Bonjour, Monsieur Bot.
Three months into Codecademy’s popular Code Year project, however, tech bloggers are starting to wonder why. What’s the point? ponders Canadian novelist/software engineer Jon Evans in Tech Crunch. Few of these people will ever become proficient enough at it to become developers. And he's probably right.
The significant danger is that most of them will learn to parrot it, without really having a functional grasp of the fundamentals of computational thinking. Heck, Evans explains, there are people right now graduating from Computer Science courses, barely functional because their professors are forced to spend too much time teaching the remedial stuff they could and should be learning in middle school. Learning code part time, he argues is a little like learning French because you want to vacation in Paris. When you get there, you’ll probably discover you can’t even get through a conversation.
I’m not fluent in code, and I’m not sure I aspire to be. I just discovered by chance when I signed up for Code Year in January, that it was something I enjoyed learning. So for that reason, and because my 11 year son seems to also enjoy learning it too, I’m keeping it up.
I am, however, fluent in French. Not because I love the language (though it’s hard not to love. Frustrating as it often is, it does grow on you). I live in Montreal. So, while I’m not equipped at this point to decide whether or not learning code is a waste of time, I'm confident pointing out some of the major differences between code and French.
French is harder. Much harder. It has rules for writing that are totally different from rules for spoken French. You can learn it at your mother’s knee, and there will always be somebody who will be happy to tell you your French is not good enough. Believe me, in Paris, a bilingual Montrealer will always discover someone who will try to make her feel vaguely imbecile. And even in Montreal, La Presse describes Mad Men, Jessica Paré’s French as cassé (broken).Code is Math. And it’s a lot more math than language.How easily you learn code is pretty much going to depend on a combination of grit and innate perceptual reasoning ability. How do you know if you have this? You could take a serious IQ test, or you can just ask yourself how much you liked math as a kid. If you did, you may be a good candidate for adult code learning. If you hated it, not so much. Yes, code has similarities to languages, in that there is a syntax, and each branch of code has different idioms. But believe me, this is math.You don't have to have taken calculus to understand it, but if you want to learn it in any depth you should be the kind of person who always did your algebra homework first.
Code is Everywhere. In this way it is like a language. But it’s not a foreign language. It runs your social network, guards you bank accounts, enables and prevents you from sharing music, film, information. And the more you learn about it, the more you will see it everywhere. The more attenuated you will be to learning facts like, two thirds of Wikipedia’s most active editors are bots, or the fascinating and eccentric ways code is being used these days in the fine arts. Computer code is not likely to become a “foreign” language anytime soon. It is increasingly becoming one the dominant forms of communication in of our civilization.
That code is everywhere, might make it different from French, to you.
That makes it the same as French for me.
In my lifetime, I saw French become the official language of government, commerce and basically, life. I saw what happened to a generation of young unilingual Montrealers who couldn’t even get a job working in a restaurant because they weren’t functional in a language that what was really OBVIOUSLY, FOR A LONG TIME, the dominant language of the place they lived in. And even with good French, and a family that’s lived here for generations, there are days when I still feel like an immigrant.
So, even if too many, or the wrong people are learning code, I still believe this is a good thing.