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Spotlight on Language

Harry Potter has been translated into 88 different languages, which is incredible in and of itself. However, not all languages share the same status and freedoms, and not all translations were published for the same reasons. Interestingly, not all 7 books were published into all 86 Potter languages. Some languages, like Greenlandic, only have Philosopher's Stone translated, while Spanish has all 7 books plus the accompanying Beedle the Bard, and the Hogwarts School Books. 


Spotlight on Language will discuss the many diverse and wonderful languages into which the Potter books have been translated as well as possible reasons behind the translation itself. In some cases, the reasons are obvious (like German) and in others (like Latin) they are a little more obtuse. Importantly, every language discussed is rich and full of interesting history and adds its own unique sounds and flavor to the world.

Breton: Brythonic language (British Celtic Language)


Rating: Severely Endangered (UNESCO)


Speakers: approximately 200,000


Area: Brittany area of France

Breton: Brittany Region of France


Breton originally started out in Great Britain, but migrated over to what is now called the Brittany (Bretagne) region of France during the early Middle ages. The language grew and thrived in its own space and culture for a period of time until the region was fully brought into the French Nation during the 1789 French Revolution, and it was at this time that the region lost its independence and Breton speakers began really feeling the pressure to conform to the French language and culture. 


Today, Breton is the only Celtic language to be spoken in France and is also the only living Celtic language that is not recognized as an official or regional language. At one point Breton had the largest number of speakers of the Celtic languages, but because of the French government refusing to recognize this language, the number of speakers is sharply on the decline. Moreover, speaking Breton is not socially acceptable in mainstream French culture, making counting the number of speakers quit difficult; in fact Breton is often referred to as "pigs language" because it is considered so ugly sounding compared to the French. Because of the shame that surrounds this language, it is normally spoken at home and among other known speakers and not out openly. Additionally, researchers have had a difficult time finding speakers who admit to speaking Breton; however, researchers tend to think that there are approximately 200,000 speakers at this time with numbers steadily declining, meaning that less and less children are learning and using Breton. In order for any language to survive and thrive, children learning and actively using a language is key for many many reasons.


Since the Breton language is in decline, Breton literature is increasingly uncommon. In 1925 a literary review, Gwalarn, was founded, which focused on translating suitable reading material into Breton and as a result a number of classical pieces of English literature were translated into Breton as well as pieces which emphasized Celtic traditions and legends. The journal continued until 1944, after having published 165 issues. Since then, there have been other Breton literary movements working to keep the language alive and valid.


More than likely, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was translated into Breton in an attempt to give Breton readers of all ages popular reading material. The publisher of the Breton translation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is An Amzer, a small publisher in the Brittany region that focuses on Breton culture and works with Breton multilingual schools to keep Modern Breton alive. Thus far, only the first 2 books have been translated, which possibly could be due to limited resources and governmental support. However, I have heard that An Amzer does plan on publishing all 7 Potter books.


Should you have questions OR would like further information, don't hesitate to contact me :)

Low German: Northern Germany and further afield

Low German: Indo-European language family; stems from Old Saxon and Old Low German; closely related to English, Frisian, and Dutch


Rating: Vulnerable, meaning that the language could easily become endangered


Speakers: approximately 3-5 millions native speakers & 10 million claiming to understand and communicate in Low German


Area: Northern German, Southern Denmark, Eastern Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Australia, and North American Continent

Low German

Low[1] German refers to mostly mutually intelligible languages that stem from Old Low Frankish and Low Saxon rather than one standardized language. There are two main dialects of Low German, West Low German and East Low German, and each dialect consists of many variants. Currently, there are thought to be about 3-5 Million speakers who claim Low German as their native language and about 10 Million people who claim to understand Low German. These speakers are spread out over northern Germany, eastern Netherlands, southern Denmark, and parts of Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, Australia, and throughout the North American continent[2]. Despite the confusing nature of Low German, it is a recognized regional language of Germany and considered an official minority language in Mexico, Bolivia, and Paraguay.


Low German is an old language, with its history firmly rooted in Northern Europe. The earliest known form of Low German is Old Low German or Old Saxon and was spoken by the Saxon tribes a few centuries before and after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. However, as we know comparatively little about the speakers of Old Low German, we don’t know much about their language either. That said, we do know Old Low German evolved into Middle Low German and then into Modern Low German, with the number of speakers rising and declining as Low German fell into and out fashion.


Additionally, speakers of Low German cannot necessarily write in Low German as there’s no written standard of the language, leaving users of the written form to adopt either a German-based or Dutch-based spelling system. Despite the lack of a standard written system, the language has had a written presence in Germany since the 9th century when two poems (Heliand and Genesis) were penned. Shortly after this period, Low German was installed as the official language of written documents in Germany until the 17th century when High German[3] replaced it. By the 18th century, Low German had ceased being used in trade as well, causing the language to suffer a strong decline in spoken and written use, especially in the metropolitan areas. This decline continues today, but, because governments are recognizing Low German on some level, the decline is not as sharp as it once was.


