Big year for the Wizarding World

This has been a big year for Harry Potter. Not only did the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, become 20 years old, but it has now been translated into its 80th language.

The first book in the world-renowned series is being translated into Scots. Different to and more widely spoken than Scots Gaelic, Scots is a language with Germanic origin spoken in the southern and lowland parts of Scotland, as well as areas of Ulster. However, studies on current speakers of Scots are slightly contradictory. A 2010 government survey stated around 85% of Scottish adults could speak Scots, while the 2011 census revealed that around only around 30% of the population could speak or understand Scots. Scots was discouraged as a primary language after the union within England in 1707, and as schools and authorities gained prominence in society the Scots language was displaced further and labelled simply ‘slang’.

Translating into Scots

Regardless of the number of speakers, there is an obvious interest in the Scots language being kept alive among the younger Scottish generation. Publishers of the Scots Harry Potter, Itchy Coo, have made a name for themselves with Scots translations of many famous children’s authors. Their list includes A.A. Milne, Julia Donaldson, Roald Dahl, and David Walliams.

The translator is Matthew Fitt, co-founder of the publisher Itchy Coo and translator of many of their books. He told the BBC “I wanted tae dae this for a lang time but kent I wanted tae get it richt… I’m that honoured tae be the Scots translator o this warld-famous Harry Potter buik and chuffed tae ma bitts that Scots speakers, baith young and no sae young, can noo read the novel again, this time in oor gallus braw Mither Tongue.”

In addition, J.K. Rowling has strong connections with Scotland, having lived there for years and writing many of the Harry Potter books there. Indeed, the place that claims to be ‘The Birth Place of Harry Potter’ is The Elephant House Café in Edinburgh. Scots will now join the Welsh and Irish translations of the book to reflect the diverse range of languages spoken in the UK.

For those who want to know what the Scots translation might look like, J.K. Rowling posted the opening on her website.