Fiction Nation: Lost (and Found!) In Translation

by Allana Luta

This month’s Fiction Nation is not exactly an “adaptation” but a translated version. I decided to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in *drum roll* Filipino! (It’s not strictly Tagalog because English words are sprinkled here and there.)

This edition was given to me a couple of Christmases ago and I only got around to reading it last month. I kept putting it off for a couple of reasons: 1) I don’t like re-reading the same book, even if it’s Harry Potter, because I get bored, and 2) it’s in Filipino.

Let me be frank: I don’t read books in Filipino. I wish I could say otherwise but the only Tagalog books I picked up were the ones required in high school. Heck, I even did everything I could to avoid classes in Filipino back in college!

It’s not that I hate our national language, it’s just that Tagalog has always been a weak spot for me, growing up in a Visayan household and studying in a school that put a premium on learning English over Filipino. Thus, it’s easier for me to digest words in English.

But last month being Buwan ng Wika and all, I decided to give this “tagalized” Harry Potter a go. And surprise, surprise! It’s… quite fun???

I thought the use of Taglish (Tagalog + English for our non-Filipino readers) would grate on my nerves. The first sentence reads:

Ipinagmamalaki nina Mr. at Mrs. Dursley ng number four, Prive Drive na normal sila…

…and I hesitated to continue. But thankfully the rest of the book wasn’t so bad.

I think Becky Bravo did a good job translating the book. She retained certain words in English and the tone was conversational and easy to understand, as if it were a friend of mine telling me a story about a magical boy. Though finding spells and magical terms amidst of Filipino words was funny at first, it eventually felt natural as I read along and I barely noticed it anymore in the latter chapters. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in Tagalog will forever be amusing, though.

I did wonder, however, if I would still find the story as engaging if I didn’t already know what was going to happen. If this edition was given to nine-year-old me, would I have appreciated the story as much? If we couldn’t understand English and only spoke Tagalog, would we be interested in translated versions or stick with our local novels? How do countries with little English-speaking skills deal with the knowledge that great books are out there but only in English? Oh my gosh, there must be thousands of amazing, life-changing books out there that aren’t in English or Filipino and we won’t ever get to read them WHY CAN’T WE SPEAK ALL THE LANGUAGES IN THE WORLD.

*ahem* Got a little bit excited back there. Anyway, have you read Western books that have been translated to Filipino? And what are some of your favorite translated novels, from whatever language to English or vice versa? (Looking at you, Haruki Murakami fans.) Share it with us in the comments below! ☁


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