Coding -- English only?


i had just bookmarked that for later reading about 10 minutes ago.

Airlines Pilots to talk to air traffic control - you need to speak English.


I’ve never really thought of HTML as a “programming language” or “code”… it’s a markup/formatting language…

If you take a look at the guts of a Microsoft Word DOCX file - it’s a zip file with a bunch of xml in it - it’s not “code” (I guess it kinda is) - when I think of code, I think of algorithms and logic and looping (but that’s just me).

First time I ever did some html - I used vi - or - bbedit on a Mac… circa 1995? But also, just for shits n giggles, I once edited a website hosted in “~username/index.html” on my ISP using MS-DOS edlin :smiley: before uploading (anyone remember “edlin”? If you thought “vi” was a tad cryptic - checkout MS-DOS “edlin”!)

But it’s an interesting article never-the-less… thanks for posting! I’ve bookmarked it along with all my other “to read” items in my “TL;DR” bookmark - which I shall get to one of these days - I’m due for retirement in 8 years :smiley:

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It is better that way and it should be that way.

  1. Code is already hard to understand, especially when it is foolishly documented in a minimalistic manner. It would only complicate stuff further if your code is only understandable by your country members.
  2. Last time I have seen code written in the language I use most of the time, I had to cringe a lot and didn’t want to understand why my friend wouldn’t use English for programming purposes.
  3. People should generally be forced to learn more and better English, because it connects people over borders and makes everyone understandable. In my opinion, one of the worst things when cultures meet is when one culture isn’t able to explain certain “exotic” behaviour to the other culture, because they simply can’t communicate in a manner both would understand.
  4. Most people I personally met in my life, that didn’t know English are of the following types:
    i. They aren’t educated enough.
    ii. They are ignorant.
    iii. They are egocentric.
    iv. They are close-minded.
  5. The others that seemed way smarter and more intelligent in general to me also by default knew English at least to a level where you could talk with them fine without major communication issues.
  6. Complaining about certain professions being mainly accessible in certain languages is a fallacy, if you don’t stay true to your presumption. If you stay true to them, then you have to also complain that most of medicine consists of Latin. Where I live, you have to know a lot of French words without speaking French, at all, not only because of certain professions but also because of day-to-day things that simply have a French name attached to it. In Math, etc. you use a lot of greek, etc. Anyone complaining about that? I don’t think so. If someone would complain about that, I couldn’t take them seriously, anymore.

These are mostly my personal reasons for why people should be more pushed to actually learn to use English instead of complaining “ooh, this game not translate in my language buthututu, please translate, sorry for my english bad”.

Because of those reasons I use all my electronic appliances and its software in English. Last time I got a video game that is location restricted for my birthday, I gave it back because I couldn’t afford to cringe so much when playing the game in my main language. It’s weird and unnatural to consume things that are meant to be used and created within an English speaking environment in your own language.
My family originally hails from a country where all the American cowboy movies were shown in English and you actually had to view the subtitles in your own language for understanding. No one there would’ve wished for a voice synchronisation in their own language, as it would be extremely weird to see a cowboy speak in an exotic language not fitting those people depicted, at all.

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Interesting article liked the fact that it highlighted the fact that there is no need for it be written in any language at all and could be written in symbols. I liked the historical references as to why it is written in English now and the references back to Latin. Who knows where we shall be in 100 years time or even 50, or less. Now we only see things as always being written in English, perhaps then it will be as understandable as Latin is to most today. Mandarin Chinese (1.1 billion speakers) is the most widely spoken now with English on being spoken by 983 million and other languages growing. The conclusion that can be drawn is that while it was originally written in one language doesn’t mean it will continue to be so, that is a lesson history teaches.
Thanks for sharing this thought provoking article Cliff

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The first book related to what can be broadly called coding – or computers – that I ever read was on Fortran II (yes, those were the times, that was my first programming language), and it was in Russian. I’d borrowed it, so I don’t have it now, and I don’t remember the author, nor do I know whether it was an original or a translation. But in any case it had a preface which mentioned, among other things, that programming (still a very new thing anywhere at the time) was being introduced to students in Soviet schools, and many found it quite easy. But doesn’t this mean that the students are expected to know English? the writer asked, and answered: Not at all, because all those words – DIMENSION, IF, END, and the rest – aren’t English to them, they’re just Fortran!

Now if half a century ago it was seen as normal that a Russian-speaking teenager would not be daunted by SUBROUTINE but today an English-speaking programmer is expected not to want to tinker with <заголовок>, this probably means something.

