Tag Archives: Ireland

Working abroad and the English complexes and insecurity of non natives

I write this article thinking in all my friends that feel insecure about talking in English.

They think about if they are pronouncing correctly, or if they are building the phrases in the correct grammar order. That’s school’s system fault, I think.

As Catalans we learn new languages easily. We talk Catalan native, and Spanish, and in the school we are taught French and English, and if things have not changed, we can choose between Latin and Greek. (I studied both)

But doing 1 or 2 hours per week of English doesn’t grant you a good level of the language, and in fact, few people in Catalonia and Barcelona speak fluent English with a good accent.

I learnt English by myself, by reading programming manuals when I was 5 years old. I also learnt to play chess by watching others playing and when I won the first time I played, against a guy 5 years older than me, he could not believe it was my first match.

I was 10, I think.

When I started classes in the school I realized that I already knew English.

Commands in Basic, like list, run, print, goto, had the same meaning than in the human spoken language.

I grew and I saw that the translations of technical books to Spanish (no Catalan was available) were horrible. They were actually translating commands, so since 15 y.o. I only read manuals in English.

In several jobs, for multinationals, I had to talk with colleagues from different parts of the world, so I was talking Portuguese, some times Italian or French, I could read a bit of German (Was head of Department in Volkswagen IT, gedas), and obviously English.

Still it is not the same when you talk using a subset of the language, basically referred to Hardware and Software, than fully living abroad.

Starting English is easy, you can use present and will for the future and did for the past, and you can make it work. But when you start with the phrasal verbs, the irregular verbs, different time conjugations… English is a context language and it is not a phonetic language, words that are written exactly the same way, sound different, and words that sound the same are written different. So it has a lot of exceptions.

But in this, in the exceptions, and in the fact that is widely expanded, is where we can find the strength to grow without fear.

Catalan is spoken very differently if we are in Barcelona, Lleida, Girona, Tarragona or if we are in València, or Menorca, or Alguer or the country of Andorra.

So the same happens with English. It is not only very different from England to the States, to Australia, to Scotland, to Ireland… also is very different from Dublin and Cork, or from different parts in The States, like Texas and California.

Also there are many people that talks it in Europe, in India… and all of them have different accent!.

So in my experience everybody will understand you. Specially because English is fully understood by the context. Maybe they need you to end the phrase to understand, but they will.

There are also annoying differences that can make you think that your are making mistakes.


  • Data Center (American) vs Data Center (England)
  • Color (American) vs Colour
  • Humor (American) vs Humour

Don’t be surprised if many native people find your accent exotic, and they love it.

That’s what happened to me many times.

Also I think the school is terrible teaching. They teach children all those rigid grammar expressions, when the live language is much more fluent and free.

For example, one person from Barcelona, will be nervous asking to a colleague:

  • Are you going to the cinema tonight?
  • Have you finally had gone to Disney World?

And he will be nervous thinking in real time if he is building the phrase right.

When, after 2 years will realize that people say:

  • You go to cinema tonight?
  • Did you go to Disney World finally?

The latest are very close to the grammar we use with Catalan, and so hence easy to express fluently.

I can share with you the process I follow to improve my English.

Since the 15 y.o. I was reading all the manuals in English.

I was watching some movies in English, at the beginning with subtitles in Spanish (no Catalan was available) and later with the subtitles in English.

Since 2013, when I was invited by Amazon to Dublin and by Facebook to Menlo Park (US), I started to watch all the movies and sit coms in English.

At the beginning with subtitles in English with the idea to correlate pronunciation and writing. To get my ears used to it.

I went to conferences, and I saw some people, with living years in English speaking countries, that had a much more difficult to understand accent than mine. They were people with reputation. And I understood that IT guys, we are very lucky to be valued by what we know. By our brain.

After all my life reading in English and 4 years watching all the movies in English, my accent had improved, but when I arrived to Cork I had difficulties understanding some the Irish. So I had to get used to the music, the cadence, of the way they talk, and to some words and expressions, and to the humor sense.

I asked my Irish colleagues to correct me when I pronounced wrong, and they were so nice to do it. And they did in a very polite way, for example if I would say:

Is a new Engineer coming to the Team?

And I would put the emphasis on the i of Engineer (the accent), Kevin would repeat the word in the right pronunciation. So I had the chance to learn how it rightly sound.

And I would repeat to make sure I got it.

One thing I think is that one has to be thankful for the time and interest that others dedicate to you. We have all a limited time on the planet, so when somebody invests some time in teaching you or helping you to learn, is giving you something that he will not get back. Even if you pay him/her, still that time will not go back to that person.

So I appreciate when people help me, and I don’t appreciate it less because I pay them.

Talking, listening, is the best real way to learn.

With 100% of reading in English, 100% of movies being watch in English, and nearly 100% of talking and listening in English my language skills reached to the next level. So I can talk in conferences, I can write books and technical documentation. And still I learn a lot of English every day. New words, or rich forms to express the things, reading the newspaper, for example. I really enjoy it.

But is like swimming or going in bicycle: learn by doing.

Upgrading my new HP 14-bp060sa

As the company I was working for, Sanmina, has decided to move all the Software Development to Colorado, US, and closing the offices in Bishopstown, Cork, Ireland I found myself with the need to get a new laptop. At work I was using two Dell laptops, one very powerful and heavy equipped with an Intel Xeon processor and 32 GB of RAM. The other a lightweight one that I updated to 32 GB of RAM.

