Learning To Speak Mandarin – The Road Ahead

When we talk about studying Chinese what we mean by that, in 2010, is really studying Mandarin, also known as standard Mandarin. Compared to Cantonese, which is the second most spoken out of around 50 languages ​​in contemporary China, Mandarin is far larger. Cantonese is pretty much confined to Taiwan and Hong Kong. Mandarin on the other hand is also spoken in both these areas, and the entirety of the rest of the country. This did not come about as an accident. 100 years ago there were more languages ​​and Standard Mandarin was not known as standard. The Mandarin of today is an amalgamation of different dialects but is mostly made up of the old Beijing one. The reason that it is so common today is that it has been artificially promoted by the central government for obvious reasons: one modern nation needs one common mode of communication.

When we talk about Mandarin language studies people often say that they are rather tricky. They are not a walk in the park, but it is my sincere belief that people make it out to be a much more difficult task than it is in reality. The thing we need to remember is that Mandarin is very different from languages ​​that have been derived from Latin or the Germanic branch of European languages. But once those differences have been deal with, learning the rest of the language is much less tricky than it would seem when you are just setting out on that particular journey. These initial bumps in the road can be categorized into two distinct groups; the difficulties of writing Chinese Mandarin and the difficulties of speaking Chinese Mandarin. I write difficulties but in reality it is less about difficulty and more about differences.

The first of these two categories, written Chinese, is mostly hard because there is no alphabet. Instead you need to memorize a great deal of pictures, aka characters. The key to success in this matter lies in not thinking of them as pictures when you try to commit them to memory but rather thinking of them in terms of their underlying structure. The two golden nuggets of information that you need to become familiar with is the building blocks that make up the vast majority of characters, called radical, and the way that these radicals are written, the stroke order. Once you have these two concepts firmly logged in your head you will begin to see the characters as a process of writing and not as a finished product. The picture is complicated but the way that it is formed is as easy as pie. It is a bit like riding a bike really – once you get up and going you will cover a lot of ground very quickly and you will never loose that initial effort you put in while learning the first couple of hundred or so the right way.

The second of the categories, spoken Chinese Mandarin, is mostly different in terms of pronunciation. The grammar really is not that hard. Chinese Mandarin pronunciation, however, is. It is hard because as we know Mandarin lacks an alphabet. Instead of being made up of letters that make a sound when put together we have pictures which give little or no indication regarding how the words sound when spoken. To muddle things up even more the Mandarin language is not only dependent on syllables, it also involves modulation of the pitch. This is what is more commonly known as tones, and it makes Mandarin a tonal language.

However, both the difficulties with getting to grips with Characters and their radicals and stroke order, and the trick to wrapping your tongue around tonal modulation while speaking, can easily be dealt with in a small class size. Learning Mandarin without the individual attention of a teacher is very hard, but once you have someone to correct your pronunciation and show you what you are doing wrong when writing, you are on the home stretch, speeding ahead to proficiency in the language that holds the key to the greatest paradigm shift of our century – the rise of China as economic and political super power.

Financial Reporting & Auditing in Singapore

The Accounting Profession of Singapore

The Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Singapore (ICPAS) is the national body representing the accounting profession in Singapore. It maintains a register of qualified accountants comprising mainly local graduates. Membership is open to members of the Institutes of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales, Australia, Scotland, Ireland and a number of other accounting bodies. Generally, prior to being admitted as a full member, they must attend a week-long pre-admission course. Members are designated as certified public accountants (CPA).

The Public Accountants Board, whose council members are appointed by the Ministry of Finance, licenses and registers accountants who wish to practise. It also handles practice monitoring, disciplinary matters and regulations on professional conduct.

Accounting Records in Singapore

All companies incorporated under the Companies Act are required to maintain books of accounts that sufficiently explain the transactions and financial position of the company.

The books may be kept either at the company’s registered office or at another place the directors think fit. If the books are maintained outside Singapore, sufficient records must be maintained in Singapore to facilitate the preparation and/or audit of financial statements that reflect accurately the company’s financial position.

Sources of Accounting Principles

Financial Periods Commencing before 1 January 2003 The principal source of accounting principles in Singapore, namely Statements of Accounting Standards (SAS) and Interpretation of Statements of Accounting Standards (INT), are issued by ICPAS. These standards are essentially International Accounting Standards (IAS) modified for certain transitional provisions. They provide guidelines on the accounting measurements and disclosure requirements. Businesses may depart from such standards if the standards conflict with disclosure exemptions granted by law. Otherwise, ICPAS may take disciplinary action against any of its members who are in violation of the standards.

Rules on accounting measurements are generally established by SAS and INT. Disclosure requirements are governed by SAS, INT and the Companies Act.

