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“I like you, do you like me?” my new friend texted me, at least that’s what I thought she wrote to me. At this point I was just beginning to learn Chinese characters. I had met her the earlier in the week at the grocery store and was deciphering her texts as they came to me with the aid of a dictionary. Judging by the characters, she might have been telling me she liked me. I had to get out my dictionary to be sure. I slowly decoded the message, she was referring to herself and myself in the same sentence. Things were looking good. Unfortunately her question was not as interesting as I had hoped. She had written 我喜欢吃火锅,你喜欢吃吗?(wǒ xǐ huān chī huǒ guō, nǐ xǐ huān chī ma?) I like eating hot pot, do you like it?

Oh well, I had a new friend and I was learning lots of Mandarin. After lots of research with my dictionary I wrote back to her: 我喜欢,下次我们一起吃火锅吗?(wǒ xǐ huān, xià cì wǒ mén yī qǐ chī huǒ guō ma?) I like it, are we going to get hot pot together next time?

Dating in China was one of the main things that helped me to improve my Mandarin and without it I can’t imagine what the path to learning Mandarin would like. I go more in-depth on this in my book, but for now read on for how dating in China can help you learn Mandarin.

Why Dating and Texting Are a Good Idea

One of the keys to learning anything is motivation. If one is not motivated to learn it will hard to learn. A great motivator is curiosity, and one thing most of us are curious about are our romantic interests. I think it’s fairly obvious that dating someone who speaks a different language is a good way to learn the other person’s language, but what you may not realize is that texting with the other person, as opposed to speaking, is a great way to learn Mandarin rapidly.

Why Texting Is Superior to Speaking When First Learning Mandarin

When first learning Mandarin you will probably be able to understand the basic things the other person is saying, but at a certain point it starts getting difficult. Maybe they have an accent or their pronunciation is incorrect, or your Mandarin is not to a level where you are able to understand more complex statements.

In these cases, texting can give you the edge you need to learn these more complex phrases. When speaking you won’t have much time to formulate new and unfamiliar sentences and you definitely won’t have time to understand what they are saying if you just don’t understand.

On the other hand, when you receive a text from someone, you will have plenty of time to get out your dictionary and decipher what they are saying. You will also have plenty of time to compose a response, maybe trying out some new words you have learned, or translating words from your native tongue into Mandarin using a dictionary and seeing how the other person responds.

For this reason texting is an excellent way to learn new phrases and vocabulary, and improving fluency. Next we need to see how to do this quickly.

Dating and Texting Apps

There are lots of dating apps and websites in China, but the 3 most valuable tools are Pleco dictionary, WeChat, and Tantan.

Pleco is a free electronic dictionary for smart phones and will allow you to decode what they other party is saying by looking up words to phrases as they are sent to you. There is a handwriting feature that costs $10 extra. This is very useful for looking up the characters that you may not yet know when you see them. When you want to look up how to translate a word into Mandarin this is also very valuable.

Tartan is one of the most popular dating apps in China. It is like Tinder. One is able to see photos of romantic interests in the surrounding area and swipe left or right indicating whether or not one likes that person. If two people like each other they may start texting with each other.

You may set up a time to meet via Tantan or you may also ask them for their WeChat. WeChat is like the Facebook of China, but it is based around messaging friends and is more like the app WhatsApp than Facebook. It is very popular in China and everyone you meet will have it. Not many people use traditional texting anymore and instead everyone uses WeChat. WeChat can be your go-to texting app. There is also a feature which allows users to scope out who is nearby and message them.

Now that you know why texting will help you and you have the tools to help you, let’s look at some sentences and vocabulary you can use in person or via text when dating.

Dating Words and Phrases

When chatting with the other person for the first time either in person or via text, look and listen for the following phrases. Feel free to try them out yourself and see how the other person responds.

你的微信号码是多少? (nǐ de wēi xìn hào mǎ shì duō shǎo?) – What’s your WeChat ID?
As I’ve mentioned already, almost everyone you meet in China will use WeChat. Use this phrase to ask for someone else’s.

妹妹 (mèi mèi) – Sister
This word appears frequently in conversations with women and it refers to a good friend of theirs that they consider close enough to be a sister. 我和我妹妹一起在逛街. (wǒ hé wǒ mèi mèi yī qǐ zài guàng jiē) – I’m out walking and shopping with my sister.

讨厌 (tǎo yàn) – Annoying
When a woman likes you, she might tell you that you are annoying. If things are going well, this might be her way of flirting with you. 你很讨厌!(nǐ hén tǎo yàn) – You’re so annoying!

想你 (xiǎng nǐ) – Miss you
When you like someone or they like you, you may tell them you miss them, as in 我想你 (wǒ xiǎng nǐ) – I miss you. This phrase can be heard early on in romantic relationships.

我们一起去吃饭,好吗?(wǒ mén yī qǐ qù chī fàn hǎo ma) – How about we get something to eat?
You can use this phrase to set up a date.

No matter whether you click with the other person or not, I guarantee you will learn a lot of Mandarin.

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