Language Instinct

» 06 January 2004 » In Opinion, Tech »

Simon Willison writes:

Looking back on 2003, one thing really stuck out for me: I didn’t learn a new programming language. The Pragmatic Programmers recommend learning at least one new language every year. . .

One new language every year? I have to question the validity of this advice. Programming language is just a tool, after all – the important thing is the knowledge of algorithms, complexity theory, data structures, protocols, and general computer science problem solving. The differences between mainstream languages may be significant, but the commonalities are overwhelming. The same solution can be implemented in roughly the same way in most of them. Knowing a language just for its own sake reeks a bit of hubris, in my humble opinion. Being comfortable with one language in each category makes more sense: one functional (Lisp, Scheme), one object-oriented (Java, C#), one scripting (Perl, Python, PHP), and a couple of specialty ones (SQL, HTML) provide a solid base and enable you to learn similar languages quicker, if need be.
Simon is probably going to resort to learning Snobol and INTERCAL in a couple of years, but that’s his choice. 🙂

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