Friday, November 25, 2005

The value of learning multiple languages

Last night I was talking with a 13 year old who is creating some impressive works in Photoshop. He created some very cool graphics for his Counter Strike clan web site. I have to admit that I was really blown away by what he created.

As we talked I asked him what he used to create the graphics, and that is when he told me about using Photoshop. I asked what else he was doing on the web and he replied "Some Javascipt ... and a little PHP." Wow ... I was surprised. We talked about Javascript, and although his knowledge was not incredibly deep, he had a good grasp of the basics of the language. I showed him some of the stuff that I have been working on lately and he asked some good questions. We then progressed to talking about PHP, and he explained some of the small things that he is learning there. Impressive.

What struck me today is the shift in learning to "speak" different "languages". Decades ago, or even hundreds of years ago, it was seen as important to learn to speak other languages from around the globe. People in non-English speaking countries learned English. Most of the schools here in the USA taught middle and high-school students Spanish, French, German, and other languages. (I actually spent years learning Spanish ... although it is very rusty at this point!) It always seemed to me that the intent was to give me a leg up on interacting with people of other countries and origins. I have, from time to time, found value in my Spanish learning.

Today it now appears that the future is more in "talking" to computers and the Internet. And so now it seems there is more value in learning "computer" languages ... then "foriegn" langauges. As I thought about this today, I realized that this is probably true. More and more people from around the globe are learning English, and much of the Internet - and computer technology in general - is based on English. So where do children turn? To "interacting" with computers. And so understanding the languages used by computers is becoming more and more important.

Its fun to think about the evolution of computer langauges, and to see the various roots of the popular langauges. In addition, most of the scripting languages are becoming so high-level, and the component libraries so rich, that even a beginner at programming can create powerful applications. With the Internet as a platform, Web Services, XML, RSS, and many other standards are emerging as the APIs independent of operating system ... or programming "langauge". I can only imagine what a 13 year old, who today is learning Javascript and PHP, might be developing in 5 or 10 years. I know that it will be fun to see!


Post a Comment

<< Home