RealTime Mandarin helps you maintain and improve your Mandarin skills, and stay on top of the latest language trends in China.


RealTime Mandarin is a free resource which helps you learn contemporary Chinese in context, maintain and improve your Mandarin skills, and stay on top of the latest language trends in China.

It’s a weekly newsletter delivering in-depth news and insights into what people are talking about in China as they happen.

It’s written by me, Andrew.

Me and the fam in Beijing, 2023, looking for inspiration, answers, and bubble tea

I first went to China in 2002, and have been learning Chinese and about China ever since.

I started writing the newsletter in February 2021, publishing content every Saturday since then.

Read more about why I started the newsletter here.

It’s now grown into a multimedia platform for learning contemporary Chinese, read by over 10,000 China watchers and Mandarin learners each week.


I hope you’ll find RealTime Mandarin as valuable as I do!

What to expect

You’ll receive a RealTime Mandarin newsletter in your inbox, for free, every Saturday.

It spotlights one news story being talked about in China every week, what people are saying about it, and how they are discussing it.

The newsletter is in three parts:

  • Context: The background in English, explaining what people are saying, and why it’s important.

  • Favourite Five: My top five words and phrases which define the story, and are “must-have” things to learn and know.

  • Consuming the Conversation: Going deeper on useful words, phrases and idioms, which are used in discussions about the story, many of which you won’t find in a text book, graded readers, or even a dictionary!

You’ll learn each word, phrase, and idiom in context with pinyin, example sentences, background notes, and authentic translations.

RealTime Mandarin newsletters help you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.

You’ll have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in China, what the important trends are, and how to discuss them in authentic, current, and relevant Mandarin.

We strive for high-quality writing and deep research. So we recommend setting aside 30 minutes to enjoy each newsletter.

As a free subscriber, you get access to our full archive of newsletters, covering some of the most important events in China as they happened, and how those events are being discussed in China and the Chinese speaking world.

Read the full free newsletter archive here.

Join RealTime Mandarin+

RealTime Mandarin+ is our premium membership.

It’d designed for Mandarin learners who are ready to invest, commit, and dramatically improve their language skills.

RealTime Mandarin+ is a powerful multi-media language learning tool with loads of extra resources, content, and insights.

By joining RealTime Mandarin+, you unlock these resources:

  • 🔈 Advanced podcast

  • 📚 Resources & integrations

  • 👩‍🎓 Intermediate Newsfeed

  • 💬 Community meet-ups

  • 🤿 Quarterly Deep Dives

It’s designed to offer you maximum flexibility, with plenty of resources and integrations for you to chose from based on your learning style.

When you sign up you also get an invitation to a 20 minute 1+1 onboarding call to help orientate you and understand how best to utilise the resources included in the membership.

🔈 Podcast

Every Saturday we publish a member-only podcast which expands on the content of the free newsletter, but offers much, much, more.

Around 30 minutes long, it’s 85% native Mandarin. Each episode includes:

  • Introduction: Background in English explaining the context, why I chose to write about the news story, and some of my favourite words and phrases I learned about that week.

  • Discussion in Chinese: Our editor, Zoe Qian, explains the background from a Chinese perspective, and highlights some of the key words and phrases in the newsletter, offering lots of additional insights.

  • Word list: Audio of the full word list, including example sentences, in native Mandarin, so you can practice everything we learn.

  • Featured article: A reading of our favourite news article about the topic we explore in the newsletter. This is hand-picked from all the news articles we have read that week. It’s the best “real” news article we recommend you read if you want to go deeper into the news story and practice what you’ve learned.

📚 Resources & integrations

At the end of every paid newsletter you access “Member Resources.

Resources offer maximum flexibility, giving you a choice of resources depending on your style of learning.

- Recommended reading

We’ve normally read between five and ten news articles to create that week’s newsletter.

We curate the best links about the news story so you can go deeper into the reporting. So once you’ve read about the context, and learned the language, you can read about it in “real” news outlets.

- Print-outs

  • Podcast transcript: Chinese text of the “Chinese discussion” part of the podcast.

