Poufsouffle and baguettes magiques: The magic of translating Harry Potter
  • Alysa Salzberg

Poufsouffle and baguettes magiques: The magic of translating Harry Potter

One of the many things the Harry Potter series is known for is its array of magical creatures, objects, and places. Author J.K. Rowling called upon imagination and wordplay to create terms that in many cases have become a part of our popular lingo.


Translating those words into other languages is especially challenging – but the results can be magical.


A recent article on Harry Potter fan site MuggleNet offers a fun exploration of the series’ French translation. Even if you don’t speak or read French, the piece gives some fascinating insights into how Harry Potter translators around the world have had to approach the books and their very special vocabulary.


Bringing these terms to life in different languages means using all sorts of tricks, while keeping in mind concepts like wordplay, sonority, and native language portmanteaux. One of the main characters in the French version of the Harry Potter series even needed a name change.


Read on to learn more about the challenges of translating the Harry Potter books – and some of the French version’s enchanting results.



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