Opinion

Programming serves as a language

If that French class is full and Chinese doesn’t fit your schedule, you might want to flip through the computer science or engineering course catalog and pick up a class on programming instead.

Programming languages, like C++ or Java, aren’t natural languages. They didn’t develop without premeditation, like English, which has been evolving for centuries, and they can’t be picked up by a baby with normal language acquisition skills. Created as a way to give instructions to computers, programming languages won’t give you a common language ground with another person in the way Italian might, but they might change the way you express thoughts and ideas.

Computers may be fast and powerful, but they’re not smart. Giving executable instructions to a blank screen, with no mind of its own, requires a certain kind of communication skill. You can’t assume any shared experiences with a computer; you need to know how to give instructions from the bottom up, which requires thinking quite hard about what you’re trying to accomplish.

If someone handed you ten numbered cards and asked you to put them in order, it would hardly be a challenge. But if that person had never heard of sorting before, and asked you to give a detailed account of the logic behind the process, what would you say?

Learning how to communicate with a machine may not help you from getting lost in a foreign country, but it does teach you to navigate problems and express your thoughts with a clearer perspective. Programming accustoms you to constructing a plan of action before diving in. We can all benefit from taking an extra five minutes to think about what we’re trying to say before saying it.

After writing a program that can add up two thousand-digit numbers faster than a person can say “supercalculator,” a 10-page English paper no longer seems quite so daunting. It’s one thing to be able to say hola or bonjour. It’s another entirely, but no less worthwhile, to declare cout << “Hello, world!”;

 

Alexa Langen is a sophomore majoring in English and history.

April 20, 2014

Reporters

Alexa Langen


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

The mid-major monster nearly mauled the Miami Hurricanes again. But Miami bit back. Miami’s past thr ...

TCU coach Gary Patterson doesn’t like the way college football is trending when it comes to transfer ...

Oklahoma has its Oklahoma Drills. But the fired-up U has its own version of major college football p ...

Day Three of University of Miami football practice media viewing Friday inside the Carol Soffer Indo ...

Three-point defense isn’t enough of a weakness for the Miami Hurricanes to call it a full-fledged Ac ...

The School of Nursing and Health Studies’ global research training program for minority students is ...

The University of Miami community gathered to remember the victims of the deadly New Zealand mosque ...

Culminating "an awesome, institution-wide effort," the Miller School of Medicine is celebr ...

Activist Claudio Rojas was featured in a documentary film, “The Infiltrators,” which is critical of ...

Associate professors William Pestle and Kathleen Sullivan Sealey traveled with students over spring ...

The fourth-seeded Miami women's basketball team opened NCAA Tournament play with a 69-62 triump ...

University of Miami redshirt sophomore Alicia Blagg saved her best for last at the 2019 NCAA Swimmin ...

In a battle between two of the ACC's best pitchers, No. 5 NC State mustered a fifth-inning rall ...

The Hurricanes top Duke, 4-3, to improve to 6-0 in conference action. ...

The Miami track and field team concluded day one of the Power 5 Trailblazer Challenge competing in t ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.