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


Slow Chinese delivers in-depth news and insights on what people are talking about in China right now.

It’s a resource helping long-time China watchers and language learners maintain and improve our Mandarin skills, and stay on top of the latest language trends in China.

It’s written by me, Andrew Methven.

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 Slow Chinese newsletter in February 2021. It was my way to keep in touch with what was happening in China, stop my language skills getting even worse, and stay up to date and current at a time when it wasn’t possible to travel there.

I hope you’ll find Slow Chinese as valuable as one of our long-term members and supporters:

What to expect

You’ll receive a Slow Chinese newsletter from me in your inbox, for free, every Saturday.

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

The newsletter is in three parts:

  • Context: Explains the background in English, 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!

Beyond explaining to you the context, and the language, our 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 current and relevant Mandarin.

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

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

Read the full newsletter archive here.

Join Real Time Mandarin+

Real-Time-Mandarin+ is our premium offering.

Our mission is to help as many people as possible improve their Mandarin, and keep their language skills up to date. So the newsletter will always be free.

But for those who want to invest and commit into dramatically improving their language skills, we offer Real Time Mandarin+.

RTM+ turns the free newsletter into a powerful multi-media language learning resource with loads of extra tools, content, and insights.

By joining Real-Time-Mandarin+, you unlock lots of extra resources in addition to the free newsletter:

  • 🔈Advanced podcast

  • 📚 Resources and integrations

  • 👩‍🎓 Intermediate podcast

  • 💬 Community

  • 🤿 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.

1. 🔈Advanced Podcast

Every Saturday we publish a member-only podcast. It’s published alongside the content of the free newsletter, but offers much, much, more.

Around 30 minutes long, it’s about 85% native Mandarin and divided into:

  • 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: The full word list of the newsletter in audio, including the example sentences, in native Mandarin, so you can practice everything we learn in context.

  • 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.

2. 📚 Resources and integrations

In addition to the podcast, at the end of every paid newsletter you’ll find a “Member Resources” section with additional resources and tools to enhance your learning experience.

The aim is to provide maximum flexibility and give 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 we find 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.


  • 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 our translations. You can integrate it into your own system.

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


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

You can catch up with the full archive of podcasts here.

3.👩‍🎓 Intermediate Podcast

The main podcast and all the resources, is aimed at a more advanced level of learning.

But we also publish a separate intermediate podcast, called: 每周漫闻 měizhōu mànwén.

This podcast goes out on Sundays with a fully immersive Chinese language experience aimed specifically at the intermediate learner.

It’s a “real life” news article in Chinese about the news story discussed in the main podcast published on Saturday.

Every episode includes:

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

  • Word list

  • 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

All with the word lists of the intermediate lesson.

4. 💬 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.

5. 🤿 Deep Dives

Slow Chinese 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 RTM+ today?

RTM+ 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 be able to show off your amazing Chinese!

That’s because when you get to a certain more ‘advanced’ level of Chinese it is crucial to learn the language in context, and with “real life” materials. Graded readers, and text books are not enough at this level. You need content which interests, inspires, and challenges you.

This is what RTM+ can do for you.

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

Members of the RTM+ community include:

  • Experienced operators who have lived in China for years and want to keep up to date

  • Businesspeople who are going back to China soon having not been for years, and need to tune-up their language skills

  • Students or graduates just getting started on their China career wanting to develop a competitive edge and go deeper on China

  • Mid-career professionals wanting to focus on and improve their China’s knowledge and skills

  • Seasoned researchers, journalists, and think-tankers who need to know what’s happening in China right now, and the language people are using

  • Chinese language educators looking for real-world materials that bring Chinese language education to life

  • Heritage learners who want to reconnect with their roots, and improve their language skills


You can access all the RTM+ 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 every week, it’s a no brainer!

Expensing the newsletter

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

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

Joining RTM+ can directly help you 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 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 RTM+.

Get in touch!

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

Why not catch up with our full archive of free newsletters here!