Currently, Low German finds itself in a precarious situation in that there are arguments looking to use the Low German label to refer to only a set of dialects rather than a stand-alone language with many various dialects as well as other arguments wanting to characterize Low German as a dialect of German. The basis of these arguments is that Low German has no standard, unlike Standard German (the official language of Germany). However, these arguments are not linguistically centered and focus mainly on socio-cultural and political facets. Linguistically, Low German is not a close relative of German, leaving many to argue against classifying Low German as a dialect of German. Importantly, the languages from which Low German come are Old Saxon and Middle Low German, which are both considered independent languages, leaving a strong argument in support of Low German to continue to be considered its own language.


The publisher of the Low German Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is Verlag Michael Jung, a small publisher of Low German and German books. Only books 1 and 2 were published in Low German, leaving me thinking either a lack of interest[4] or funding if not both are the cause. Both Low German Potter books are out of print, making them increasingly hard to find.


[1] "Low" in "Low German" references the flat plains and "low" coastal areas in which the language thrived

[2] Mainly in the Dutch Mennonite communities

[3] Standard German is considered a High German language

[4] The lack of interest stemming from the inability of Low German speakers to read/write the language, meaning that Low German speakers may speak in Low German as their everyday language, but read/write in another language (i.e. German, Dutch, Danish or other).

Resources, “The Changing Fortunes of Low German: from dialect to literary

            language. What Next?”,

Hahn, Reinhard F., “Low German/Low Saxon (Plattdüütsch / Nedderdüütsch)”,


Kalaallisut: Greenland

Kalaallisut AKA Western Greenlandic[1]


Kalaallisut: Inuit language in the Eskimo-Aleut language family; Closely Related to Alaskan and Canadian Inuit languages (I.E. Inukitut)


Speakers: Approxiamtely 61,000 speakers throughout Greenland and Denmark (54,000 Greenland and 7,000 in Denmark)


Rating: Only Arctic language that is not endangered


Area: Greenland and Denmark Primarily


Kalaallisut is often used as an umbrella term for Greenlandic language, but actually it is actually the most prominent dialect of the Greenlandic language and was made the official language in 2009 by the Greenlandic government. The other two main Greenlandic dialects are East and South; however, Thule[2] (North) dialect is still spoken even if only marginally. These other dialects have much fewer speakers and are spoken in regions throughout Greenland, while Kalaallisut is taught in schools and is learned alongside Danish and English. Kalaallisut consists of four main sub-dialects, with the prominent Kalaallisut dialect being the one found around Nuuk.

Kalaallisut is the official language of Greenland and is taught in the schools and is used in commerce throughout the towns. Despite the comparatively low number of speakers[3], Kalaallisut is not considered to be endangered, and in fact, it is thriving, in literacy and in growth of native speakers. In fact, Kalaallisut is the only Arctic language that is not considered to be endangered.

Greenlandic is a polysynthetic language, meaning that words are formed with a root and one more affixes and a suffix. Because of how Greenlandic words are created, the words can be really long, and often, the meaning of just one word is the equivalent of a sentence in other languages[4].

The Greenlandic language arrived in Greenland around the 13th century by the Thule people, who are considered to be the ancestors of the modern Inuit people. We don’t know what languages were spoken by the earlier Greenlandic Saqqaq and Dorset cultures before the Thule arrived. The Greenlandic language was first described in the 1600s and by the 1700s, Danish missionaries compiled dictionaries and grammars of the language. In 1750, the first Greenlandic dictionary was published, which was closely followed by the first Greenlandic grammar; both were written by Paul Edege. In 1851, a Greenlandic orthography (writing system) was established, which enabled literacy, and as a result, Kalaalisut has high literacy rates since the 1850s.

The only Harry Potter book that was translated into Kalaallisut is the Philosopher’s Stone. This book was published by Atuakkiorfik Greenland Publishers and was translated by Stephen Hammeken. It is unknown how many Kalaallisut Philosopher’s Stone books were published, but this translation is among the rarest of the Potter translations, and to quote Peter Kenneth (@ThePotterCollector), it’s one of the Big Six hardest to find translations. Even in Greenland, this translation is considered rare.

To hear the 1st paragraph of Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone read in Greenlandic, Click HERE.


[1] Kalaallisut is also sometimes referred simply as Greenlandic since it the prevailing dialect

[2] Thule is supposed to have about 1,000 speakers

[3] Kalaallisut has approximately 54,000 speakers in Greenland and another 7,000 in Denmark

[4] An example of a Kalaallisut polysynthetic word is Qiteqatigerusuppingaa which means “Will you dance with me”.


