So, you guys might not hear from me for a couple of weeks, because:
I’M GOING TO PARIS!
I am so excited for this trip! I saved and planned and waited, and now finally, I will be fulfilling a lifelong dream.
But, this is a Literary Quicksand article, so obviously, I have to stop gushing about travel and write about books. Therefore, I’m taking this opportunity, amidst making last minute preparations and decisions on what to pack, to fawn over my much-loved collection of French books.
I study the French language for fun, and over the last year, I have collected a little library of books in French in order to practice my reading comprehension. I have Madame Bovary, my Holy Grail of books. The moment that I am able to read it from front to back in its original language with perfect comprehension will be a day of triumph. However, I am almost impossibly far from that, which is why my collection of French books is mostly children’s and YA novels. I’m not a huge YA reader, but these books are a lot more straightforward and easier to comprehend than a lot of adult literature. Easy comprehension is essential when I’m in the midst of a French reading session, my head is starting to hurt from thinking, and I’m struggling through new words and phrases.
However, French novels (especially YA novels) are hard to come by. I can’t just hop over to my local Minnesotan Barnes and Noble and pick up a novel in French. But, used bookstores sometimes have hidden gems. I found my French copy of Eragon at a small, unassuming used bookstore. And then there’s the power of the internet. That’s where my lovely French version of Twilight (in French, its title is Fascination) was ordered.
My aunt and my mother both gifted me the first three books of Harry Potter in French for my last birthday, and these have been my favorite additions to the collection. Not because it’s Harry Potter (which I love in its own right), but because the translator, Jean-François Ménard, changed many of the names within the book to appeal to a French-speaking audience, and that in itself is fascinating. Very British-sounding names are turned into very French-sounding names.
For example, there’s the iconic name of the wizarding school, Hogwarts. Ménard changes that to, “Poulard,” and it’s interesting how he gets to that conclusion. After some research, here’s my understanding of this choice:
Pou = “lice”
Lard = “bacon or hog”
Pou du Lard = Hog’s Lice
For a French audience it would imply the same associations as a hog with warts. In addition, Muggles are changed to “Moldus.” Snape has gone “Rogue”. And the four houses? They are:
Hufflepuff = Poufsouffle
Slytherin = Serpentard
Ravenclaw = Serdaigle
Gryffindor = Well, just one letter is changed…Gryffondor
I wish I could tell readers about Harry Potter in other languages, but alack, all I know about is English and French. But, I can’t think of a better way to practice French for a trip to Paris than by reading one of my favorite books. Whether you are interested in Spanish, Chinese, Russian, German…whatever language catches your fancy, reading is one of the best ways to learn!
I’d love to hear from other readers that have studied language through novels. Are there any interesting name changes like in the French edition of Harry Potter? Is there a kind of novel you tend to seek out when reading in second, third, or fourth language? I wanna know!