Our work analyzes the usefulness of microblogging in second language learning using the example of the social network Twitter. Most learners of English do not require even more passive input in form of texts, lectures or videos, etc. This input is readily available in numerous forms on the Internet. What learners of English need is the chance to actively produce language and the chance to use English as tool of communication. This calls for instructional methods and tools promoting ‘active’ learning that present opportunities for students to express themselves and interact in the target language. In this paper we describe how we used Twitter with students of English at the Distant College of Shanghai Jiao Tong University. We analyze the students’ messages and show how the usage of Twitter trained communicative and cultural competence.