My friend observed that I like to study Mandarin. It's true, I have been studying for many years, but I'm not very good...

So I want to be modest and say something like this:

Always studying, never learning

In other words, I have been (and will always be) trying to learn Chinese/Mandarin, but I will never master it! It also describes the frustrating feeling of re-reading a sentence in a textbook many times, but not understanding!

Forever studying, never mastering

I'm trying to translate this English sentence into Mandarin. Can you grade my translations below? You see I'm also trying to use some "prosody"/成语 structure... maybe there is an existing 成语 to capture this idea?

Here are some of my attempts:

  • 一直学习 从不学到
  • 总是学习 从不学会
  • 一直学习 从不精通
  • 会习中文 不会掌握
  • 读中文 从不懂

Here is the research I did

4 Answers 4


How to translate "Always studying, never learning"

  • 學 = to learn/ to study

  • 识 = to understand/ to know

  • 学识 = learn to understand(v)/ knowledge(n)

Study but never learn = 学而不识 (study but not understand/ not gaining knowledge from your study)


有学无识 (have the studying but no understanding)

  • Thank you TangHo, since you taught me to use "而", and taught me how to use "识" to describe "gaining knowledge" (a word @r13 also used ), I gave you accepted answer. Commented May 4, 2023 at 4:01

学海无涯,唯勤是岸。(“Knowledge is infinite like a boundless ocean; only through diligence in studies can one make accomplishments”).

Xué Hǎi Wú Yá, Wéi Qín Shì Àn.


Its English version should be "Always study, never learned". (Study is the activity of learning knowledge. You can learn a technology or a skill, but never learned all knowledge.)

  • Thank you @PdotWang, you gave a real 成语 that describes my challenge! Also you gave a 4x4 structure example 学海无涯,唯勤是岸 Commented May 4, 2023 at 3:58

My two cents:

Always(总是/始终) studying(習), never(曾) learning(學) - 总是/始终"學而不识".

Forever(永远) studying(學習), never(从不) mastering(精通) - 永远學習从不精通 or 永远"學而不精/通".

  • Thank you @r13, I appreciate your answer because you really tried to capture my English word choices, "Always ... never ...", I think my phrase is an example of "antithesis"/ my "parallel" phrasing... but maybe I should ask English Stack Exchange if I successfully used "antithesis" / "parallelism" :) Commented May 4, 2023 at 4:05
  • 1
    My English wasn't good enough to make a comment on your response, but, I would say "Always....but (never)..." instead.
    – r13
    Commented May 4, 2023 at 11:02

If you prefer the 4 x 4 structure, how about,

长年苦读, 一知半解

  • Thank you @WayneCheah, I do prefer the 4x4 structure! (it seems like a common structure to make something more memorable/poetic, would you agree?) 长年苦读, 一知半解 Commented May 4, 2023 at 4:00
  • 1
    To make the 4x4 structure work "poetically", the last word of the two halves should have "opposing" tones, meaning if the last word of the 1st half is on the up-tone, the last word of the second half should be a down-tone, and vice versa. Hence, 长年苦读, 一知半解 would be "Cháng nián kǔ dú, Yī zhī bàn jiě". Now try testing it with your own attempts in the OP? Commented May 4, 2023 at 5:09

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