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Friday, December 18, 2015

how's your swedish?

This is a question I have been getting frequently ever since moving to Sweden 4 years ago, and coming home for Christmas I’ll get it a few more times. My go to answer has recently been “not so good”.

I have a long and painful history with language learning. It was never something I managed to grasp in school. While the English language, being my mother tongue was easy to excel at, Irish was a different story, but first a look at the language.

The Irish language 
Contrary to what some people think, Irish (or Gaeilge or Gaelic) is a completely different language to English. Different words, different language family. Example: An bhfuil cead agam dul go dtí an leithreas? To anyone not Irish that looks like gibberish. Everyone else knows it’s the first thing you learn in school.

The Irish language has always been a sore point in Irish education. We begin learning it on the first day of school aged 4 or 5 until we finish secondary school aged 17 or 18. Study of the Irish language is given the same amount of time as other main subjects such as English and Maths.

That is about 14 years of study of a language that the majority of the population will never use once they finish secondary school. We have Irish language programming on mainstream media as well as dedicated TV and radio stations yet currently there are 140,000 native speakers or 3% of the population.

My experience learning Irish 
Having being dragged kicking and screaming through the education system being forced for 14 years (or just over half my life) to learn something that I have no use for left an impact on me. I was not good at it. I went to Irish summer colleges for weeks at a time, trying to improve or get a grasp of the language, but all it did was raise my ability back to the bare minimum to scrape by.

On top of that, for the last 6 years of my education I had to learn French (and 1 year of German), which I also wasn’t good at. In the end I could probably speak better French than Irish.

Moving to Sweden and Swedish 
Fast forward to 4 years ago and I move to Sweden and begin to register for my personnummer so I could register and attend SFI classes (svenska för invandrare or Swedish for immigrants) and 6 months later I find myself sitting down attempting to learn my 5th language.

I started really well, but as I approach the end of my first year at it, I reach a plateau and nothing new seems to be sticking. I scrape by my final exams completing SFI in the year. I felt if I continued in full time Swedish language education the effort required would only increase exponentially so I decided instead to start looking for a job.

A few months later I land in an English speaking role where all my colleagues speak English throughout the day. This didn’t help my Swedish speaking skills.

The job did however help with my study of the Swedish language. Being around people speaking Swedish improved my understanding. I was able to follow conversations picking up the gist of what is being discussed by being helped with familiar words and English words that have bleed into Swedish. I still never spoke Swedish since I can express myself perfectly to everyone and they understand.

Getting work in Sweden (without Swedish) 
It’s difficult. I have a background in Business Information Systems and Teaching. I do not have Secondary School Swedish which is the level needed to teach in Sweden, so that rules teaching out. On the Business and IT side, there are companies that have a working language of English, but also require fluent Swedish. So that rules me out of a chance there too.

If I did have Secondary School Swedish, there would still be the hurdle of not having “Business Swedish”? I’m guessing this would be similar to “Business English”. I notice that there is classes for “Business English” where Swedes go and learn English (beyond the already fluent English they all speak) for a business context. I assume that those people don’t feel comfortable with their Secondary School English and want a course to prepare them for the English speaking workforce environment. How would the Swedish workplace be with just basic Secondary School Swedish and not another level of professionalism on top of that.

My only hope is to find that elusive job that will utilize my experiences and education while being in a fully English speaking environment.

My situation summed up. 
I don’t speak Swedish, but I can follow along conversations in Swedish. I can communicate with 99% of people in Sweden who I need to talk to. For me going back to school to learn Swedish for fluency would be like pulling teeth with no anaesthetic.

Also published to Medium

Monday, March 09, 2015

hbo nordic

I've been a HBO Nordic subscriber for the past year, but I'm going to stop today.

According to their website (only those in Nordic region can view this), they support the following:
1. Computer 
- PC and Mac only
2. Tablet/Mobile 
- iOS and Android only (I'm grouping these together since the lines between tablet and mobile are blurred anyway)
3. TV (three weak options)
- HBO is available as a 24 hour linear channel. More information will follow. (I've been waiting over a year, still no infomation)
- A small set of Smart TVs - Samsung TV's Series 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 (2011-2014)
- Running a HDMI Cable from your computer (I think this just confirms you can watch HBO Nordic on a computer)
4. Xbox 360

That is it.