ICPAS is a member of the International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC). Compliance with IASC standards are not mandatory, but the institute supports the IASC objectives of formulating and publishing standards for observance during presentation of audited financial statements and promoting worldwide acceptance of such standards.

Financial Periods Commencing on or after 1 January 2003 With the implementation of section 37 of the Companies (Amendment) Act 2002, SAS issued by ICPAS will not be used with effect from annual financial periods commencing on or after 1 January 2003. Instead, Singapore Financial Reporting Standards (FRS), issued by the new accounting standards-setting body, the Council on Corporate Disclosure and Governance (CCDG), are now effective. FRS are essentially adopted from International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). The previous SAS were adopted from the same set of IFRS (formerly referred to as IAS) but with modification to certain transitional provisions. Consequently, there are differences between FRS and SAS.

Interpretations of Standards are authoritative guidance on the application of the relevant standards. CCDG adopted all international interpretations as Interpretations of FRS (INT FRS) with effect from financial periods beginning on or after 1 January 2003.

Compliance with FRS is a statutory requirement whereby any non-compliance amounts to a breach of the Companies Act by the directors.

Financial Reporting in Singapore

The Companies Act requires that an audited set of financial statements, made up to not more than six months before every Annual General Meeting, is to be presented to the shareholders at the meeting. Generally if a company incorporated in Singapore has one or more subsidiaries, it must prepare consolidated financial statements unless it meets certain criteria as provided for in FRS 27 Consolidated and Separate Financial Statements. Currently, financial statements under the Companies Act consist of the balance sheet, income statement together with explanatory notes. With the Companies (Accounting Standards) Regulations 2002 coming into operation for financial periods on or after 1 January 2003, a complete set of financial statements will comprise the balance sheet, income statement, statement of changes in equity, cash flow statement and explanatory notes.

The financial statements must be accompanied by the directors’ and auditors’ reports and by a statement from the directors declaring that the financial statements show a true and fair view and that it is reasonable to believe that the company can reasonably pay its debts as they become due.

Companies which meet specific provisions in the Companies Act may be exempt from having their accounts audited but nevertheless must prepare financial statements that comply with the Companies Act.

Annual Requirements for Companies in Singapore

The Companies Act requires every company, except for those exempted in accordance with the provisions in the Act, to appoint one or more auditors qualified for appointment under the Accountants Act to report on the company’s financial statements. The auditors are to ascertain whether proper books of accounts have been kept and whether the financial statements agree with the company’s records. They will then report on the trueness and fairness of the financial statements to the shareholders at the Annual General Meeting.

Audit Exemption Starting with the financial year beginning on or after 15 May 2003, the following companies are no longer required to have their accounts audited. However, they are still required to prepare accounts (and consolidated accounts where applicable) that comply with FRS.

o Small exempt private companies An exempt private company with revenue in a financial year below S$5m is exempted from appointing auditors and from audit requirements. Revenue is defined according to the statutory accounting standards, i.e. the FRS.

o Dormant companies A dormant company is exempted from appointing auditors and from the audit requirements if it has been dormant either (a) from the time of its formation or (b) since the end of the previous financial year. A company is considered dormant during a period in which no accounting transaction occurs, and the company ceases to be dormant on the occurrence of such a transaction. For this purpose, transactions arising from the following are disregarded:

  • Taking of shares in the company by a subscriber to the memorandum
  • Appointment of company secretary
  • Appointment of auditor
  • Maintenance of a registered office
  • Keeping of registers and books
  • Fees, fines or default penalties paid to the Registrar of Companies

All About Beijing Duck

OK so you've climbed the Great Wall, wandered through the Forbidden City, taken photos in the Temple of Heaven, walked through the gardens of the Summer Palace and completely ignored Wangfujin street. Now it is time for you to eat Beijing's most classic dish, the Beijing Duck.

Beijing Duck is famous, has a distinguished history, an exquisite taste and is a culinary icon SO before partaking in this mouth watering dish, pause your chopsticks and first develop a well deserved appreciation of the delicacy you are about to feast on.

History

The origin of roasted duck can be traced back to Northern and Southern Dynasties period (420-589) when these hapless birds where roasted in the Jinling area where modern day Nanjing is located. The Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368) were gourmets and took the custom of roast duck with them when they packed their bags and set up house in Beijing.

The Inspector of the Imperial kitchen (what a job!) Hu Sihui listed roast duck among the imperial dishes in the "Complete Recipes for Dishes and Beverages" that he wrote in 1330. This early cookbook even included the cooking process.

Up until the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) ducks were roasted in a conventional convection oven where the duck was hung from the oven ceiling and roasted over burning wood. Duck cooked this was said to be crisp and golden brown with tender and tasty meat. After the Qing came to power they changed the method of duck cooking to hanging the ducks over a flame in an open oven. These two traditional methods of cooking duck are the foundations of the two modern methods of cooking Beijing Duck.

