A critical review on “Digital affordances on WeChat: learning Chinese as a second language”

Aishowarza Manik


This present paper has reviewed the study conducted by Li Jin and revisited her significant findings on the educational affordances of using WeChat in Chinese learning. Jin’s study has a great potential in the field of second language acquisition with particular focus on mobile assisted language learning. The integration of technology for second language learning is nowadays considered as an emerging field, which has motivated her to adopt a qualitative approach to investigate the advantages of using WeChat in language learning. She collected all data from weekly survey, participatory observations and semi-structured interviews, and the data analysis was conducted by following the framework of grounded theory. Four educational affordances of using WeChat in Chinese learning have been emerged from the results. The present review critically focuses on Jin’s new ideas of technological integration and tries to evaluate its impact on Chinese as second language learning. 

Keywords: Chinese as second language, WeChat, Affordance, Mobile assisted language learning 


This article review presents a critical overview of Li Jin’s research entitled “Digital affordances on WeChat: learning Chinese as a second language”. Dr. Li Jin is an associate professor and Chinese studies program director in the Department of Modern Languages at DePaul University, Chicago. The article was published in the Computer Assisted Language Learning journal in 2017.  

At the beginning of the paper, the author draws attention to the prominent features of social media for language learning. This paper includes the use of social networking sites (henceforth, SNSs) in the second language (L2) context in order to improve the interconnections between learners and the social world. Integrating technology for pedagogical improvements widens the array of opportunities for learners to become active participants. Several studies (Blattner & Fiori, 2011; Reinhardt & Zander, 2011) have stressed that L2 learners’ linguistic and social competence can be improved by using social networking platforms. However, most of the research focuses on English language learners while using the English language dominated social networking application, such as Facebook (Jin, 2017). Unfortunately, researches on the learners of other languages and the use of SNSs for teaching L2 except English are very few in numbers (Diao, 2014; Wang & Vasquez, 2012). Studies suggest that 700 million of internet users in China are active users of Chinese social media and different SNSs become a part of daily life (China Internet Network Information Center, 2016, cited in Jin, 2017). However, researches on the benefits of using multiple SNSs for Chinese as second language (CSL) learners are very few in numbers. Therefore, this study aims to address the gap and to focus on the use of WeChat, a Chinese language based application, as a tool for learning Chinese. The outcome of the paper emphasises on the affordances of WeChat for Chinese language learners.      

An overview of the reviewed literature

The reviewed paper outlines the digital affordances of WeChat in Chinese language learning. WeChat is one of the most popular and free Chinese language based social networking application used in China and in other countries. This instant messaging software shares common features with other similar applications, such as sending text messages, audio-video calling, and sharing content. It also offers an interactive platform for formal and casual communication among Chinese learners. The linguistic and semiotic resources of this application assist practising in and improving Chinese language skills for all level language learners.   Continue reading