Ager, S. (n.d.). Greenlandic (Kalaallisut). Retrieved July 27, 2016, from



Ager, S. (n.d.). Useful Greenlandic phrases. Retrieved July 27, 2016, from



Greenlandic language. (2016, June 09). Retrieved July 27, 2016, from



Grenoble, L. (n.d.). Kalaallisut, language of Greenland A lecture by Lenore Grenoble «


            Sorosoro. Retrieved July 27, 2016, from





Kalaallisut. (2015, July 13). Retrieved July 26, 2016, from



S. (2011). Kalaallisut, language of Greenland - A lecture by Lenore Grenoble.


            Retrieved July 27, 2016, from



The Greenlandic language – a highly descriptive tongue. (n.d.). Retrieved July 27,


            2016, from



Montenegrin: Montenegro

Language Family: Indo-European; closely related to Shtokavian

Official Language of Montenegro and is a recognized minority language in Serbia

As of 2011, there are approximately 232, 600 native speakers

Uses both Cyrillic and Latin writing systems and Yugoslav Braille


Montenegrin, a South Slavic language, is the standardized variety of the Serbo-Croation language. After the break up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Montenegrin came to be considered a separate language, and in 2007, became the the official language of Montenegro, which is a small sovereign state in Eastern Europe that borders the Adriatic Sea, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, and Albania; its capital is Podgorica.


Montenegrin is based on the most widespread dialect of Serbo-Croation, Shtokavian also known as Eastern-Herzegovinian.


The use of Montenegrin as the official language of Montenegro is relatively new. Up until Montenegro broke from Serbia in October 2007, the main language had been Serbian, but with the ratification of a new constitution, Montenegrin replaced Serbian as the official language.


            Since Montenegrin’s use as a standard and official language is still quite new linguistically speaking, the language is still evolving and emerging. The language’s orthography (basically how a language is written) was established in June 2009, which included the addition of two more letters to the alphabet. Interestingly, these two letters were contested for use in school curricula and official documents. In February 2017, the Assembly of Montenegro removed these two new letters from all types of government documentation. In 2010, the language’s first grammar was adopted by the Council for General Education.


            Importantly, Montenegrin is a language that is quite controversial, since it calls attention to the upheaval that led to the use of Montenegrin in the first place, making counting the number of actual speakers difficult. Also important to note is that Montenegro has many linguistic shifts, which have predominantly been dependent on the political trends. For example, in the 1991 census, 83% of Montenegrins declared they spoke the then official language: Serbo-Croation; however, in the 1909 census of the area, the majority claimed Serbian as their native language. Adding further difficulty is that Montenegrins may actually be calling the same language by many names, as noted by mainstream politicians and academicians, who claim that Montenegrin is just another name for Bosnian, Serbian, or Croatian and is not linguistically different from the three other languages. A poll of 1001 Montenegrins, conducted by the Matica Crnogorska in 2014, does show that a majority of those polled claimed Montenegrin as their native language, but whether or not those polled really speak Montenegrin is undetermined.

                        Poll Results:

41.1% Montenegrin, 39.1 Serbian, 3.9 Serbo-Croatian,

                        1.9% Bosnian

            Montenegrin proponents prefer using the Latin alphabet over the Cyrillic; however, both have been used to write the language and both alphabets changed in June 2009 with the adoption of two new letters.


            As mentioned earlier, Montenegrin is a controversial language, with some politicians and academicians claiming that Montenegrin is a political device and is not linguistically different from Bosnian, Serbian, or Croatian. Among Montengrin’s opponents are the Montenegrin Academy of Sciences and Arts and many of Eastern Europe’s mainstream politicians. However, the current Prime Minister of Montenegro supports the advent of Montenegrin as a language and has claimed to be a native speaker of Montenegrin.


Montenegrin Language

Azerbaijani: Azerbaijan and Surrounding Areas

Azerbaijani AKA Azerbaijani Turkish or Azeri Turkish


Language Family: Turkic (Orghuz)[1]


Closely Related to Turkish (Istanbul), Qashqai, Turkmen, and Crimean Tatar.

. It's easy.


Even though Turkish and Azerbaijani are classified as two distinct languages, there are a lot of similarities between the two as well as a degree of mutual intelligibility.


Azerbaijani is divided into North Azerbaijani (Official language of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Russia—Dagestan and based on the Shirvan Dialect) and South Azerbaijan (spoken in Iran and based on the Tabrizi Dialect).


