A quote from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, chapter 16: The Goblet of Fire:

But this query was answered almost instantly; they were level with the Slytherin table now, and Karkaroff had just bustled up to his students.

“Back to the ship, then,” he was saying. “Viktor, how are you feeling? Did you eat enough? Should I send for some mulled wine from the kitchens?”

Harry saw Krum shake his head as he pulled his furs back on.

“Professor, I vood like some vine,” said one of the other Durmstrang boys hopefully.

“I wasn’t offering it to you, Poliakoff,” snapped Karkaroff, his warmly paternal air vanishing in an instant. “I notice you have dribbled food all down the front of your robes again, disgusting boy —

Harry can obviously understand them so they surely speak English. Poliakoff even has an accent.

But why do they? It makes little sense that they use English when talking to each other.

  • 2
    Because if they didn't, then Harry (and we) wouldn't be able to understand them.
    – KSmarts
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 20:32
  • 4
    Because he's not rude enough to speak Russian in front of guests.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 20:35
  • 5
    My guess would be manners. If they had spoken in their native language, it could be seen as being rude, or even hiding something. This is also common for many people as a sign of care and/respect. Ambassadors learn at least a little of another language to show friendship and respect.
    – phantom42
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 20:37
  • 1
    I actually assume that karkaroff is not a native Russian speaker, despite his name, he doesn't speak with an accent and was a death eater which was almost exclusively British in its original incarnation. he at least had been living and acting in britian during voldemorts first emergence, because he was caught, and tried by the ministry of magic, a British organization.
    – Himarm
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 20:47
  • Easy: They all have universal translators in their comm badges - err - wands, I mean. Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 11:21

1 Answer 1


Because it would be rude to speak other languages in front of their hosts

Dumbledore makes it clear in his speech that although they may speak different languages, the essence of the Tri-Wizard cup has always been interschool cooperation, not interschool rivalry. The aim is to create a good impression and sitting there gabbling along on in a foreign tongue is a very poor way to do that:

‘Every guest in this Hall,’ said Dumbledore, and his eyes lingered upon the Durmstrang students, ‘will be welcomed back here, at any time, should they wish to come. I say to you all, once again – in the light of Lord Voldemort’s return, we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.

‘Lord Voldemort’s gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust. Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.

Karkaroff has clearly spent a considerable time in England before becoming headmaster of Durmstrangs. He would be well aware that conversing in a foreign language in mixed company is a massive etiquette no-no

Because they may not all speak Russian

It's also mentioned in the text that Durmstrangs is an international school. Victor Krum is Bulgarian, Poliakoff is most like a Russian speaker (given his strong accent and stereotypically Russian surname) and Karkaroff/Karkoff/Kirchoff are primarily German or Prussian surnames. At one point, it's noted that Malfoy was considering transferring there and there's no indication whatsoever that he speaks other languages.

Under the circumstances, it's certainly possible that the only common tongue that Krum, Karkaroff and Poliakoff share is English.

  • 1
    madam maxime seemed to speak in french to her students, while i dont think we ever hear karkaroff ever speak in russian. And she was far more open to international relations them the Durmstrang crew, so its odd that his reasoning for using english is part of international cooperation.
    – Himarm
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 20:48
  • 5
    French people are notorious for their rudeness.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 20:54
  • 1
    ill agree with that, though id also says Russian were too >.< lol.
    – Himarm
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 20:55
  • @himarm - I'm fairly sure they're renowned for their bluntness (and drunkenness) rather than rudeness.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 20:58
  • 2
    I guess another point is that Karkaroff wanted to show off in front of students from Hogwarts and Beauxbatons that he had one of the greatest seekers in the world as a student. Speaking in another language won't get him that kind of attention.
    – rah4927
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 9:22

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