Chatting is one of the best ways to improve in a language, including Chinese, especially at beginner and intermediate levels.
Suitable for any language level, because the topic and the complexity of the chat is infinitely variable.
Extra time to think about what you're going to say, thus increasing the range of words you can use, which in turn is helpful for transferring words from the passive to the active vocabulary. It's scarier to use a new word in speech if you've never used it successfully before. Using the word when chatting is a good first step.
An opportunity to notice new words. In flowing speech, it's sometimes hard to notice new words, especially if you have to struggle to understand the main ideas. Reading these words help you notice them. This is similar to reading comics, which also has lots of spoken language in written form.
A relaxed form of practice. Being able to practice written Chinese without having to come up with a topic, spend hours writing an article about it and having it corrected by someone, is quite good.
Manageable in difficulty and duration. It's possible to postpone essay writing for days, simply because it's a quite serious endeavor, but chatting for a few minutes is much easier. It won't teach you to write essays, but it's still good reading and writing practice.
Reading Chinese in bite-sized chunks. Reading in Chinese can be intimidating for beginners, but reading what the other person is typing is much more manageable, both in difficulty and length. Also, most Chinese automatically adapt their level to your understanding, making it gradually harder as you improve.
A written record of our conversation. Sure, you can record audio as well, but it's much harder to handle and awkward in some situations.
The option of hiding behind our computer screens. Not being face-to-face means that shy people can interact with strangers in a natural manner.
As you have already seen, chatting can help us with many things, but it's not magic. The purpose of this article is to show that chatting is more than just a way to kill time and that chatting definitely has a place in the daily routine of the Chinese learner.
Translated from: hackingchinese