Harry Potter: Filipino Edition – The Reaction

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I admit, I’m one of those who cringe at the thought of reading Harry Potter in Tagalog. It’s just a bit unfortunate; I forgot to ask the publisher during the Lampara writing workshop the reason why they had to translate the book. But I guess one of the reasons is to get children or Pinoys to read publications, especially fictions in their own language.

Seeing HP translated in Tagalog is no different from seeing foreign films dubbed in Tagalog, especially the English ones where there is no need for subtitles. One comment said from a news article about the Filipino version, “The thought of it in a language that isn’t English will make you cringe.” Sa tingin ko ito yung gist ng pagkaayaw  dun sa translation. Naging bakya. Tipikal na mentalidad ng mga “cultured,” said the publishing house’ president. [ I think, this is the gist of dislike on the translation. It became cheap. Typical mentaliity of the cultured. ]

As for me, cringing at the thought of HP in Tagalog is not based alone on the typical mentality of the “cultured.” It’s about suitability, tone and composition. Since HP is heavy on British sensibilities as the article said, you really can’t find the right words to maintain the tone and composition, it will inevitably change no matter what you do.  They did retain some words such as wizard, expressions like “blimey,” the names of creatures and spells but still one changed word in it affects everything.

Just like “You Know Who” translated into “Alam Mo Na Kung Sino Yun,” it feels so much different. And so is with lightning shaped scar into “pilat na korteng kidlat.” That scar is one of Harry’s most distinguished features so seeing it being referred to pilat na korteng kidlat feels like losing the meaning.

Let’s face it, people here are not used to reading pieces of literature in our own language. Even some local authors use English in their works. It’s because the first time one enters schooling, he’s already using English and for some, even at home before even getting into the schooling phase.

One comment said, “Hindi totoong hindi nagbabasa ang mga Pilipino. May malaking yearning para magbasa, kaso ang mga binebenta at pina-publish tina-target palagi ay middle class.” [ It’s not true that Filipinos do not read. There is a big yearning to read, but the books being published and sold are always targetting the middle class.] Of course, Pinoys read a lot I think. However, with books and publishers targetting middle class, this is common business mindset. It is common sense that they target the middle class because these people buy books, after all this is still a business.

As for another comment on the article about English books translated in French, Spanish, Japanese and others; we really can’t speak for that. We don’t know the structure of their language when it comes to translating English books. So you really can’t compare that to translating English books intp Tagalog unless you really know that language.

I read Haruki Murakami books and they’re originally Japanese. The one I’m about to finish is a Korean book by Shin Kyung-sook and also Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ books. These and all others are translated into English from their original languages, so that it can be read worldwide. Translating foreign-language books into English and translating HP into Tagalog differ in terms of purpose. I can say that translating foreign books is really important, because getting to read books from other countries is like a free culture trip or an international exposure.

Philippine literature can probably be enriched through our very own publications using our language, and not through translating English books into Tagalog. And like Murakami and Marquez’ books having worldwide following by being translated to other languages, we can do the same for our local publications for them to have worldwide exposure. But of course, this is easier said than done since as we all know, the government doesn’t really have some kind of support for literature. Local authors will need to find a foreign publication themselves such as Samantha Sotto’s “Before Ever After,” published by Random House. You need to have funds to do so and connections, lots of it.

On another note, this could still be useful if they use it for communities especially those with limited access to books and education.

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5 thoughts on “Harry Potter: Filipino Edition – The Reaction

  1. I agree, sometimes the words dont make sense after translating, but its still important to have good books translated. That way more people can enjoy it.

  2. Hi! Thanks for the comment. 🙂 This could be useful though if they use it for communities far from the city,those with limited access to books and ethnic groups I guess since some ethnic groups don’t use Tagalog but their dialect instead.

  3. I really like that the HP books were translated to Filipino. It sort of democratizes reading, not only to those who have difficulty with English language, but also with those who cannot afford the Scholastic edition of the book.

    “I admit, I’m one of those who cringe at the thought of reading Harry Potter in Tagalog. ”

    The reason this happens is because we do not use our own language the way other nationalities do. I wish you would read the answer by Josh Lim, a Wikipedia Editor, in a question if the Philippines has to do away with Tagalog. He clearly explained the reason why we “cringe” in using Tagalog in education – and to extend (I guess), in translations of books .

    http://www.quora.com/Should-the-Philippines-use-English-as-its-official-language-and-just-do-away-with-Filipino

    • Yes, I agree with you although we use Filipino in casual and informal conversations. We’re not like the Japanese or Koreans who use their language in everything. It also has something to do with the education practice. The very first time we enter schooling educators are already using English as a medium of instruction, so it’s what we have grown up with.

      Thanks for the tip about the article. And thank you for the comment.

  4. I think that’s a huge problem, that’s why many students have difficulty learning. We are using English as the medium of instruction for math and science. For instance, in grade school, I have always found math to be very difficult and I generally didn’t do well at it. But there are instances when I sort of excel in math and even do better than some of my classmates who were usually really good in the subject. That happens when the problem solving activity is written in narrative question. Because I was better than they were in English, I was always ahead of them when the mathematical question is in paragraph form. I thought, if the language used in Math is Tagalog, then kids who were really good in the subject will even get better.

    This is exactly the point of the link I posted in my previous comment. We didn’t cultivate Filipino as a language of business and education, hence, we find it very difficult and awkward to use it in official and scientific transaction, to point, to use your term, we “cringe” when we hear it used. Now, if only we start now to transform the Filipino language as language for academic and business pursuit…

    This is why I am personally glad that HP books were translated to Filipino. It is a step towards more appreciation of Filipino as a medium in, at least now, literature and entertainment.

    I cannot agree with your argument that the “Philippine literature can probably be enriched through our very own publications using our language, and not through translating English books into Tagalog.” Translation to Filipino of foreign books can spark interest to sectors of our society that are otherwise unreachable by English publication to discover literature and even write their own novels. especially that the translated books are cheaper than those written in their original language.

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