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The Durmstrang Institute is the only one of the three wizarding schools appearing in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire which doesn't seem very unified language-wise. We know that English is the language of Hogwarts, the language in which all classes are taught there, and we can assume French is the language of Beauxbatons. But what about Durmstrang?

The school itself is located in northern Scandinavia (Norway or Sweden), but also accepts students such as the Bulgarian Viktor Krum (whose only known non-native language is English) and hypothetically the British Draco Malfoy. Is the language of the school

  1. Norwegian or Swedish?
  2. English?
  3. Something else?
  • 6
    Esperanto – Jason Baker Oct 1 '15 at 18:54
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    @JasonBaker Maybe there's a spell called Esperanto that allows wizards and witches to learn new languages? ;-) – Rand al'Thor Oct 1 '15 at 18:57
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    @JasonBaker charmita, charmita... – Mikasa Oct 1 '15 at 18:58
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    @CarlSixsmith Ey oop! – Rand al'Thor Oct 1 '15 at 19:09
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    Alternately, mock Swedish. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some fanfiction to write – Jason Baker Oct 1 '15 at 19:13
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While I love the idea of Durmstrang teaching in Latin, by Harry's era, Latin was a long-dead language. I think a Slavic language makes the most sense.

Durmstrang could well have been founded by German-speaking wizards about the same time Hogwarts was founded, but now, thanks to Muggle politics, be dominated to such an extent by Slavic-speakers that the language of instruction itself has changed. Hogwarts might have had similar problems far in the past, since it was apparently founded before 1066; when you've got students who speak Gaelic, Anglo-Saxon dialects, Norse and Norman French all in one school, you've got to pick out one language and stick with it, however, in those days, the default compromise would certainly have been Latin, as it was in monastic schools.

Languages at Durmstrang by Eric Oppen - The Harry Potter Lexicon - Essays

Durmstrang is located in Northern Europe. It has been suggested many times that Durmstrang is in Bulgaria, but Bulgaria is not considered to be northern Europe proper. I can't find any supporting links to this effect anyhow. If I come across a definitive answer, I'll edit it in.

  • I think your comment crossed my edits -- please see my revised answer (Because the Bulgaria as being in northern Europe piece didn't make sense to me either; it's impossible.). – Slytherincess Oct 1 '15 at 23:49
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    FYI, Pottermore states that Durmstrang was founded by a Bulgarian witch "shortly after the mysterious death of its founder, the great Bulgarian witch Nerida Vulchanova." – CandiedMango Oct 1 '15 at 23:49
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    Word of JKR: "Jo thinks that Durmstrang is in northern Scandinavia - the very north of Sweden or Norway." – Rand al'Thor Oct 1 '15 at 23:53
  • @CandiedMango -- The question is asking about what language is spoken at Durmstrang. It's compelling, to be sure, but I'm curious as to whether Durmstrang takes students from multiple countries and, if so, which language to they cater to? – Slytherincess Oct 1 '15 at 23:53
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    @Slytherincess It stands to reason that they must take students from multiple countries, JKR stated that there are 11 schools. We know of where 8 are situated, America, Brazil, UK, France, Northern Europe, Russia, Africa and Japan. That leaves 3 schools remaining to cater for the rest of the world, population wise think of China and India then you have Australia for remoteness the schools simply have to take on multiple countries. – CandiedMango Oct 1 '15 at 23:56
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Considering that Durmstrang serves as a school for so many different countries we can safely conclude that there will be a variety of different languages.

Beauxbatons Academy has a preponderance of French students, though Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Luxembourgians and Belgians also attend in large numbers (both Beauxbatons and Durmstrang have a larger studentship than Hogwarts).

Pottermore, Beauxbatons Academy of Magic

We know it serves many different countries as it is one of three schools in Europe. Hogwarts handles the UK, Beauxbatons Academy of Magic handles predominantly the French, but also accepts the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Luxombourgians and Belgians. If we presume that Durmstrang handles the rest (excluding Russian and possibly some of the Eastern European countries) then that means it can possibly be handling 15 different countries. Although it is possible some of these countries send students to the African school, but that's besides the point.

Students from the Russian Wizarding school, Koldovstoretz, play a version of Quidditch where they fly on entire, uprooted trees instead of broomsticks.

