Want To Use China's Twitter But Don't Know Chinese? Here's How.

How many of you use Twitter to find health information? I have a Twitter account to spread information, but here in China I cannot access it, so I’ve become a big fan of Weibo, China’s microblogging website that is similar — but far superior — to Twitter (my Weibo account is here; my screen name is “医生圣西睿智Richard”). For those of you who haven’t heard the word “Weibo” — you will soon. Weibo.com already has over 150 million users and has quickly become the must-use microblog site for middle and upper class Chinese.

I think anyone interested in China, and especially those who are learning Chinese, should use Weibo and start reading other people’s blogs. It’s a great way to practice your Chinese! I’m finding Weibo to be a terrific medium to convey health information to Chinese people, and I’m starting to see a lot more expats logging on. The major issue for non-Chinese is the language barrier, as the website is only in Chinese. Once you log in each time, you can write in whatever language you want, but the interface is tricky if you don’t know any Chinese characters. This will change by the end of the year when they update their software, but for now it’s a bit mafan for foreigners.

Now, as of last month, anyone can use Weibo in English — by using the Weibo app for iPhone/iPod Touch/iPads. Here’s how:

If you already have a Weibo account and use the iPhone app, converting to English is easy: just click on the “More” icon (更多) in the lower right corner of the app, then click on the “Settings” icon ! (设置) just at the top; then click on the “Language” icon (多语言环境) in the middle; hit “English” and you’re done!

If you don’t yet have a Weibo account: it’s easiest to go first to the weibo.com website and make a new account, then download the Weibo app to your iPhone and then login via your email and password. The hardest part is registering if you don’t know Chinese:

Step 1: Go To Weibo.com. On the right side of their screen is a big green button which you should click on. See the image below:

Weibo Sign Me Up

Step 2:  registering a new account. You can choose to get a confirmation via mobile phone or by email, but I think email is easiest. If your Chinese is nonexistent, I strongly recommend you use Google’s Chrome browser both now and whenever you visit any Chinese website. The main reason is one of their awesome features; you can instantly translate any webpage with a click of the button. See the image below for the example on Weibo: click on “Translate” at top and the page becomes passable English. By the way, if you click and it says “error”, keep clicking! It works almost 100% of the time.

Weibo Set Up Registration Page

OK, now we can see the instructions in English, as seen in the next image. Just follow the image below; the trickiest part is picking a strong password and a cool Weibo screen name. Once you are done, hit enter, follow the confirmation instructions in your email or mobile, and you’re now on Weibo!

Weibo Registration Instructions in English
Weibo Registration Instructions in English

Step 3: Download the Weibo app to your device. This part is easy for anyone who has an iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad. Just go to your app store, search for “Weibo” and download the official app from Sina (it’s probably listed in Chinese; their official app download page is here). When you open it for the first time, you have to enter your email address (the top field) and then your password (the second field), and then hit the left button. Then you follow the instructions above under “if you already have a Weibo account” to switch the app to English.

Step 4: Become my fan. My Weibo screen name is “医生圣西睿智Richard“. No, it’s not a very catchy screen name but it gets to the point; in Chinese it means “Doctor Richard Saint Cyr”. I usually update my Weibo a couple times a day with health tips and public health alerts. I usually write in English but am also trying to type more Chinese. You can see my Weibo account here.

Follow me on:
Twitter @RichardStCyrMD
Facebook @BainbridgeBabaDoc
Photography: richardsaintcyr.com

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