Please note, I have mostly Mac products so this post is fairly Mac specific. I’m sure there are PC versions of the same thing but I didn’t look into them.
Last week I had Thumper listen to Harry Potter English audio version and she loved it. So for the next few days, I had a new obsession: adding zhuyin to Harry Potter Chinese edition. You can get online Traditional Chinese version of Harry Potter from Haodoo 好讀.
It’s not the official version published by Taiwanese publisher, Crown Books, because they thought the first few books were poorly translated. From my quick search, it looks like it’s from this website. They fixed up book 1 and changed all the names to traditional Chinese, but not the subsequent books. This means the subsequent book translations may not be too good. (It was bad enough that Haodoo 好讀. took down Book 5)
I’m not sure what they used as the “base” book, but from the little I’ve read of Book 1, it seems pretty good. I read the first few chapters to Thumper awhile back and I remember thinking, “Wow, there are words here I can’t even pronounce! We need a zhuyin edition!” But this online version seems pretty easy and Thumper is able to read the non-zhuyin version just fine, after not being able to read the paperback version earlier this year. I will have to wait till I get to Taiwan or back to US to compare it with my paperback copy to see the difference.
However, as the Great O says, it doesn’t hurt to continue having her reading in zhuyin so she learns the pronunciation of those characters that she doesn’t know, and practice her fluency. Thus, off I went obsessing over ebook formats.
On Haodoo 好讀‘s website, they publish books in various formats:
- pdb – Haodoo’s main format, based on Palm doc?
- prc, mobi – Mobi format, Kindle
- ePub – most common format, Adobe Digital Editions, iBooks, Nook
- azw3 – Amazon Kindle format, supersedes prc/mobi format
- PDF – iBooks, Kindle, ADE
Conversion between formats
To conver formats from one to another, you need to use Calibre. I played with it before but it had a high learning curve so I dropped it. This time around I only used a subset of the features, to basically convert from the pdb format of Haodoo to ePub and azw3, formats after adding zhuyin.
Readmoo is a traditional Chinese ebook site. They don’t have much selection. I haven’t tried it. But if there are books you like, you can use Calibre to convert these ePub formats to Kindle formats to read on Kindle.
More on various formats and readers
- iBook does not play nice with zhuyin embedded fonts. So don’t bother using this option.
- ePub formats are basically zip files. If you don’t want to use Calibre to see the contents, you can change the extension to .zip, unarchive it using Rar Extractor Free. You will be able to the book split into little xhtml files and view it on the browser.
How I added zhuyin
The addition of zhuyin is very simple if you don’t care about tones. Because there are some common characters that change tones depending on context, like 一，得，子. So this method is really only good for the child who has a very good oral command of the language and is using the zhuyin only to help them read very few characters. Otherwise they would be learning the wrong sounds.
I converted in 2 ways. Method #1 was:
- Download ePub version, unzip it.
- Locate all the .html files and copy and paste the contents to a MS Word doc.
- Change the font size to 22.
- Change the font to the free zhuyin fonts I’ve mentioned before.
- Painstakingly find and replace those common characters that have multiple tones. My list of characters to replace were: 子, 地, 不, 重, 為, 們, 一, 了, 更, 得.
- Give up after Chapter 5.
- Save as PDF.
- Plug my Kindle Paperwhite into computer. Drag file into its Documents folder.
The fonts were the right size for the Kindle Paperwhite. On other apps, it didn’t look as nice. But it worked for Fleur enough I think.
- Install Calibre. For some reason I installed Calibre in Chinese menu version so I’m guess-timating the equivalent menu commands here.
- Download pdb version.
- Open in Calibre, add and click on Convert book.
- Change the following settings:
- Change the font to the free zhuyin fonts I’ve mentioned before.
- Minimum line height is 150%
- Embed all fonts in the document
- Compress the fonts
- Use full expanded form for CSS (not sure if this is needed.
- Change output format to ePub or awz3
- Convert and save.
- Drag files onto Kindle Paperwhite.
- For Adobe Digital Edition, on my iPhone/iPad, I saved the files onto Google Drive and tried to open them. It’ll ask me what other app to use (Open onto?) and I just have to specify ADE twice, once before and once after Drive downloads the file.
Right now the functionality of converting to zhuyin is limited to how many free ebooks or ebooks in general are available online. But Haodoo 好讀 has a good selection of high level books from authors like 金庸 or 倪匡 or classics like 紅樓夢. If you’re reading these authors chances are you’re not going to need a lot of zhuyin. But it’s nice to have this option.
A week or more later…..
It took Thumper more than week to finish the book. By the end, she was obsessed with Harry (she wants to marry him!), and even woke up early one day to finish the book. I knew she was at the right age to read the book, because her fantasy world is at a level much more advanced than when she was younger.
The only thing stopping her was the length of the book and the tiny font. Converting the book to zhuyin and putting it on Kindle with big font made the difference. Now she doesn’t feel overwhelemed by the length of the book or lack of illustration.
I read an article recently arguing how kids shouldn’t start reading Harry Potter at a super young age because it’s not age appropriate, maturity level wise. Right now, I’m glad we had to wait, even though I was a bit impatient last year and thought she was ready at 8.
She tends to obsess over movies/books she loves, dissecting every little detail. Right now, she’s asking me questions like “Why does Voldemort say there is no such thing as evil (or 沒有壞這個東西), and we can have a philosophical discussion that we would otherwise not have if she were younger. As it is, I can see the concept of “there are lots of grays in life” is a difficult one for her to wrap her head around.
Because of that article, I’ve also told her that she can read up till about Book 3, and then she will need to wait till she’s a bit older. The books get darker and darker. When it was first published, children had to wait, and in a way, grew up with the release. With all the books available now, it’s tempting to read all 7 at once. But content-wise, it is more mature and I’m hoping she will enjoy it more when she gets older.
A friend saw us reading the Chinese Harry Potter and asked why we do that. In their bilingual household, they read books in the original language. I see the value of what she’s saying. The traditional Chinese books I grew up with, at this age, have a deeper language level than the translated or more child-friendly ones available now adays. If I’m providing Chinese reading not just for pleasure, but with the intent of using it to learn the language, then I would need to expose Thumper to more of these books.
On the other hand, I also see the value of having Thumper read these books in Chinese. So much of entertainment is in English, world-wide. A child living in Taiwan or China would be exposed to news and discussions of these entertainment in Chinese, She’s now able to discuss Harry Potter with me in Chinese, including strange magic related vocabulary I don’t even know myself. Otherwise, all these discussions would happen in English.
Even better is, Fleur’s daughter wanted to read Harry Potter as well, and now Thumper has a friend she can discuss Harry Potter with, in Chinese! That’s the hardest part about learning Chinese in the US, finding similar level friends to do classwork with!