Why Programming Languages Are Predominantly In English

by Dan

Every language has a set of rules and vocabulary and computer language hasn’t been left behind. Its rules are known as syntax and are in English. This has always been since the birth of software development. Looking at BASIC – among the first common languages – and other modern languages like C# and Java reveals that all of them have English as their syntax.

Languages developed for other purposes such as declarative and mark-up languages like XSLT and HTML and query languages like SQL also have an English syntax. More languages are coming up to fulfill the need for functional and responsive programming and even those are mostly based on English. English is the common denominator here and you are probably wondering how come?

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English is simple in structure

Well, some may disagree but one of the reasons is that English is a simple language. It has no special additions like accents, officially known as diacritical marks. Coding is all about basic words that perform a specific action and English generally fits the bill. Even with that, the English used in coding is more like computer language and not something you would regularly use in conversation. Non-native speakers can therefore easily blend in and get their programming on. Look at it like music. Most musical terms are in Italian but does everyone know the actual meaning of the words? They know what they stand for, what action they represent though.

Andrey Mima, a startup founder and a developer and non-native English speaker himself, says that English words used in a programming language are abstract to non-native speakers. They learn it as a foreign language in itself and is not comparable to the spoken English they later learn. Some even went on to develop languages like Ruby which was invented by a Japanese developer, C++ by a Danish developer and Linux by a Finnish developer.

Pioneers in the tech world spoke English

Another reason is that most of the companies that created and popularized the first programming languages happened to be American. Most of the research and development in STEM fields has been carried out in the United States so the use of English was inevitable. Those interested in such fields therefore had to learn English so that they can fit in and be understood amongst their peers. Many European scientists immigrated to the United States for cultural and governmental issues in their home countries. They came with the know-how and passed it across in a language that their hosts understood.

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This is not to say that there are no exceptions. Far from it: you will find programming languages based on other languages but are not widely used. Some even died off with time while others are used to teach beginners the basics. There is one new language known as WLanguage and it combines English, French and Russian (you wonder whether English wasn’t enough of a foreign language). Others are based on no language at all like machine code.

Learn coding and stay relevant

The tech explosion in the world shows that coding is the future, even though some say that it will morph to images and symbols instead of English. English remains the operating language all over the world and languages like Java and C# are used over a variety of enterprises. If you would like more information on coding or want to become a fully fledged programmer, take a look at TheSoftwareGuild’s coding boot camps.

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