Learning languages has always been part of schools’ programs all over the world. When we talk about language we are in fact talking about linguistics which is the science of languages. Every language has the same linguistic fields : syntax, semantics, pragmatics, phonology, morphology, as well as various interdisciplinary areas such as socio-linguistics and psycholinguistics. Languages in this perspective are called natural languages : they are learnt, taught, and used for social communication. Today, a new language has come upon the scene to gain a special value among its users and learners : it is the programming language. Such a language consists in the application of codes in a precise and pre-defined way.
No one can negate the importance of coding and how far we have gone thanks to it. A wide array of websites, softwares, games, blogs, platforms, and forums have been developed by virtue of programming language, which makes it worth learning and worth investigating. Coding has opened new horizons for creation, innovation, and financial gains. That’s why a wide range of people of different ages, nowadays, are more inclined to learn programming than to learn a new natural language. This argument has led to heated debates concerning whether or not programming language has to be taught as a second language at school. It is a delicate decision that has proponents and opponents. The following are arguments illustrating both sides.
- The earlier the better
Programming language has to be considered as a second language that is taught as a main subject in schools for various reasons. First, students have to experiment with such a language as they did with natural languages for the sake of giving their minds the chance to process the meaning and the procedures of coding. Introducing students to intense learning of coding would help them develop computer science skills at an early age, which would allow them to be creative and innovative at an early stage of their life.
The main reason why programming should be taught as a second language is the fact that such a language should be instilled in the students’ minds just as a second language could be. At the cognitive level, many first and second language acquisition experiments have proven that the earlier a language is learnt, the better it is processed and comprehended by the mind.
- Boosting the cognitive system
Besides, there is a great likelihood that if learnt at school, like any natural language, coding would enrich the cognitive system and would be stored in the long-term memory rather than in the working memory. Hence, the codes learnt are stored in and retrieved from the cerebral cortex. If the students’ brain can comprehend a spoken and a written naturale language, then it can also process a programming language through the same cerebral area which is Wernicke’s area.
- Language and Computer Science are mutually-inclusive
In that, it would be a promising revolution to include programming as a second language at school. It is not that surprising to accept such an act on the account that we are already familiar with sub-fields that unite computer science and linguistics such as computational linguistics. This would inevitably empower linguistic interdisciplinarity and create a new linguistic amalgamation : hybrid bilingualism and multilingualism.
- Structural and conceptual differences
Opponents of the idea of programming as a second language at school never cease to express their objections to such approach for a variety of factors. As a matter of fact, for them, programming language should never gain supremacy over the majesty of natural language, neither should they be considered at the same level. At the structural level, natural languages are rich enough ; they encompass declaratives, interrogatives, imperatives, interjections, etc. Yet, programming language is basically limited to imperatives—commands. Another distinction that widens the gap between both types of language is the vocabulary. In natural languages, speakers may use any term, yet coding language lacks morphology.
- The poverty of linguistic features
It is also true that the programming language is moodless and aspectless, unlike natural languages that can be expressed in various moods such as the indicative and the subjunctive as well as in different aspects, for example, the present perfect, and the past perfect. Natural language seems to be more authentic than the language of coding. In the former, we have many pragmatic ways for expressing one idea; in the latter we should abide by only one pre-established structure. The programming language is void of the human linguistic touch that manifests itself in certain features such as implicatures, intention, and presuppositions.
Moreover, natural languages are contextualized, they occur in different speech events and conversational contexts ; on the contrary, programming language has been perceived as meaningless and machine-oriented, which is not true of natural languages that grant us the possibility of communicating spontaneously. Considering the idea of programming as a second language would not benefit the students as much as it would lead them to be hooked on computer science at the expense of learning other foreign languages. This idea is also supported by experts at Essay Zoo who are firm believers that programming language could not substitute the value of learning a natural foreign language as a second language.
To wrap up, programming language and natural language cannot be two sides of the same coin on the account that each has its own structures, internal configuration, and mechanisms. They have certain aspects in common, like the way they present themselves in the brain and how they are processed and memorized. Notwithstanding, this does not legitimize the primacy of coding over foreign natural languages when it comes to the definition of a second language.