Harry Potter and the Hawaiian translation

Harry Potter fans now have another way to enjoy the adventures of the famous boy wizard—in the Hawaiian language Hawaiʻi.

UH-Manoa faculty member Richard Keao NeSmith has released Harry Potter a Me Ka Pōhaku Akeakamai, an ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language) translation of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

NeSmith, who teaches Tahitian language courses, said it took about six weeks to translate the book. He finished the project on a train from Paris to Barcelona. “It really felt like I was in the story with Harry Potter at the end of the first book,” he said.

NeSmith’s interest in translating ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi is personal. For him, it’s an exercise that engages the integration, comparison and contrasting of cultures and languages. “As I translate, I often hear the voice of my grandmother, whom I lived with growing up and who taught me Hawaiian,” he said. “But I also hear the voices of other Hawaiian-speaking relatives and acquaintances; all of these voices help the way I translate.”

The Kauaʻi native’s work translating books into ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi dates back to when he worked in UH Hilo’s Hale Kuamoʻo, an office that produced books for Hawaiian immersion schools. “There were Hawaiian classics published in the 1800s about moments in the life of Kamehameha and other cultural heroes,” said NeSmith. “Ironically, some books were first printed in English, and I translated them into Hawaiian.”

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