Just For Fun: Reading Harry Potter in French

So…I can feel a number of you already questioning my sanity.

Since like, April, I’ve been working on learning French.  While I do not claim to be great at it, I can read it better than I can speak it or hear it.  I’ve watched a few movies in French and I can more or less follow along with what’s happening 60-70% of the time.  Those seem like pretty good numbers.

It just so happened that my very lovely library system had Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, my favorite of the books, in French.  I’d been wanting to try my hand at reading a book in French for a while now, and there was no question it had to be a Harry Potter book.  It was a story I was familiar with enough to understand what was supposed to be happening and also popular enough that I stood a chance of having access to it without buying it.

It’s been slow progress.  I’ll start it and twenty minutes later have only read 4-6 pages.  But it’s a challenge that’s kind of fun.  (Not to mention the looks I get from coworkers when I tell them what I’m doing.  I swear, half the stuff I do like this is 50% my own satisfaction and 50% for their reactions.)

What’s kind of funny is how some of the words get changed across different languages.  Those of you who are bilingual already know this, but I’m new to this and it’s entertaining.

For example, Hogwarts is rechristened Poudlard.  That threw me for a loop when I first started.  And, while I’m not to Harry starting Hogwarts (excuse me, Poudlard) yet, I’m pretty sure Snape name has been changed to Rogue.  I’m not even making this up.  I thought it was a little heavy-handed, since Snape does actually go rogue on Voldemort, but then I learned that rogue in French translates to “arrogant” and I decided it was a lot heavy-handed.

But you want to know the best translation?  They don’t have a word for “wand” in French, so “wand” is known as baguette magique.  Every single time, I picture Harry brandishing a baguette when casting spells and it’s worth it.

Learning a new language is hard.  I’m terrible at conjugating verbs.  (That’s the entire reason I struggled with Spanish in school.)  But by listening to the language and reading it, I feel like I’ve been learning it a little faster than I would be if I were in a classroom setting.  I’m setting my pace, I’m doing what I’m interested in doing, and I’m developing a pretty good understanding of their grammar and syntax, not to mention the etymology of where a lot of our English words come from.

Anyway, I thought I’d bring a little levity to all of this.  We’re into our final days and it could get a little sappy as I look back on this past month.

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Weekly Obsessions #3

Welcome to another week of Things I Found Interesting!  This one’s probably going to take a little explaining because my quirks are becoming more evident…

French

Ok, so when I was in high school, I took Spanish because that was practical and I was more familiar with it than French.  (Also, our French teacher was terrible.  I had her for Econ and literally all we did the week before Christmas was write letters to Santa, watch It’s a Wonderful Life, and eat crepes.  It was a waste of time.)  But a few years ago when I started doing family research (genealogy), I discovered a huge chunk of my family was actually French.  I always liked the way French sounded, so I wanted to learn it.

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Well, when I started last year, it was miserable.  Every time I thought I was finally figuring it out, I’d start getting mixed up.  The grammar didn’t make sense.  I couldn’t figure out which words were feminine and which were masculine.  (If you’ve never studied foreign languages, most languages that I’ve seen have masculine/feminine designations for nouns.  English obviously doesn’t.)  So for a while, I kind of quit.

A few months back, I downloaded an app called Duolingo onto my phone and tried again.  Since I knew some of the basics (Bonsoir.  Comment ca va?  Etc.), it went a lot better.  My Duolingo streak is currently somewhere around 46 days.  On top of that, I checked out a book from the library about learning French, which is also helping.  (The Duolingo app, for all of its great qualities, tells you absolutely nothing about the grammar or why you sometimes need to have t in front of phrases like Óu est t-il?)

As a way to practice hearing French, I like to watch my favorite movies in French.  It helps because I generally know what the dialogue should be at certain points, so I can figure out what the words should mean.  (I read French better than I hear it, so subtitles are a must.)

Anyway, so Monday night, I watched the new Beauty and the Beast with Emma Watson in French (La Belle et La Bête).  Oh my God, that was great.  They changed some of the character’s names to be easier to pronounce in French.  Let me give you some examples.  Chip becomes Zip and Mrs. Potts becomes Madame Samovar (which is some kind of thing that assists in making/serving tea, but I think it’s Russian).  But by far, the best one was Cogsworth.  This dude becomes Big Ben.  I’m not making this up!  The first time I heard it, I wasn’t sure I’d heard it right.  But even during sentimental moments, Lumiere was still calling him Big Ben.  I kind of love it.

Genealogy

It’s kind of hard to explain what’s so fascinating about genealogy to me.  I mean, it’s history, which I love anyway.  I’m the person who would absolutely do someone else’s genealogy just because.  But it’s real.  Not that history isn’t real, but this feels more tangible in some way.

I had no idea where my family came from beyond some family members shrugging and going, “Well, our last name’s kind of German, so we’re probably that.  And maybe French.”  So about 3 years ago, I started doing my own research over summer break.

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Now I have extensive records with over 21,000 names.  My current project is turning that into something manageable for my family to digest, since they aren’t history people.  So I’ve been creating a book-type thing with only their direct ancestors, who they were, where they came from, when they came to America, etc.  I did this for one of my grandmothers and it was 70 pages long.  But to be fair, there are some good stories deep in that one.  Salem Witch Trials, wealthy land owners who owned basically half of the state of Maine, in-breeding (like…more than I want to admit to.  Apparently first cousins were all the rage in the early 1800s).

*Shakes it off* You never know what you’ll find, after all.  Anyway, on Monday I spent hours working on the book for my maternal grandfather, only to discover a new lead I’d never seen before.  Apparently one of his ancestors, who I had never been able to trace out of Delaware, was descended from people who came from Switzerland.  Since my grandfather’s side is heavily German, this was exciting because it was different.

Yes, I legitimately spend hours upon hours sitting in front of my computer compiling this information and something as small as discovering I’m part Swiss is incredibly exciting.  If only I could get my masters degree in my family’s history.  I’d have it three times over already, based on the hours I’ve worked on this.

Oh, and the other big research surprise I learned?  My paternal grandmother had a sister than none of us had ever heard of before.  She was listed in her father’s obituary and like, my grandma has never ever mentioned her.  I haven’t talked to my grandma yet to even know if she’s aware of this sister.  I would think she would have to be, right?

We’ll have to see what other surprises I find!