I was attempting to translate "Why am I not a fish with legs?" into Japanese, and the Japanese speakers I asked said they couldn't find a way to get it to sound natural. (Of course, this question is very frivolous, so said speakers are close friends and not professional translators or the like.)

The informal version I was given is 「何で足がある魚じゃないの」, and the formal version 「どうして足がある魚じゃないんですか」, yet I was told that neither of these really sound natural.

Is it true that a thought like this is hard to express in Japanese? If so, why is that?

  • 2
    "Why am I not a fish with legs?" in what context? You know, Japanese cares very much about the topic, so you have to form different questions according to what you focus on: "I wish I were one" or "what tells humans from fish?" or "why I'm different from others?" and so on... Sep 30 '21 at 21:12

I personally don't think that's hard to express. While it may sound strange (Where can we find a fish with legs?), I think appropriate translation would be:

  • なぜ(なんで/どうして)私は足がある魚じゃないんですか?

Your translation is completely missing am I. That's the only error I could find of.

Maybe your friend's idea of "natural" and your idea of "natural" have a different meanings; In the sense of "this can only be a weird sentence no matter how I translate it,"(As I said above, there's no fish with legs in real life... or is there?) and in the sense of "this can't be sound natural no matter how I translate it."

  • Ah, ok. My first personal attempt was actually 「どうして私は足がある魚じゃないですか」 (without the ん) and somewhere along the way of asking my friends I lost the 私は. Thank you for the explanation!
    – Aly
    Sep 30 '21 at 20:58

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