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Travelling and Translating with WeChat App

 This post is brought to you by WeChat  

The first time I travelled solo it was through Italy, back when mobile phones were a very different beast. It was a simpler time when a text could only be 160 characters long and once you had ten texts (sent and received) you couldn’t receive any more until you deleted some to make room.

Of course phones got smarter, but for a while there you would still have to send an old school text or call to communicate when travelling, which meant bracing yourself for bill shock when you got home.

Nowadays it’s a whole new ball game. Not only is the video calling that once seemed so Sci-Fi a basic feature in new phones, we’re turning our back on traditional texting and embracing chatting through apps.

I was first seduced by the appy chatty concept because I’m one of those frugal / extravagant travellers. I go out of my way to find free WiFi when travelling and avoid paying extra to connect in hotels, and yet I’ll jump at the chance to buy an upgrade to a suite on a cruise.

I like to think it balances out. I know I’m kidding myself.

But the funny thing is, what started as a way to save a few pennies when travelling has become my preferred way of keeping in touch when I’m home and connecting with friends in the same city. Apps are more fun, and clearly I’m not the only one who thinks so.

The fastest growing social app on the planet today is very chatty. WeChat has more than 100 million users outside of China, where it was first known as Weixin and has around another 300 million users.

With a worldwide growth rate of 1,021% in 16 to 19 year olds just between the first and third quarter of 2013, those numbers will no doubt look small compared to their true reach soon. Even here in Australia where WeChat is still starting to take hold, we’ve seen a 374% increase in a year.

Playing on WeChat for the first time is an interesting experience. As well as group chats of up to 100 people, and free phone and video call functions, there’s a feature I love the idea of – Walkie Talkie!

Now we’re really talking old school. Yes, you can use your phone like a Walkie Talkie with friends. Over.

If you go into Shake mode and shake your groove thang (okay, your phone) it will introduce you to other people who are shaking at the same time, and will also tell you who is nearby on the app in case you want to make new friends in a new country.

And something that would have been very handy on that first trip through Italy: there’s a translate function. Simply long press on the text in a message, tap the arrow icon to the right and press ‘translate’.

Of course as anyone who has played in Google Translate will know, some things may get a little lost in translation, but I’m loving this idea. No need to cut and paste into another translating site to try and understand what a new friend is saying.

Just the thing for when I’m next travelling alone and shaking my phone in Italy.
This post has been brought to you by the WeChat App but as usual all opinions and thoughts remain my own.

WeChat is free to download and available for iPhone, Android and Windows.

And one for those who remember the Nokia 8210, my old handset may be battered but still works today, 15 years after I bought it. If only it supported apps and I could work on my blog on it!