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Harry Potter: Most Surprising Changes In The French Translation

Harry Potter is the same magical story no matter what language you read, but there are some rather surprising changes in the French translation.

We can all agree that Harry Potter was a major hit series, yes? And with any hit series, that means people all over the world are wanting to get a chance to read it. That means that the series had to be translated into dozens of different languages.

But what sort of changes occur, during the translation process? As it turns out, there were several changes made to the Harry Potter series while it was translated into French. Some of these changes were logical, while others are surprising (yet amusing). And of course, one or two of these facts are so hilarious that they’ve already been widely shared and talked about. But since we’re still tickled by them, they made the list anyway.

Here are our ten favorite changes.

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10 Title Changes

Naturally, the first thing any translation is going to change is going to be the title. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone became Harry à l'école des sorciers. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets became Harry Potter et la Chambre des Secrets. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban became Harry Potter et le prisonnier d'Azkaban. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire became Harry Potter Et la Coupe de Feu. Harry Potter and the Order of Pheonix was translated into Harry Potter et le L'rdre du Phenix. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince became Harry Potter et le Prince de Sang-Mele. And finally, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was turned into Harry Potter et les Reliques de la Mort.

9 Muggle

Naturally, a lot of the magical terms that J.K. Rowling came up with had to be changed. But since there was no root word to go off of in some cases, the translator was forced to come up with his own variations of the words.

For example, the word muggle. That's a word that J.K. Rowling herself made up. And thus had no French equivalent. And thus muggles were named 'moldu' – a play off of mou de buble, which roughly translates to soft in the head. Harsh, we know.

8 Hogwarts

Hogwarts was another name that had to be personally changed by the translator. Sure, they could have kept it the same. But it would have lost that endearing quality of the name, since to the French it would have been gibberish.

And thus Hogwarts was dubbed Poudlard. Poudlard is a shortened version of pou-de-lard, which basically means bacon lice. Get it? Hog-warts. Bacon lice. They did what the could to keep the spirit of the name alive.

7 Hogwart’s Houses

Even the Hogwarts houses had to face a chance or two, in order to have any chance of making sense in French. The house of Gryffindor stayed relatively the same, turning into Gryffondor. But the other three houses faced a bit more of a change.

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Slytherin became Serpentard, while Hufflepuff was changed to Poufsouffle (which sounds so adorably like a Hufflepuff). And finally, Ravenclaw became Serdiagle. You can see the root names of the houses, even without knowing French.

6 Magical Terms

Lots of other magical terms and items required some careful thinking during the translation process. It was difficult to make sure that they made sense, while also maintaining the joke. In some cases, this was actually impossible (for example, the french translation of Knight Bus loses the joke – Le Magicobus).

Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans became Dragees surprises de Bertie Crochue. Which is a fairly close translation, all things considered.

5 Secondary Characters

Given all of the other changes that have occurred throughout the translation process, it probably won't shock you to hear that several of the secondary characters had to have their names altered in order to fit better in French.

Top on our list of amusing changes is Snape's name. He went from Severus Snape to Severus Rogue. Another noteworthy names include Mad-Eye Moody, who became Maugrey Fol Œil (which is a reference towards mumbling), Barty Crouch's name was changed to Croupton, and Umbridge to Ombrage.

Also, do recall how many French names J.K. Rowling used during her series. Though names probably sounded a lot different to a native French speaker.

4 Locations

Hogwarts wasn't the only location to get a name change. The Burrow, home of the Weasleys, also got a bit of a change. It went from The Burrow to Le Terrier. So instead of living in a home dug by rabbits, apparently the Weasley's live in a dog?

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Meanwhile, Hogsmead was changed to Pré-au-Lard, which more or less means close to Poulard (the French version of Hogwarts). That one is a pretty nice fit, actually.

3 Magic Wands

Harry Potter being chosen by his wand at Gringotts

The most comical change probably comes from the new term for wands. In the French translation, wands are referred to was une baguette magique. That does not roll off the tongue nearly as well.

And when you think about it, that means that the french translation is probably slightly longer. After all, wand is merely a four-letter word, whereas une baguette magique is twenty letters. And wand comes up a lot in the books.

2 Spell Phrasing

Even the way spells are phrased in the Harry Potter universe had to be slightly altered, in order to make sense. For example. In the English version, one would say the killing curse or a disarming spell.

But in French, the order is slightly different. It becomes the spell of [insert spell here]. It's not a major change, all things considered. But it does make for slightly longer phrases, on the whole. Such as: Le sortilège de Désarmement (disarming spell).

1 Lord Voldemort’s Name Change

And the top item on the many changes made for the French translation of Harry Potter: Lord Voldemort’s name. This one you might have heard since it tickled the funny bone of many a Harry Potter fan.

In order to keep the phrase, 'I am Lord Voldemort' in French, they had to do some finagling. First, let's discuss the phrase. That becomes 'Je suis Voldemort.' Not too bad, right? Well, in order to get the letters needed, they had to change his name. So instead of Tom Marvolo Riddle, he became: Tom Evils Jedusor. Yes! You read that right. Feel free to laugh about that one. You can bet we did.

All of the other terms for Voldemort (He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, You-Know-Who, The Dark Lord) were pretty faithful translations, so at least he got to keep some dignity in this process.

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