There is one thing about English though. It is uncommonly well suited for coding. Its words are versatile and short. The word DO is two characters long, and is fast to type. In a Russianised version of a programming language (there are several) it tends to be rendered as ВЫПОЛНИТЬ, which is unwieldy, unless it is abbreviated to ВЫП, but then the code won’t read as a regular text anyway.

The author says that what is "birth_place = " on the English Wikipedia is "роден-място = " on the Bulgarian one. But unlike birth_place in English, роден-място is not a well-formed expression in Bulgarian: it looks like a distortion of either роден(а) на място ‘born in place’ or родно място ‘native place’. So yes, the words are in the local language, but the overall effect is not the same.

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I, too, think that there should be some sort of “unified” language, or in better words, a language spoken and understood nearly around the whole world.
English is the Microsoft of languages, I guess… :wink:


English is (I believe) the world language. I’ve been to over 25 countries and speaking only English was not a problem.

What a great way of putting it. Applause.


Partially agree and partially disagree with you, Akito.

Knowing English surely gives you an edge and you can communicate with people from around the world, learn more things on your own from the web. But at the same time knowing English is also considered as the mark of intelligence and education (happens in India and many part of the world) which is not true. One can be an expert in his/her field without knowing English. It’s a language after all.

One more risk of putting more emphasis on English is the dominance over the local languages. This is happening in India where children these days cannot even write a complete sentence in a language other than English. More emphasis should be put on being multilingual.

“These are mostly my personal reasons for why people should be more pushed to actually learn to use English instead of complaining “ooh, this game not translate in my language buthututu, please translate, sorry for my english bad”.”

This I disagree. While the programmers MUST know some level of English to code their software, the end-user SHOULD NOT need to learn English just to play a game or use an application. When you want your software to be used by a bigger userbase, supporting other languages becomes important. You cannot just tell a potential user that if you want to use my software, you’ll have to learn English first.

This is coming from my observation here in India where companies like Uber, Amazon launched their apps in local languages and saw a huge rise in their market-base. This enabled a large population that is no comfortable with English to use their applications.

This is my opinion of course :slight_smile:


It’s not only that, it’s for a big part also a cultural pacifier. It makes people understand each other better, in general. Not only when it is about the job, profession or something like that. Generally in life, it is needed that people can understand each other, as they already misunderstand each other when speaking the same language, which gets a million times worse when not even this requirement is given.

Logically, you are right. Empirically, I would disagree. If you meet smart and intelligent people, they tend to speak English at least on a very basic level and understand it very well. The reason for that is, that the more you educate yourself the harder it is to avoid anything English. So if you really go for education and really study something then you have no choice but to get in contact with the English language and at least learn it enough to understand some sources you need to educate yourself properly. Especially, when learning with the use of the internet and not only a physical library you will need to understand English. Nowadays, who educates themselves so much without using the internet, at all?

Very much depends on the field. I couldn’t take a programmer serious in the year 2019 if they wouldn’t know English, at all. Same applies to someone studying the native language of their own country. If you study any language, you should also know English to some degree, as it is one of the most used languages on the world.

I must disagree with this strongly. I understand this as “this is only a language”. Language is an extremely important part of human kind. It is definitely not just a tool to communicate. In fact, language forms our thinking, rather than the other way around. The language you speak actually changes the way you think! Therefore, this is hardly “just a tool”. Additionally, it is proven that children that grow up bilingual, trilingual or more, very much tend to grow up to much more intelligent beings. Basically, if you grow up your child with several languages, you can be very sure that it won’t drop below a certain intelligence level, because the languages make it smart. This conclusion from empirical data also just confirms what I said about language forming and influencing our thinking.

I heard this and understand where this is currently coming from. I personally don’t agree with it, as I rather have a child speaking English very well and the native language not so well, opposed to the opposite, as an example. But this is just my view on it.

That’s the big issue with the previous statement. In theory, that sounds great. In practice, it tends to be very problematic. I grew up multi-lingual, myself. I know a lot of people who grew up multi-lingual. The common problem we all share is that every language we speak we “only” know to speak in a skill level of let’s say 90%. It is never 100%. So even the language you speak the most, won’t be the one you speak truly perfectly on the same level as someone who only uses this one language. This means, especially as a child, that you will be prone to having trouble communicating in one of the languages. Adding to that fact, there is usually one of those languages that is chosen (most of the time not by yourself) to be the language #1. This is the one you speak the most and know the best. The other languages will always be secondary, except you change your life a lot, like moving to an entirely different country. So from that perspective, again, I rather have my child speak top notch English and the native language just about enough to communicate, instead of being able to use both languages relatively poorly.