Of the Eleven wizarding schools in the world, the African school of Uagadou is the only one to select pupils by Dream Messenger, leaving a token in the child’s hand whilst they sleep.

http://houseofblackreviews.tumblr.com/post/103497157292/facts-from-the-2014-uk-editions-of-harry-potter

This is information that was published in the 2014 UK editions of Harry Potter

Let's say then we have a low estimate of 10 different languages coming into Durmstrang, now as we know wizards attend muggle school until the age of 10. Schools in Europe can start teaching English from an extremely young age, it's also possible that because of their situation the parents would teach their children English. It's possible that given their location they'd be more likely to learn a more popular language. I am sticking with English due to the evidence we have in the books of all / vast majority of visiting students speaking fluent English to the Hogwarts students.

We know this Tradition of the Tri-Wizard tournament has been going on for centuries enough for Hogwarts to have 63 wins and Beauxbatons to have 62 wins. Which means they have always had to communicate with each other leading me to believe English at least between these three historic schools has been a common language.

Beauxbatons has always enjoyed a cordial relationship with Hogwarts, though there has been a healthy rivalry in international competitions such as the Triwizard Tournament, in which Beauxbatons has sixty-two wins to Hogwarts' sixty-three.

Pottermore, Beauxbatons Academy of Magic

Speculation

Of course, it is unlikely that every student knows English upon arrival, perhaps they have a language year?

Perhaps they have translating magical quills, ROONIL WAZLIB.

Perhaps there is a spell similar to sonorus or even sonorus itself may translate the speech into whoever is hearing it. (This actually leads me onto a slightly less speculative tangent of thought) At the Quidditch World Cup attended by thousands of witches and wizards from all over the world, they would either need magical translation or an understanding of one common language. Of course it considering we see magical glasses which can rewind what you just saw it is not hard to make a jump to a magical hearing aid which translates languages.

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    Interesting! This answer taught me a lot of stuff that's not in the books - could you add some references? – Rand al'Thor Oct 1 '15 at 23:37
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I was considering four facts that may indicate the main language of teaching in Durmstang:

  1. location. Most probably indeed it is some north European country as was mentioned before (Sweden or Norway indeed) as we have cold weather, lakes and mountains. One would not think you speak a slavic language there.

  2. founder. As Pottermore states, the school was founded by a Bulgarian witch that gives us really strong connection to Bulgarians in general (we all know Krum is in there). But it is unlikely the location of the school is in Bulgaria famous for it's golden beaches and resorts.

  3. known students. We do not know many students to see the majority in terms of nationality. But among those we know are Victor Krum (Bulgarian), Igor Karkaroff (presumably Russian), Polyakoff (the one that asked for wine in Goblet of Fire, definitely a slavic name, presumably Russian as well), Grindelwald (German? Norwegian? Not a slavic name anyway). And we remember the Bulgarian founder as well. I do not think Rowling put so many slavic names in Durmstrang for no reason. Though I personally think that it may just go down to Karkaroff's vanity who picked mostly slavic students to participate in Triwizard Tournament being a Russian himself from all other nationalities in school.

  4. school name. Despite we know the founder was a Bulgarian, the name Durmstrang does not sound anything slavic. More like German, Dutch (your guess as good as mine)?

So what we have here? Definitely some mixture of cultures that we do not see in other European schools. Given how many slavic names we see from Durmstrang I would assume the main language in modern world would be russian in fact. But Pottermore said there was other Russian school called Koldovstoretz, and there is no way there would be two russian-speaking schools, is it? So is it Bulgarian then? That actually makes much sense.

Though nowdays Bulgarian is not wide spread in eastern Europe (as, say, Russian), historically it is basically the ancestor of all modern slavic languages. The creators of Cyrillic alphabet were originally Bulgarians themselves. So at the times Durmstrang was founded Bulgarian language was the Old Church Language for most of Eastern Europe and thus was wide spread indeed.

I did not think first that main teaching language would be English in modern Durmstrang, as we see that Krum is actually pretty bad at it. Though the fact that in Goblet of Fire we see Karkaroff always speak English to his students (unlike Madame Maxim who in private conversations switches to French immediately) makes English a probable one.

So I would say that originally Durmstrang was Bulgarian speaking school, though founded not in Bulgaria. But there is a possibility that at some point of history they switched to English as more unified and wide spread European language.

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In my opinion, similar to one of the other answers, it is highly likely that there are many different languages spoken at both Durmstrung and beaxbatons and so it would make sense that there is some sort of spell that makes you hear your first language. Assuming that there would be multiple international conferences at least due to health and safety since the wizarding world is rather dangerous, it would further make sense that there is some sort of spell since it's highly unlikely that multiple wizards would all be able to speak the same language.

  • 2
    This is largely conjecture - answers are supposed to have at least some support in canon. – Bellatrix Mar 24 '18 at 22:47

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