There are approximately 32.2 million speakers of Azerbaijani (North and South)[2], which are mainly found in Azerbaijan, Iran, Georgia, Russia and Turkey, and also in Iraq, Syria and Turkmenistan. In the northwest of Iran (also found in parts of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Turkey), the version of Azerbaijani that’s spoken there is often referred to as Türki.


Azerbaijani serves as the official language of Azerbaijan, which is a country bordered by Caspian Sea, Russia, Georgia, Armenia, and Iran and is spoken as either a native or a secondary language by many in the surrounding countries.


Azerbaijani gradually evolved from the Orghuz branch of Turkic language. Because of the Medieval Turkic Migrations, the language spread along the Caucasus in Eastern Europe and Northern Iran. Azerbaijani became so popular in Northern Iran that by the beginning of the 16th century, it had become the dominant language of the region. The language also served as the lingua franca of the Transcaucasia, Dagestan, and the Eastern Anatolia regions from the 16th to early 20th century.


Over the years, Azerbaijani has used several different writing systems, beginning in the 7th century when Arabic script was introduced to the region and then was adopted for use in writing Azerbaijani. Over time, three different Arabic scripts would be used to write the language.[3]

As just mentioned above, the Azerbaijani language is divided into two main varieties: North and South Azerbaijani; it is the North Azerbaijani that is the official language of Azerbaijan and is closely related to the Turkish found in Istanbul. Beyond the division into North and South Azerbaijani, the language is divided into many different dialects, with North having around 21 and South around 11. Interestingly, these two are sometimes regarded as separate languages, however, there is quite a bit of mutual intelligibility between the two, making them more dialects of one main language rather than two separate languages.

Then in 1922, the Soviet authorities wanted to reduce the influence of Islam in the Soviet northern region and replaced the Arabic script with the Latin alphabet. Then in 1939, Stalin wanted to discourage communication between the Turkish Republic and Turkey and implanted the Cyrillic alphabet, and in 1958 a simplified Cyrillic alphabet was introduced. Finally, in 1991, Azerbaijan gained independence from the Soviet Union and adopted a modified version of the Latin alphabet, which is also very similar to the Latin alphabet used in writing the standard Turkish language. By 1992, the 1991 Latin writing system had been improved and was considered the standard for writing the language.


The Harry Potter books were translated into North Azerbaijani and were published by Qanun Publishers in the Azerbaijani city of Baku.

To hear the 1st paragraph of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone read in Azerbaijani, Click HERE



[1] Sub-Branch of Turkic language family; Orghuz Languages are spoken by approximately 150 million people from the Balkans to the Great Wall of China.

[2] North Azerbaijani speakers: 7.3 million native speakers, and another 8 million second language speakers; South Azerbaijani has about 16.9 million speakers mainly in the northwest of Iran,

[3] The 28-letter Arabic script, the 32-letter Perso-Arabic script and the 33-letter Turkic Arabic script were all used at different points for writing Azerbaijani. None of these was ideal for writing Azerbaijani and various reforms were proposed, particularly during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.



Ager, Simon. "Azerbaijani (آذربايجانجا ديلي / Азәрбајҹан дили / Azərbaycan Dili)." Azerbaijani Language, Alphabets and Pronunciation., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.


"Azerbaijani Language." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Mar. 2017. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.

Basque: Basque Country

Basque AKA Euska or Euskara

Language Family: None Known; Isolate

Western Europe's only Isolate language and one of the few in all of Europe

The language is classified as Vulnerable by UNESCO. There are approximately 751,500 native Basque speakers in 2016, up from 550,500 in 2012.


Basque is an ancient language that has unknown origins and it thought to pre-date the European Romance languages that surround it now. Basque has no known relationship to any living language and as such, is known as an isolate. There are several theories about the origin of the language, with some more unlikely than others; regardless though, we still don't know much about this language. That said, Basque is thought to be one of the few surviving pre-Indo-European languages in Europe and is the only one in Western Europe. The language is primarily found in Basque country, which straddles France and Spain. A possible form of proto-Basque was found in Latin inscriptions in Gallo Aquitania (27 BCE - 5th Century CE), illustrating the idea that the language has inhabited the area for quite some time.

Between 1874 - 1975, public use of Basque was heavily frowned upon by the government, who viewed using Basque as a form of separation from the government. Socially, Basque was viewed as a second-class language,or a language of commoners. However, beginning the 1960s, this negative attitude toward Basque and its speakers began to shift, allowing the language to flourish in the region once more. During this same time period, a standard form a Basque was developed (Euskara Batua), which is now the standard form used for print, mass media, and education. And importantly, an interest in preserving the Basque language and culture began to grow in the younger generations, encouraging more younger speakers to learn and use the language.

Alongside translating popular literature into Basque (like with Harry potter), Basque authors are producing literary pieces as well.

To hear the 1st paragraph of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone read in Basque, Click HERE


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