Roast duck was so popular during this period that poets and schools where inspired to roast duck poetry. Personally I think the large quantities of alcohol consumed with the duck were the main inspiration for these wasted poems and bookworms.

Peking duck as it was first called b foreigners taste so good, it is credited with being instrumental in the rapprochement between China and the US in the 70's. All because Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon kept returning to China for more duck. Just imagine how different history would be if the Havana Cigar had the same effect on US politicians!

In summary, that juicy piece of duck you are about to eat has a royal history of over 1500 years. Chew on that!

How to eat Beijing Duck

Your Beijing Duck will be served with steamed pancakes, sweet bean or plum sauce, cucumber and spring onions.

Place one pancake on the palm of your hand, dip a slice of duck meat in the sauce then place the meat on the pancake, add several pieces of cucumber and spring onion, wrap up the pancake, close your eyes and bite. Control yourself, chew slowly and savor this ancient delicacy.

How to cook

First you need to prepare the ingredients. Here is a list of all the ingredients.

Ingredients

2.0 to 2.5 kilogram of duck

8 liters of water

1 slice of ginger

1 Spring onion

50ml of honey

20ml of white vinegar

20ml of cooking sherry

25ml of corn starch dissolved in 50ml of water

Spring affairs for garnish

Directions

1. Clean duck then wipe it dry and tie a string around its neck.

2. Hang the duck in cool and ideally windy place 4 hours.

3. Fill a large wok with water then bring to boil. Add ginger, spring onion, honey, vinegar, and sherry. Bring to boil again and pour in the dissolved cornstarch. Stir constantly during this step.

4. Place the hung duck in large strainer over a larger bowl then scoop the boiling mixture over the entire duck for about 10 minutes.

5. Hang the duck up again in cool, windy place for 6 hours until it is thoroughly dry.

6. Place the duck breast side up on a greased rack in an oven preheated to 350 degrees.

7- Place a pan filled with 6 centimeters of water in bottom of oven to collect the drippings then roast 30 minutes.

8- Turn duck and roast for 30 more minutes.

9. Turn breast side up again and roast for 10 more minutes.

10. Use a sharp knife to cut off the crispy skin then immediately serve meat and skin on a warm dish

11 Eat and enjoy.

How To Save Money On Your Heating Bills

How much do you think you spend on your heating bills at present? According to the Energy Saving Trust, on average half the money spent on utility bills in the UK goes towards heating and hot water.

Is it therefore any surprise that come the first sign of winter, many households have the same debate rumbling on, whether to put the heating on. But, did you know that by taking precautionary steps, you can reduce your energy bills at the same time as keeping your home warm. Five top tips we recommend are…

Make an Extra Layer Your First Choice:

Many of us opt to switch the heating on the moment that we feel a chill in the home. Automatically reaching for the heating will cause your energy bills to rocket. Instead, your first option should be to make an extra layer of clothing your first choice to keeping warm.

Have Your Boiler Serviced Annually:

As with all appliances within the home, general usage can take its toll on your boiler. This wear and tear will leave your boiler performing below its optimum level, hindering its efficiency and costing you more in energy bills.

To reduce the risk of wear and tear on your boiler, you should have it serviced annually. Ideally the service should take place before winter takes hold.

Along with getting your boiler serviced, it’s also recommended to install a CO2 alarm next to the boiler.

Bleed Your Radiators:

If you’ve put your heating on and found that the top of your radiator is cooler than the bottom, then you’ll need to bleed them. This isn’t a difficult task, nor is it time consuming. But it is one which should be carried out at the earliest opportunity to save you money on your energy bills.

To bleed your radiators, all you’ll need is a radiator key and a towel.

With your heating off, use the radiator key to turn the valve at the top of the radiator to release any trapped air. Whilst doing this, hold the towel just below the valve to catch any water which may trickle out. As soon as water appears, close the valve.

Set TRVs Low:

Many modern radiators come with TRVs, which enable you to set the temperature of the individual radiator. Whilst many of us will turn the TRV to six, this will cost you money without heating the room any quicker.

To help save money on your energy bills, set the TRV to its lowest setting, before gradually turning them up until you find a comfortable room temperature. It’s also recommend to keep the TRVs on a low setting in rooms which aren’t frequented often. This will help keep the room warm without wasting heat.

Utilise Natural Heat:

OK, so the sun isn’t as strong during the winter months, it can still provide the required warmth to naturally heat your home. To make the most out of the natural warmth from the sun, leave your curtains open during the day, and closed during the evening.

Along with closing your curtains during the evening, it’s also a good idea to keep internal doors closed where possible.

These five simple steps will help you to save money on your heating and energy bills, at the same time as keeping the house warm. But, for those who are looking for an additional heat source there are a number of portable radiators available which will provide the heating requirements you need.