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J.K. Rowling's 'Harry Potter' Translated To Scots, Marking 80th Language


Now, some big news for "Harry Potter" fans. The first book of the series, "Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone," has been translated into its 80th language, and it comes out today. What's that language? Well, see if you can guess.

MATTHEW FITT: (Reading) Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, o Nummer Fower Privet Loan, were prood tae say that they were gey normal. Thank ye very much.

SHAPIRO: That Scots, a language spoken by 1.5 million people in Scotland. It's been disappearing since English is the official language there.

FITT: When I was a young laddie, my main language was Scots, and I had very few resources, very few books written in my language.

SHAPIRO: That's translator Matthew Fitt. He spent the last 15 years translating young adult books into Scots to make sure young laddies and lassies can find books in the language today. He says, this one was special.

FITT: "Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone" - I suppose I should say "Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone" for an American audience - it was really just begging to be translated into Scots.

SHAPIRO: J.K. Rowling wrote the book in Edinburgh. The movie was partially filmed in the Scottish Highlands, and Hagrid, one of the main characters, even speaks a dialect of Scots.

SHAPIRO: While the Scots language is close to English, there are some notable differences, like the wizard Dumbledore.

FITT: Dumbiedykes.

SHAPIRO: Or the sport quidditch.

FITT: Bizzumbaw.

SHAPIRO: You Know Who.

FITT: Ye ken wha (ph).

SHAPIRO: The Sorting Hat.

FITT: Blithering bonnet.

SHAPIRO: Diagon Alley.

FITT: Squinty Gate (ph).

SHAPIRO: To get a sense of what this sounds like in context, we asked for a slightly longer taste. First, here's the English for comparison.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Reading) Kept what from me, said Harry eagerly. Stop. I forbid you, yelled Uncle Vernon in panic. Aunt Petunia gave a gasp of horror. Ah, go boil your heads, both of you, said Hagrid. Harry, you're a wizard.

SHAPIRO: And now here's Fitt reading the same thing in Scots.

FITT: (Reading in Scots).

SHAPIRO: For Fitt, this is more than just a children's book. It's a way of reclaiming an identity that he used to be persecuted for.

FITT: I was criticized, vilified, beaten for speaking Scots. I'm not ancient. I'm not that young, but I'm not ancient. And lots of people of my generation have a similar experience.

SHAPIRO: Fitt's in his late 40s. He wants to keep the language alive and spoken by younger generations.

FITT: "Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone" is just one more step on that journey, but I think a very big one because it's such a - it's such a classic, huge, global book.

SHAPIRO: And we should note, "Harry Potter" in Mongolian comes out in two days. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.