Importance of Understanding Mandarin’s History as a Language with Andrew Methven

In this episode of The Negotiation, we are thrilled to feature Andrew Methven, author of the Slow Chinese newsletter, one of the leading resources for keeping up to date with modern Mandarin language trends. 

Andrew’s journey from a planetary science graduate to a Chinese language enthusiast is as fascinating as it is unconventional. Facing limited career prospects in space exploration, he embarked on an overland journey from London to Australia, including a detour in China that ended up lasting one year.

Fascinated by his experience in China, Andrew moved to Taiwan after a stint in Australia and immersed himself in learning Mandarin. His journey led him back to the UK, where he pursued a master’s degree in Chinese translation and linguistics. Today, Andrew’s career is closely linked to China, and he uses the Slow Chinese newsletter to practice and maintain his language skills.

In our conversation, Andrew shares his unconventional language-learning journey. He discusses the challenges of learning Chinese, including the lack of resources and opportunities in the UK and other Western countries. Andrew also emphasizes the importance of understanding the cultural context and history behind the language. He shares how his newsletter aims to provide this context through language learning—and specifically keeping up with modern language trends, which reflect broader social trends in China. He also explains some of the popular memes that have captivated the Chinese internet in recent years. 

It’s a fascinating discussion on a fascinating language—and how those who are learning Mandarin as a second language can hone their skills to understand China better. 

Topics discussed in this interview:

  • Andrew’s unconventional path to learning Chinese
  • Decline in Mandarin language education in the UK and Western countries
  • Challenges of learning Chinese due to distance and lack of accessibility
  • Lack of promotion and understanding of the importance of learning about China and Chinese
  • Importance of understanding cultural context and history in language learning
  • Challenges of understanding connotations and intentions behind Chinese words and phrases.
  • Focus on connecting language to different types of contexts in the newsletter
  • Interesting cultural references and memes, including during recent Halloween celebrations in China.
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