I had an accident around 8 months ago, that got my spine damaged, and so I cannot carry much weight.

My personal laptops at home, in Ireland are a 15″ with 16 GB of RAM, too heavy, and an Acer 11,6″ with 8GB of RAM and SSD (I upgraded it), but unfortunately the screen crashed. I still use it through the HDMI port. My main computer is a tower with a Core i7, 64GB of RAM and a Samsung NVMe SSD drive. And few Raspberrys Pi 4 and 3 :)

I was thinking about what ultra-lightweight laptop to buy, but I wanted to buy it in Barcelona, as I wanted a Catalan keyboard (the layout with the broken ç and accents). I tried by Amazon.es but I have problems to have shipped the Catalan keyboard layout laptops to my address in Ireland.

I was trying to find the best laptop for me.

While I was investigating I found out that none of the laptops in the market were convincing me.

The ones in around 1Kg, which was my initial target, were too big, and lack a proper full size HDMI port and Gigabit Ethernet. Honestly, some models get the HDMI or the Ethernet from an USB 3.1, through an adapter, or have mini-HDMI, many lack the Gigabit port, which is very annoying. Also most of the models come with 8GB of RAM only and were impossible to upgrade. I enrolled my best friend in my quest, in the research, and had the same conclusions.

I don’t want to have to carry adapters with me to just plug to a monitor or projector. I don’t even want to carry the power charger. I want a laptop that can work with me for a complete day, a full work session, without needing to recharge.

So while this investigation was going on, I decided to buy a cheap laptop with a good trade off of weight and cost, in order to be able to work on the coffee. I needed it for writing documents in Google Docs, creating microservices architectures, programming in Java and PHP, and writing articles in my blog. I also decided that this would be my only laptop with Windows, as honestly I missed playing Star Craft 2, and my attempts with Wine and Linux did not success.

Not also, for playing games :) , there are tools that are only available for Windows or for Mac Os X and Windows, like: POSTMAN, Kitematic for managing dockers visually, vSphere…

(Please note, as I reviewed the article I realized that POSTMAN is available for Linux too)

Please note: although I use mainly Linux everywhere (Ubuntu, CentOS, and RedHat mainly) and I contribute to Open Source projects, I do have Windows machines.

I created my Start up in 2004, and I still have Windows Servers, physical machines in a Data Center in Barcelona, and I still have VMs and Instances in Public Clouds with Windows Servers. Also I programmed some tools using Visual Studio and Visual Basic .NET, ASP.NET and C#, but when I needed to do this I found more convenient spawn an instance in Amazon or Azure and pay for its use.

When I created my Start up I offered my infrastructure as a way to get funding too, and I offered VMs with VMWare. I found that having my Mail Servers in VMs was much more convenient for Backups, cloning, to scale up, to avoid disruption and for Disaster and Recovery.

I wanted a cheap laptop that will not make feel bad if transporting it in a daily basis gets a hit and breaks, or that if it rains (and this happens more than often in Ireland) and it breaks is not super-hurtful, or even if it gets stolen. Yes, I’m from a big city, like is Barcelona, Catalonia, and thieves are a real problem. I travel, so I want a laptop decent enough that I can take to travel, and for going for a coffee, coding anything, and I feel comfortable enough that if something happens to it is not the end of the world.

Cork is not a big city, so the options were reduced. I found a laptop that meets my needs.

I got a HP s14-bp060sa for 439€.

It is equipped with a Intel® Core™ i3-6006U (2 GHz, 3 MB cache, 2 cores) , a 500GB SATA HDD, and 4 GB of DDR4 RAM.

The information on HP webpage is really scarce, but checking other pages I was able to see that the motherboard has 2 memory banks, accepting a max of 16GB of RAM.

I saw that there was an slot, unclear if supporting NVMe SSD drives, but supporting M.2 SSD for sure.

So I bought in Amazon 2x8GB and a M.2 500GB drive.

Since I was 5 years old I’ve been upgrading and assembling by myself all the computers. And this is something that I want to keep doing. It keeps me sharp, knowing the new ports, CPUs, and motherboard architectures, and keeps me in contact with the Hardware. All my life I’ve thought that specializing Software Engineers and Systems Engineers, like if computers were something separate, is a mistake, so I push myself to stay up to date of the news in all the fields.

I removed the spinning 500 GB SATA HDD, cause it’s slow and it consumes a lot of energy. With the M.2 SSD the battery last forever.

The interesting part is how I cloned the drive from the Spinning HDD to the new M.2.

I did:

  • Open the computer (see pics below) and Insert the new drive M.2
  • Boot with an USB Linux Rescue distribution (to do that I had to enable Legacy Boot on BIOS and boot with the USB)
  • Use lsblk command to identify the HDD drive, it was easy as it was the one with partitions
  • dd from if=/dev/sda to of=/dev/sdb with status=progress to see live status and speed (around 70MB/s) and estimated time to complete.
  • Please note that the new drive should be bigger or at least have the same number of bytes to avoid problems with the last partition.
  • I removed the HDD drive, this reduces the weight of my laptop by 100 grams
  • Disable Legacy Boot, and boot the computer. Windows started perfectly :)

I found so few information about this model, that I wanted to share the pictures with the Community. Here are the pictures of the upgrade process.

Here you can see the Crucial M.2 SSD installed and the Spinning HDD removed. Yes, I did in a coffee :)
Final step, installing the 2x8GB RAM memory modules