I am not sure why, but whenever I read something in Chinese...I don't know how to say this, it just doesn't click, Every word I read is instantly translated to English, If I try to force my self to not do so, I tend to get confused. I am not too sure if some one who faced a similar problem could tell me if I am maybe learning the wrong way.

How do I overcome my inability to think in Chinese?

  • I don’t see the need to close this, thinking in a foreign language is a fairly common hurdle for learners. And Chinese certainly has its own unique challanges. – user3306356 Sep 8 '18 at 6:15
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    I am not sure what is the question. Tell him he is learning the wrong way? How could anyone know? – Tang Ho Sep 8 '18 at 7:31
  • Just ask yourself what would be the fastest way at this point for you to learn, and then you would probably get an surefire answer. – dan Sep 8 '18 at 13:52
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    Just be patient, you will be there. I've been learning English for like 18 years. I only started to think in English around 5 years ago when I started to read large amount of papers in English for my master degree. Just keep reading! – Archeosudoerus Sep 10 '18 at 14:57

From repeating personal experience - you will stop translating when you get to post-intermediate stages in your learning and start using the language often, for communication or anything else. Learning languages is akin to acquiring new habits, not to researching a new science. Listen a lot, talk a lot, even read a lot, if you can.

This is purely a question of time and the amount of practice, nothing special about Chinese here. Perhaps the massive trouble with finding interesting reading materials at your level is the only difficulty of Chinese (because characters) and, say, Japanese as compared to alphabetical languages.

And by the way, the first sign of getting to actually know the language is having dreams in it, even short episodes.


Everyone learn differently, everyone progress in different speed. I would say this question will not has a definite answer.

In my opinion, it is not a bad thing that you automatically translate foreign language into your native language in your mind at the beginning of your study. Eventually, you will get familiar with that second language enough and able to think in that second language. It will take years and you need to listen, speak and write that second language day in and day out to get better.

I learned English by watching a lot of T.V, read news paper everyday and talk to a lot of people. Nowadays I often encounter some English words that I understand their meanings but can't translate it into Chinese. At this point, I think my English is quite o.k.

  • Same feelings here. – xbh Sep 8 '18 at 13:59

IMHO, reading the Chinese text out loud will "force" your English mind to "follow" the Chinese sounded mouth.

And eventually your English mind will have "Chinese characteristics"

Just go see how grade school Chinese classes are like.


In Chinese, character instead of word is more basic. In fact, if you grip a "feel" to every character, it's natural to understand how and why a word is formed so that you can think better in a "Chinese" way. You may try an interesting method to develop your feel to a character:) You can coin a word with two characters (after you have a basic idea of their meanings) and try to guess its meaning and then then look it up in an online dictionary to check whether it is valid and if it is, compare its true meaning with your guess... Chinese is actually a very free language~ Basically everyone can understand my self-made words.

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