Have you ever considered practicing your language skills by changing your phone’s system language to Chinese? I had always heard of people using this technique with their phone, computer, GPS, etc but, until recently, I had never tried it out myself. I’ve started using this method to help remind myself to practice my Mandarin daily and it has been really helpful! Today I’d like to share with you some of the benefits and difficulties I have encountered.
Okay, so let’s kick off with some of the benefits.
System menus, messages, notifications, buttons
Not surprisingly, tons of system menus and labels change to Chinese which is a great way to learn new terminology and vocabulary. Note that Siri language is managed through a separate setting, so you can still communicate with Siri in English. Here’s some examples of differences in iPhone menus and apps.
Major apps use Chinese
Many apps that you use every day support Chinese and will start sending your push notifications and other information in Chinese. Check out these examples below of using the Chinese language Facebook and Instagram.
I also enjoy a feature of Instagram in which you can tap on post captions for a translation from your native language to Chinese. Check out the comparison below.
Maps and Navigation in Mandarin
You probably guessed this one, but when you change over your language, Google Maps changes entirely to Chinese. This is really cool because it helps you learn the Chinese names of many different cities around the world, as well as have your GPS navigation spoken in Mandarin!
Wikipedia Google Searches Automatically in Mandarin
Here’s a benefit that I never expected. You may be familiar with how when you use the Safari browser on iPhone, often a Google search will provide a brief blurb taken from Wikipedia and a link to the relevant Wikipedia page. With your phone set to Chinese, these will show up in Chinese as well as the article itself when you click through to the Wikipedia page. This is super cool because it reminds you to take some time and read in Chinese everyday. I have found that I often would rather read in Chinese than take the time to change the Wikipedia page back to English (but you can quickly do that, if you like). Check out the examples below.
In addition to the benefits listed above, some websites support Chinese, especially if the websites are for companies which sell products globally. This is really cool because you don’t always expect which website will support this so it gives a little spontaneity to your day, providing more occasional opportunities to practice your Chinese skills.
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
Banking and Finance Apps
Many apps determine what language to present content in based on your system settings. This can be really cool because most apps on your phone will suddenly convert to Chinese language. However, there are some functions that can be kind of scary to have change to Chinese if you aren’t 100% confident in your skills. For example, some online banking or stock trading apps may have Chinese language functionality and will change over languages. I personally have noticed Paypal as an example of this. Just be aware that if you are making a large transaction and you aren’t confident you understand, you might want to temporarily change back to your native language to do so.
Having your phone in Chinese can be all well and good in normal situations, but when you are stressed out and in a hurry, it can be an extra headache. I have found that Google Maps provided Mandarin language navigation can be frustrating at times, even if you understand perfectly, because it does not provide street names. Instead, Google will tell you to turn left in 500 ft without further explanation. You’ll have to look at your phone for clarification on the map most of the time. This isn’t a game changer, but it can definitely add some difficultly if you’re in heavily traffic in the rain. Be careful and consider changing your language back over to English before setting out on a long journey if you are worried. Remember, changing languages requires a brief system reboot (not to mention navigating through the System menu) so it’s not an immediate process.
This may be unfamiliar to most users, but I think it’s worth noting. I like to minimize the time and energy I spend reading information on my phone, so I have enabled the Speak Selection setting in the Spoken Content menu. What this does is allow you to have your iPhone read selected text aloud. This is helpful if you want to just select the text of an article or email and listen to it being read to you. For more information on how to set this up on iPhone, you can read about it here. Either way, if you rely on this setting, note that changing the system language to Chinese will have some impact on this. You can still select and read text by clicking 朗读 after selecting text. However, the Asian accent voice sounds a bit more robotic to me at fast speeds. In addition, all numbers and dates within the selected text will be spoken in Chinese if the text you are selecting is in your native language. This isn’t a huge impairment but it is a bit of a distraction.