Yes, should not need, but I think everyone should, as in, it is better for everyone. I mean, you don’t need to eat fruits and vegetables to survive. You can eat only meat, french fries and hamburgers and you will survive. But I would say everyone should, as in, it is better for everyone, to eat fruits and vegetables, also.

Actually, that is what I plan to do for part of my distributed software, at least where I would find it absolutely dumb if there seemed to be a need for translation. :joy:

That said, I can assure you a 100%, that these companies don’t do it to support anyone. They just want more money and more money comes from more customers, that’s all. Never trust a capitalistic company, ever.

And I am happy to read and reply to it. Thanks for sharing.

P.S.: I already translated a lot of software, so I it’s not like I hate all translated software. The last one I translated for the most part is SQRL.

I’m not sure about that. I imagine that for a scholar of Basque or Quechua, for example, Spanish is indispensable, whereas English is perhaps desirable but hardly essential.

If that is so (and we don’t know to what extent it is, as Sapir–Whorf’s hypothesis in its strong form is unproven, but I fully agree that language is more than a tool to communicate), it is a very powerful argument for enabling people to choose the language they want to use, rather than having English imposed to them unconditionally.

Very true, but that is also an argument against English being the only choice, isn’t it? People used to be more multilingual (and language-aware) some 30 years ago, when English wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is now.

My impression is that people who try to suppress their native language in favour of English (or whatever the dominant language of the time and place is) are likely to end up knowing neither properly. Fortunately, this is not a choice one needs to make. (Unfortunately, many do.)

Still, I think it’s better to have 90% vision in both eyes than 100% in one and none (or next to none) in the other.

It’s interesting that you compare English to fruit and vegetables. To my mind English is the French fries (or chips) and hamburgers. The McDonalds as well as the Microsoft of languages.

But if they’ve found out that they can get more customers that way, why can’t we take notice?

I was talking about it more from a principal perspective. English as the main language in our case. You could, theoretically, subsitute it for any other language that crystallized itself as the most used (not in numbers) language of the world.

Again, see above. I mean it from a perspective where Language A is the main language of the world. Therefore, it is good to know this language. That said, you could apply this to any other language, but of course, from my view, the main language would have even more benefits than a randomly chosen one.

Being the only choice as a secondary language in a bi-lingual scenario or literally the only language? In principle, I am for bi-lingual upbringing. The choice of English is just a more pragmatic one, from my point of view. The theory of multi-lingual upbringing applies to any language(s), though.

How was that the case? I’m curious.

Oh, no! I don’t want anyone to suppress any knowledge gaining, especially regarding languages. I meant, that if I had the choice, hypothetically, like being in a video game where you choose your skills when creating the character. In practice, I wouldn’t want anyone to be forced to know e.g. English better, just because of the reasons already mentioned. If the person tends to speak the native language better than English, this is not a problem to me, at all. It just would be better, if English was the #1, from my view, that’s all. But I don’t include force into this expectation, this would not make sense, at all, for the goals I am trying to reach.

I agree with that statement. I didn’t explain it good enough. I was thinking of
(As an example.):

  1. Language A 60%
  2. Language B 55%
  3. Language C 38%

(100% = absolutely top notch, you speak and understand better than any linguist)

The problem with this is, that no matter which one you choose, you will have trouble communicating. So, as I tried to show, I’d rather have the following scenario (As an example):

  1. Language A 96%
  2. Language B 46%
  3. Language C 23%

(100% = absolutely top notch, you speak and understand better than any linguist)

Because then you can always rely on Language A, if you really need to express yourself clearly.

I want to clarify: I compare Main Language of the World to fruit and vegetables, not English, per sé.

I absolutely agree. I learn to cope with that every day when I experience how much I can do with that language. This is especially easy to see when I notice how much a few of my friends are missing, because of the sheer amount of English-only content I consume that I couldn’t even share with them. It’s crazy how much they miss. That said, french fries are easy. English is easy. Another argument for learning this widely spoken language! There is no excuse like “it’s too hard to learn…”. An international language should be french fries, as everyone can have a taste of it and should, as it is a powerful tool and you can easily connect with anyone when sharing your french fries out of kindness. It’s harder to make friends by sharing your favourite fish soup with too much salt in it.

We should always take notice and be aware of things happening. That done, they still did it out of entirely egoistic reasons, so why should we take notice in a positive manner (as I felt you implied that we should do that)?

Even though the original topic is not directly related to Linux or open source, I think we have had a healthy discussion so far. Now, let’s put our energy to other Linux related topics.

I am closing this thread now.

Enjoy the (rest of the) weekend, people :beers: