese.
There are also many little conventions and customs in transliteration which have grown up over the years, a knowledge of which is needed to predict the correct Japanese form. For instance, 'Granger' is Gurenjaa rather than the expected Gureinjaa. In an attempt to recreate the short 'a' sound, 'Scabbers' is Skyabaazu rather than Sukabaazu. In other cases, the pronunciation follows the spelling of English rather than the pronunciation, e.g., the name 'Graham', traditionally rendered Gurahamu.
Aside from English, different conventions exist for different languages. There are special rules for French names based on French pronunciation, special rules for German names, etc.
Because of these rigid conventions, inspired or creative renditions of foreign names are few and far between. My favourite creative translation is from 'Lord of the Rings', where 'Gollum' is rendered Gokuri, the sound of gulping in Japanese. This was abandoned in the subtitles of the movie version in favour of boring old Goramu.
If you're interested in getting a Japanese name, there is a site that will give you one, but it's not recommended because the results are often incorrect -- their algorithm is way too simplistic.
Harry Potter: Not surprisingly, no creativity is to be found in the translation/transliteration of names in Harry Potter. Virtually all names conform to the standard rules of transliteration. However, there is some inconsistency in the rendering of names that look Latin, with a mixture of English-style readings and Latin-style readings even within the same name (see Remus Lupin, Cornelius Fudge).
In Vietnamese, which uses the Roman alphabet, there are two ways of representing foreign names:
1. 'Vietnamisation'. The traditional method, actually a rather special case of transliteration that involves the conversion of a name written in the Latin alphabet into Vietnamese spelling so as to show the pronunciation in Vietnamese terms. For example, 'Scarlett O'Hara' becomes in one Vietnamese version of 'Gone With The Wind', conforming to the Vietnamese rules of spelling and pronunciation. There is often some variability in the way names are rendered. 'Saddam Hussein' may be , , or , depending on the writer -- and the same writer may even be inconsistent in his/her usage.
This method of transliteration takes into account the fact that the Vietnamese phonetic system is quite different from those of European languages. Although Vietnamese syllables can end in consonants (unlike, for the most part, Japanese), the range of consonants that can end a syllable is limited. Vietnamese also has few consonant clusters. As a result, consonant clusters in foreign names must be either broken up or simplified by omitting some sounds.
This method thus has the advantage of indicating foreign names in terms that Vietnamese readers find easy to understand and pronounce.
2. The second method is to use the original spelling unchanged. This is becoming more and more common in the Vietnamese news media. Saddam Hussein, for instance, is most commonly known as in Vietnamese. This method is international in inspiration but does require at least a rudimentary knowledge of English and its pronunciation.
The choice of method depends on the writer, the publisher, the context, and tradition. In the field of book publishing, for instance, modern British and American authors are more likely to keep the English spelling; classic French and Russian authors, for whom there is already an established tradition of literary translation, are more likely to appear in Vietnamised spelling. See this page of examples, photographed in a Saigon bookshop.
Harry Potter: The Vietnamese translation of Harry Potter follows the modern method of using the original spelling. However, to help readers who are not up to reading English names, the translator gives the suggested Vietnamese pronunciation in footnotes -- constantly in the earlier books, sporadically by Book Four.
While this is undoubtedly a step towards the internationalisation of Vietnamese, the transliterations given in the footnotes leave something to be desired. For instance, the pronunciation of 'Filch' is given as and 'Marge' as . One can only be concerned about the future education of Vietnamese children learning their first words in English via Harry Potter!
Many European translators of Harry Potter feel free to creatively substitute more suitable or interesting names in their own languages, something which rarely occurs in the CJV translations. For instance, Neville Longbottom is translated as Marcel Lubbermans in Dutch, Neville Londubat in French, Neville Paciock in Italian, Nilus Langballe in Norwegian, and Neville Velerit in Slovenian. By contrast, the CJV translators all adhere closely to 'Neville Longbottom', transliterated phonetically. This means sticking exactly to the English form, including the order of names, i.e., given name first, family name last -- the opposite of the order in the CJV languages.
There are only a few exceptions to this generalisation, usually when the original English name has a specific meaning (like 'Nearly Headless Nick', 'Fluffy', 'Myrtle', or 'Sprout'). In such cases the Chinese and Vietnamese translators occasionally opt for a literal translation of the meaning.