They don't support any modern way of viewing TV.

  • No Chromecast Support
  • No Apple TV* Support
  • No Playstation 3 Support
  • No Playstation 4 Support
  • No Xbox One Support

*While they have support for AirPlay Mirroring on Apple TV, it is far from ideal. You have to play the show on your device and then mirror it to the Apple TV. This drains the battery on your device since it is playing on it and then displaying it on screen. I've also tested it and there is some lag, and blurred lines. It isn't a enjoyable viewing experience.

The only way I can watch HBO Nordic is on my Xbox 360. Even then I run into this problem:

I've been told many times I have to crawl under the TV where all the plugs are, unplug my Xbox, wait and replug it. It works sometimes, and other times it doesn't. What it always does it return back to the same Video Player Error screen after I finish an episode.

The year is 2015. It is a lot to ask for some proper device support? I can watch Netflix on every device mentioned in this post with no problems, as well as my LG Smart TV.

Finally, I have a post from February 2013 on the HBO Nordic Facebook page:
"Hela AirPlay" which was translated here as "All the AirPlay", I would understand as Full AirPlay still isn't here. Still only the mirroring option. Still no PS3 option, I guess their talks with Sony didn't go too well.

There are far better ways I can view HBO Nordics content, I tried the legitimate route, but they are forcing me to seek other ways to get the content.

Friday, June 07, 2013

sudocrem in sweden

I noticed a post today on Reddit about Sudocrem.

Sudocrem 1931 invented by Dublin pharmacist Thomas Smith. Sure where would we be without it? Every tub of Sudocrem sold worldwide is still made in Baldoyle.

Well holy god! Isn't that great!

That little grey tub that works wonders on nappy rash and is the leading baby cream in both Ireland and the UK was an Irish invention. I wonder if they sell it here in Sweden? I quick search on Apoteket.se for blöjeksem and blöjutslag shows 3 products available for that purpose. None of them Sudocrem.
  • Inotyol - 54kr for 50g (432kr for 400g)
  • Bepanthen - 55kr for 30g (733kr for 400g)
  • Generic brand Babysalva - 49kr for 60g (327kr for 400g)
Inotyol and Bepanthen seem to be the two favourites talking to a few people and looking at some of the forums. 

I put the price per 400g for a reason. The big 400g tub of Sudocrem on Boots.co.uk is currently £6.25 or about 64kr. Go back and look at the price per 400g for the options available here in Sweden.

Now imagine paying over 10 times the price of Sudocrem for something you're going to rub on the arse of a baby.

Welcome to Sweden.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Every website and service online asks me to input a web address in my "profile" and I always found it difficult to pick one. Do my mad ramblings on here get higher precedence over the obscure that I post to Tumblr or on Twitter or perhaps I want you to add me on Facebook? A personal landing page is perfect if you're looking to unify all your online profiles. And I have a few profiles.

For the past few years I've used flavors.me which served me well, but I never liked the design and there was a few options you had to pay for to tweek the page exactly how I liked it. There are others such as about.me and dooid.me which preform a similar function too.

I needed a domain for my new landing page, and eventually realising that the furniture store, who has without fail for the past 15+ years re-registered their domain darran.com on time, it is time to move on. Also the fuckers at the Irish Domain Registry only allow first and last names, plus the cost for an .ie domain (and cost of registered a business in my first name) is ridiculous, I'm quite happy to not buy Irish.

Last year while renewing and changing domain registrars from GoDaddy to NameCheap I decided to splash out and purchase my one first name domain, perfect for my own personal landing page.

I was inspired by a business card I saw a few years ago which had something similar to the image below. I loved the simplicity of it all.

After a year I finally got around to putting something on it that I'm not ashamed of. The design is from John over at TentBlogger, where he has loads of reasons why you should have a page like this and a few designs you can use. I modified his version using the iPhone image, but since there is a new version, I had to make a few more images to update the site! After all I do love my iPhone 5!

So for all things Darran Crowley visit darran.info.