  • Word list: Printable PDF of the full word list including Chinese characters, pinyin and authentic translations.

  • Examples sentences: Printable PDF of all of the example sentences in the newsletter, including pinyin so you can practice reading, listening, and writing.

- Integrations

Also in the Member Resources section you’ll find links to Mandarin learning apps. Click on the link of your preferred app, and the word list will download directly into your system.

We offer integrations for:

  • Pleco

  • Skritter

  • Hack Chinese

  • myLingua

👩‍🎓 Intermediate Newsfeed

The Intermediate Newsfeed is published every Sunday.

It’s fully immersive Chinese language experience aimed specifically at the intermediate learner.

It’s a “real life” newsfeed in Chinese about the news as it’s happening.

Every episode includes:

  • 350-character news article (simplified and traditional text)

  • Word list with pinyin and translations

  • Audio of article and word list (4 minutes)

  • Grammar exercises

  • Test questions (and answers)

In addition to this lesson content, you also get integrations with the same langauge learning apps as in the advanced content:

  • Pleco

  • Skritter

  • Hack Chinese

  • myLingua

All with the word lists of the intermediate lesson.

💬 Community

China Watcher Christmas Drinks London, 2023

As a paid subscriber you join an active global community of engaged and motivated language learners.

Online, the community engages through our member Slack channel, and through the Substack Chat.

Members of the community get invites to in-person events too. Every quarter we organise Member Dinners, as well as larger meet-ups around the world.

Read more on our community page here.

🤿 Deep Dives

RealTime Mandarin+ Deep Dives are member-only one-hour webinars held quarterly.

Each Deep Dive addresses one key challenge of intermediate to advanced Mandarin learners.

Members of the community get invites to attend the sessions live, and ask questions, and access recordings afterwards.

Themes discussed in Deep Dives so far include:

  • How to navigate Chinese language podcasts

  • How to use Lu Xun and other 20th Century writers to dramatically improve your Mandarin skills

  • Where to find reliable Chinese language news content suited to your interests, and language ability

  • How context can be a secret weapon to accelerate your langauge learning, and vocab retention

You can access the Deep Dive archive here.

Why you should consider joining RealTime Mandarin+ today?

RealTime Mandarin+ is a unique language learning tool which will helps you:

  • Maintain and improve your Mandarin

  • Keep your language skills up to date and on trend

  • Form a learning habit which keeps you engaged weekly, and even daily

And, most importantly, it helps you feel confident, and able to show off your amazing Chinese!

That’s because when you get to a certain more ‘advanced’ level of Chinese it’s crucial to learn the language in context, and with “real life” materials.

This is what RealTime Mandarin+ can do for you.

So if you are at that stage in your Mandarin learning journey, and want to commit to maintaining and improving your Chinese, and getting back up to date, RealTime Mandarin+ is the ideal resource for you.


You can access all the RealTime Mandarin+ materials and resources through subscription, paid either annually or monthly:

  • Annually: $140/year

  • Monthly: $20/month

For what is around the same price as one cup of coffee, or a pint in a London pub, every week, it’s a no brainer!

Expensing the newsletter

Good news! RealTime Mandarin+ is highly valuable resource for your professional development if your career is related to China.

And, as a result, it’s very expensable.

Joining RealTime Mandarin+ can directly help you enhance your China skills, and accelerate your China career, so your company should be willing to support you and cover this cost.

To make the expensing process as easy as possible, we’ve created a template you can use to send an email to your manager. We’d love to welcome you aboard! 

Group Subscriptions

We also offer group subscriptions to institutions and organisations whose employees, or students, have a need for engaging with China, and learning Chinese, using contemporary “real life” materials.

Get in touch if your organisation would like to subscribe to RealTime Mandarin+.

Get in touch!

Now, if you’ve got all the way down here, you must be looking for more.

Subscribe to RealTime Mandarin

A free resource helping you maintain and improve your Mandarin skills, and stay on top of the latest language trends in China.


Creator of RealTime Mandarin, a resource helping you learn contemporary Chinese in context, and stay on top of the latest language trends in China.
Conference interpreter & language consultant