I wanted to say, I've been learning (Chinese) from my girlfriend.

I thought it would be something like: 我在学习从我的奴朋友 (Pinyin: Wǒ zài xuéxí cóng wǒ de nú péngyǒu)

Which Google Translate funnily translates as: I'm learning from my slave girlfriend. Probably because of tone-confusion on nú.

But Google translated it as: 我向我的女朋友学习。 (Pinyin: Wǒ xiàng wǒ de nǚ péngyǒu xuéxí.)

Obviously is different usage from , but from the Zhongwen browser app I don't see any definition that relates to learning or anything. And I thought I would need to add to represent learning in the present tense, as it is in my intended sentence.

4 Answers 4


For some reason, 从[person] is considered a grammar error in Chinese (this grammar point often arises as an exam question). My understanding is that after 从 we should add a place, not a person (despite being able to say e.g. "learned that from you" in English). So afterwards we add a 那儿 or 那里 or something similar:

I heard from a friend you passed the test.

I learned that word from my girlfriend.

(And 奴 [part of 奴隶 = "slave"] is a typo for 女.)

For the desired expression ("I've been learning (Chinese) from my Girlfriend"), I'd suggest something like:

Recently, my girlfriend has been helping me learn Chinese.

In regards to using 向……学习, the Chinese Grammar Wiki writes about this:

Whereas in English we would say "learn from someone," in Chinese this would be expressed as "learn toward someone," as in the following example (and famous propaganda slogan):

Learn from Comrade Lei Feng!

The relevant definition for 向 is "towards", and it's used as a preposition, but since we don't use "towards" like that in English grammar (although it's used literally, like in "Muslims pray towards the Kaaba"), it won't appear in English translations. Another example is:

I should apologize to you.

In this example, we couldn't use "towards" in English.

The Google Translate sentence


would probably be interpret as habitual, not just a once-off. You can likely infer from context that it's referring to the recent time period, and it's ongoing.

  • Note that collocations like 听从 do exist, but mean something very different to English to hear from / German hören von / Korean ~에게 들었다. In Chinese, it implies 听而服从; e.g. from Xunzi (荀子): 事圣君者,有听从无谏争; also found in more modern Mandarin: 听从耶稣的教导.
    – Michaelyus
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 17:04
  • just wanted to add a comment that a good english equivalent structure to the 从point would be something like "the place I learned that word from is my girlfriend" etc.
    – zagrycha
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 8:31

奴 means slave. If you want to type 女, you should type 'nv' in Chinese input method program.

In my opinion, 'I've been learning (Chinese) from my Girlfriend' should be translated as '我已经在向我的女朋友学(中文)了'.

'向' means 'from', '已经在' means 'have been doing', '学(中文)' means 'learn (Chinese)'.

  • Why can't we use 从 instead of 向 in this case? Are they interchangeable?
    – Adrift
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 16:23
  • I think '向...学习' is a fixed collocation, especially ’向某人学习‘ means ’learn from somebody‘, we usually use ’向‘.
    – 宋亚磊
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 16:27
  • 1
    But if I want to say 'I have learnt some method from this book', I will say '我从这本书里学到了某种方法'. '向某人学习' usually means 'will learn something from somebody', for 'from something', or 'already learnt', I think '从' is better.
    – 宋亚磊
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 16:31
  • Thank you! That helps a lot.
    – Adrift
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 16:51

I've been learning (Chinese) from my Girlfriend.

To reflect the "present perfect continuous tense", I propose the following sentences:

    1. 一直從我女朋友那裡學英文. [一直 - all along; all the way; continuously. 從..那裡 - from (someone) there] -
    1. 一直(在)向/跟我的女朋友學英文. [here, (在)向 and (在)跟 both mean "from"]

In my opinion, 我向我的女朋友學習 would be considered that I have actively learned something from my girl-friend and maybe have a passion for it and have asked her lots of questions about it, which is more active than 我從我的女朋友學習 as I have learned something from her, maybe passively or occasionally learned. Meanwhile, 我從書本學習 would be more usual than 我向書本學習 for I cannot ask the book any question.

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