Stop telling kids that programming is a ‘foreign language’


Do you think computer programming should count as a foreign language credit in US schools? New Mexico does. So do legislators in  Kentucky and Washington and several other states, with more on the horizon as fears about US students’ STEM deficiencies increase.

At first glance, the idea of letting kids study Swift instead of Spanish may seem appealing. We all know computer programming is an important skill, so it would be nice if it was promoted from elective status in schools, and there are plenty of superficial parallels between code and natural languages: both come from large families, so picking up your eighth declarative programming language is a lot easier than learning your first; both have concepts of grammar, syntax and so on.

The ways in which this idea is terrible are also apparent at first glance, and agreed on by both linguists and computer scientists. A quick rundown of some highlights:

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Stop telling kids that programming is a ‘foreign language’