In a world where there’s an app for everything…
…one brave piece of tech manages to be an app for everything.
微信 (wēi xìn), or “WeChat,” is a Chinese app that packs many features into the user experience, including messaging, social media, mobile payments and much more.
It first showed up in 2011, and by 2018 became one of the most-used apps in the world, with over a billion active users per month.
Many refer to WeChat as “an app for everything.”
WeChat isn’t just available in China, either. It’s a global app primarily used in China, but those in other countries can absolutely benefit from using it, especially when it comes to learning Mandarin.
But how exactly can the beginner, intermediate or advanced learner use WeChat to learn Chinese?
Since WeChat is such a multi-faceted app, there are actually many ways!
In this post, we’ll look at a few of the best.
Learn Chinese with WeChat: All About This Killer App
What Are Some Ways to Learn Chinese with WeChat?
- Meet Chinese-speaking friends and chat with them to increase fluency. WeChat is at its core a chatting platform. Using it for this exact purpose is a great way to connect with other Mandarin learners and native Chinese speakers to improve your fluency and build lasting friendships. You can see how valuable the chat function is in this video from Miracle Mandarin.
- Gain access to Chinese teachers, lessons and classes with the WeChat platform. In addition to being a chat platform, WeChat is also used by Mandarin teachers who you can easily connect with and take lessons from directly in the WeChat app.
- Follow accounts that provide lessons and cultural content to improve your Mandarin and increase your knowledge of Chinese culture. WeChat is more than just an app for communication with new people and tutors. Many accounts exist for the purpose of providing content to view. There are “channels” available that are made specifically for learning Chinese on your own, which include podcasts and videos.
Hold Up… How Do I Get Started with WeChat and How Do I Use It?
To begin, simply install the app. Sign up in the app with your phone number and create a WeChat password to log in quickly whenever you use the app.
Once that’s all set, you’ll be presented with four of WeChat’s features:
- The WeChat chatting function.
- Your contacts list.
- The “Discover” section.
- Your profile, which you can edit and customize.
The search function under the “Discover” section is where you’ll find most of the content we’ll be talking about in this article. To use WeChat for Mandarin learning, you’ll need to have a Chinese keyboard installed on your device.
However, you don’t need to use 汉字 (hàn zì — Chinese characters) exclusively to search around WeChat. 拼音 (pīn yīn) — Chinese Romanization and English can also be used.
Using FluentU is a great way to warm up your typing and listening skills before navigating WeChat. FluentU takes real-world videos—like movie trailers, music videos, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
Find a Chinese teacher.
The easiest way to find teachers on WeChat is to search for the following keywords:
- “Mandarin tutor”
- “Chinese tutor”
- “中文老师” (“Chinese teacher”)
- “中文导师” (“Chinese tutor”)
Sinolangue and italki are two accounts that are great for finding awesome Mandarin tutors and teachers. Be sure to thoroughly look through tags and official accounts to find the best tutors for you. Keep in mind that most tutors and teachers on WeChat will charge for their services.
Find helpful accounts with a focus on Chinese learning.
There are many accounts on WeChat that boast videos, graphics and other media for Chinese learning. To find WeChat accounts that have helpful tips and tricks for Mandarin learning, try searching for the following:
- “Learn Chinese”
- “Learn Mandarin”
- “学习中文” (“study Chinese”)
- “学中文” (“learn Chinese”)
Here’s a list of some great WeChat accounts with Chinese learning media that we already know of:
- eChineseLearning provides free Chinese proficiency assessments, Chinese language news and connections with tutors.
- yoli Mandarin connects Chinese and English tutors with students as a service, but also offers some language content and articles through WeChat.
- EasyMandarin has Chinese news, course and tutor connections, and HSK tips.
Meet new people.
You can find either individual people to chat with on WeChat or whole groups dedicated to language exchange.
WeChat has an interesting “shake” function. Simply shake your phone with the app open and you’ll automatically get connected with the closest WeChat user who has also recently shaken their phone. It’s like Chat Roulette for Chinese speakers, essentially. You can also utilize the “People Nearby” section and connect with anyone who may be nearby.
Many Chinese users boast a QR code on their social media profiles. Simply scan this QR code from within WeChat to add them as a friend and start chatting.
Otherwise, you can meet new people within WeChat via groups.
Here are some keywords and groups to search for and join:
- “Chinese study group”
- “Mandarin study group”
- TravelChina is a great group for non-Chinese travelers looking for language buddies while traveling abroad in a Mandarin-speaking country.
Another great way to learn Chinese through groups is to start your own group and post the QR code around Chinese language forums, such as the LearnChinese forum on Reddit.
Putting together a group on WeChat is very easy. To build your own Chinese language group, follow these instructions:
- Click “Chats” and then “+” to start a group.
- Select “Group Chat” and add at least two of your contacts to the group. You’ll need to have a couple of Mandarin learning or speaking friends to add in order to build the group.
- Name your group chat. It would be wise to include keywords that other learners can search for and select the size capacity of the group. Opt for notifications as well so you can keep track of new additions to the group and introduce yourself.
- Select “OK” and you’re all set!
As the administrator of the group, you can change the group’s name, post bulletins and delete or add new members as you wish.
There are tons of Mandarin native speakers looking for English-speaking pals to exchange languages. Likewise, WeChat is becoming more popular in Western countries.
Use the “voice message” function to practice your spoken Mandarin and listening skills.
The voice message function on WeChat is very handy. Once you have a friend on your contact list to communicate with, you can use the voice message function to practice your speaking and listening skills in Mandarin.
It’s easy as pie to set up:
- Go into the “Permissions” section of WeChat’s “App info” on your smartphone device.
- Allow for Microphone access, then return to the WeChat app.
- Find a contact you’d like to speak to, navigate to “Messages” and click the microphone icon in the corner.
- Select and hold down the “Hold to Talk” button and record your message. Then send away!
You can also use the voice chat function in a live setting for groups.
To do so, select your group and click “+.”
Click “Voice Call” and select which members of the group, if not all of them, you’d like to add to the voice chat. From there, your microphone is automatically activated and you can speak and listen to other users. You can also select the “Open Camera” button to do a video chat.
How awesome is WeChat for Mandarin learning?
We’re sure that after getting used to the app and doing some sleuthing, you’ll find the perfect WeChat resource to up your Mandarin game.
And One More Thing…
If you like learning Chinese with technology, then you’ll love FluentU.
FluentU lets you learn real Chinese from music videos, commercials, news and inspiring talks. It naturally eases you into learning Chinese language, and you’ll learn Chinese as it’s spoken in real life.
FluentU has a wide range of contemporary videos—like dramas, TV shows, commercials and music videos. In fact, below you’ll even see the song “Let It Go” from the hit movie “Frozen”:
FluentU brings these native Chinese videos within reach via interactive captions. You can tap on any word to instantly look it up. All words have carefully written definitions and examples that will help you understand how a word is used. Tap to add words you’d like to review to a vocab list.
From the description page, you can access interactive transcripts under the Dialogue tab, or review words and phrases under Vocab.
FluentU’s Quiz Mode turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part is that FluentU always keeps track of your vocabulary. It suggests content and examples based on the words you’re learning. You have a 100% personalized experience.
Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. They write about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Chinese with real-world videos.