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The ugly American programmer

The Ugly American ProgrammerThe Coding Horror blog started an interesting discussion around the use of English by programmers around the world. Most commenters seem to agree with the use of English, in part because programming environments often don't accept accented/special characters.

While there are some non-English-based programming languages, most are more-or-less US-centric (i.e., to make sense of keywords, standard library functions, etc., you really need to know at least some English to make sense of it).

An interesting adjunct to this: Is English a "good" choice? Many people argue that as one of the more difficult languages to learn, English is less than ideal as a global programming and business language (Language Log has a good article on the comparative difficulties associated with learning English).

As one of the comments on Coding Horror points out:

The problem is that the native speakers of English are both numerous and wealthy. The only languages in the same league in numbers are Spanish and Chinese, and the acquisition problems for Chinese are worse than English. If we're talking about nonnative acquisition, then Chinese is worse, in that few non-native Chinese speakers speak a Sino-Tibetan language, while many non-native English speakers speak Indo-European languages, so the proximity is better. Of course, Spanish is an Indo-European language too, and is a language that has lots of native speakers, and is much easier to acquire than English.

If we were to switch, (New World) Spanish is the only language that can seriously be argued as a better option as a world language.
So, what do you think? English, Spanish, Chinese or maybe even Finnish, which, I was surprised to see, is supposedly one of the easier languages to learn?

2 Comments:

  1. Brian Barker said...
    I think Esperanto should be within the frame as well.
    Adam Asnes said...
    The limitation isn't so much that functions, methods and classes for programming languages are ASCII/English based. Given that programmers often work across cultures on source code, you don't particularly want diversity in language showing up in a programming language. I think this post misses the point of what internationalization is. When you internationalize code, you really don't care that programming languages have an English base. It's irrelevant to the function and behavior of the code. You can read more articles regarding software internationalization here: http://www.lingoport.com/category/software-internationalization-articles

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