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.

Teaching English in Japan – What to Expect

The economic boom that swept Japan in the 1980′s brought with it not only a period of wealth and prosperity, but also a sudden surge in a desire to study English. Fueled in part by Japan’s role as an emerging economic force, the need to learn English became a necessity for many companies hoping to compete in the global marketplace. As a result of the affluence during this time more Japanese were also able to travel abroad, thus creating a demand for studying English for those who hoped to hone their English skills before making the journey to a foreign country. Entrepreneurs sensing an opportunity to capitalize on this trend began to open English schools in unprecedented numbers, from large Corporate chains that catered to thousands of students, to small neighborhood schools often employing only a handful of staff. Although the glory days of finding a teaching job on the basis of being a native English speaker alone have faded, the good news is there are still many teaching jobs available in Japan for those willing to make a modest effort to pursue them. Renewed economic growth in the last few years in conjunction with a recent ruling by the Japanese Ministry of Education to include English as part of the elementary school curriculum will also create a need for English instructors in the future.

English teachers in Japan fall basically under two categories, those employed via structured programs such as JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching), and freelance instructors. Teachers who have come to Japan under one of the structured programs can expect benefits which include pre-departure training, visas, flights, living accommodations, and health insurance. Free lance teachers are individuals who arrive in Japan looking for work on their own or who have found a job prior to arriving. In regard to working conditions both can expect to teach approximately 20-35 classes per week, with lessons spanning 50 minutes to one hour in duration. Most teaching positions are at private language schools, with the majority of classes being conducted in the afternoons and evenings. Students range from elementary school, high school, and university students, to housewives and businessmen of all ages. Many of the afternoon classes are typically made up of children who study English after their regular school day has finished, and the majority of evening classes are attended by teens or adults. Size of classes vary, but on average consist of 3-5 students for many of the smaller schools, and up to 15 for larger establishments. Most schools also offer students private lessons.

Entry level salaries for teachers is approximately 250,000 yen per month, though this can fluctuate depending on the company. Some of the larger chain schools such as Nova and ECC offer visa sponsorship and other benefits, such as arranging an apartment for newly arrived teachers. Most schools also subsidize daily train transportation costs. Teachers with experience and a post graduate level qualification in the form of a Masters Degree can expect to make around 400,000 yen a month or more, with the majority of high paying jobs in this category to be found in the High Schools and Universities.

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

Unusual Conference Venues

Many companies understand the importance of conferences for their staff. Conferences are a chance to network, share ideas and to learn, but boy are they boring. Yes, your staff gets loads of new ideas and meet lots of interesting and useful people, but given the choice they would rather not attend again next year. Fortunately, the people who run conferences are starting to wake up to this fact and beginning to try to make conferences less tedious. This has led to some great new conference events being held. If you are a business about to hold an in-house conference you can learn a lot from this new trend.

So the question is 'Where can I hold a conference?'. Basically as long as they've got the license and you've got the cold hard cash, then you can hold a conference just about anywhere you like. As the legend of Kevin Costner understands 'If you build it, they will come' and yes, you can host a conference at a baseball diamond!

Museums and art galleries. Being surrounded by creative exploits really stimulates the mind. Therefore a great venue for a conference has to be a gallery or science museum. Our favorite is the Vancouver Museum of Anthropology – mingling amidst ancient totem poles is quite the experience. Another great museum venue is the Science Museum in London, that even offers a IMAX cinema or a motion theater as two of the 8 conference halls it has available.

Marinas, Aquariums and Planetariums are also great places for conferences, most have lecture theaters for the presentations, with plenty of divers during conference breaks. In some Aquariums such as the one in Barcelona you can enjoy a spectacular conference dinner completely surrounded by fish. Although sitting down to the fish course does make you pause.

Blackpool Tower – yup sounds strange but come on, it's also pretty exciting and sort of kitsch!

In the mountains. Being amid inspirational landscape opens the mind to fresh and new ideas. Check out the Fairmont Springs hotel in Banff, you are literally a step away from heaven.

Want to impress, rent a castle! You can do it for weddings and you can absolutely do it for your conference!

Observatories – enjoy a daytime conference and finish with watching the stars – there's a metaphor in there somewhere!

Middle of the Rainforest? Lots of nature retreats host conferences and events. Bali anyone?

The zoo – yes it has happened, one crazy and obviously very talented events planner held an event at a tiger exhibition.

Like we said, you get the right equipment, shelter, catering and speakers and people will come. If you have an event dream – make it happen. Your conference will be memorable and people will definitely want to come back next year. Where you hold a conference says a lot about you and your industry. Conferences are designed to stimulate people's creativity and make them come away full of ideas. An inspirational venue is everything, so think outside the box.