I am currently limited and slowed down in my progress learning Chinese, that some times I read a text from my textbook and cannot identify a character, because I don't know its pronunciation. I don't know its pronunciation and thus can't look it up. Now there are several ways to bypass that circumstance, however there is yet no neat or fast way to get to its pinyin and translation.

Ideally there were a tool as Google's translate for Android, that also simplified the identification process and made it exportable (as PDF).

Is there already a tool for that? Otherwise I would write a tool or later an application that translates any Chinese texts from images, documents etc. and automatically stores it as a PDF somewhere, either on a hard drive or uploads it to a cloud.

  • Can you confirm, are you wanting to convert Chinese text to pinyin? Your question isn't clear. You want a tool that translates an image of text into what? English, pinyin? Also, your aim is not clear, your problem of being slow to identify characters is solved by Google's Translate app, it provides a translation and pinyin in instant.
    – going
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 1:33
  • @xiaohouzi79, google's translate app creates no exportable text.
    – Imago
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 12:43

4 Answers 4


There are several ways to look up characters without knowing their pronunciation.

  • In printed dictionaries, you need to identify the character's radical (or at least one of the character's radical components), consult the dictionary's radical index (where characters with that radical will be ordered by number of strokes) and thus find the character's pronunciation. You can then look up the character in the normal way, i.e. by pinyin. (Some dictionaries also offer other ways to look up characters, but this example should be sufficient.)
  • Since this way of looking up characters is slow and frustrating (see e.g. Yes, it really can take a year to learn how to look up a Chinese character), there are digital alternatives:

I suggest using an third-party IME with on-screen touchpad or stroke input.

A good Chinese learner should choose a better IME instead of built-in IME on Windows/Mac.

There are many IMEs that could meet your demand, like Sogou IME, Baidu IME and more.

Here I am taking Sogou IME (搜狗输入法) as an example:

  • Right-click on floating indicator, choose 搜狗工具箱(O)to open Sogou IME Toolbox.
  • Click 手写输入to open on-screen handwriting touchpad, write the character that you don't understand, then there it is.
  • Default mode is 单字手写 (Single-Character Mode). Click 长句手写 to switch to Multiple-Character Mode.

手写输入 window

Or if you find this method too easy for you, you may try stroke mode:

  • type U to activate stroke mode, and use h, s, p, n, z in replace of five main stroke:「横(heng2)」,「竖(shu4)」,丿「撇(pie3)」,「捺(na4)」or「点(dian3)」,折(zhe2)

Notice: this method requires you to "write" the desired character in right order.

For example: if you want to know how 「汉」 pronounces, you should type: u then type ddhzn .

笔画输入 Mode

If you don't follow the order how a character should be written, you won't get the caracter you want.


Yeah, I agree with Strobbe 先生, a great app for that is HanpingPro Reader. Point your mobile at a line of text, the red line over the part you want, it focusses and click! You have the Chinese text with translation. Great when reading!

ce.linedict.com has a great 'draw the character' window, better than other sites I've tried. Next to the input box at the top is a kind of paintbrush symbol. Click it and the window appears. Draw!


1.use "www.baidu.com", just search one single character 2.download "有道翻译"(you dao fan yi)

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