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how important is english when programming?

 
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Splitting from this thread because I want to discuss the topic without hijacking the original poster's thread.

Henry Pinkerton wrote:

What if the code isn't being written in English?



This is a strange question. English is not a programming lanuguage, so no executable code can ever be written in English.

However, English like every other programming language has a syntax and a grammar and rules. Learning and following the rules of any language is strongly related to the activity of writing good computing code.



Henry: Fair enough. Code isn't written in English. It is written in (let's say) Java with variable names, method names, comments in a human language such as English. In order for code to be easily readable and maintainable that human language should be a lanuguage known to all members of the team.

Using these definitions, how important is it to write English well if your human language for the code is written in say German? Especially if English is only used for posting in internet forums. Clearly enough English to communicate is important. But grammar takes time to learn. If the point gets across anyway, is it ok?

I have to admire people who post here despite not being fluent in English. By one post on a Brazillian site was in English. If I had tried posting in Portuguese, it would have been from Babelfish and likely completely mangled!
 
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I think that there's a big difference between posts using incorrect grammar and punctuation due to a language barrier versus plain old sloppiness.

The same amount of care put into writing code should be put into posting here.
 
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Bear Bibeault wrote:
The same amount of care put into writing code should be put into posting here.



Agreed. When I see other people's code, having it well documented, with good spelling and grammar, is highly appreciated. This is why I also document code that I write in well written English.


Of course, there was this one time when I had to work with code, that was well documented, and probably with good spelling and grammar... not that I would know, as it was in French. Even though the comments were useless to me, it kinda showed the quality of the code, so still somewhat appreciated.

Henry
 
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I had to work with code written in German once. The code was horrible. It did not help that the variables were all named in German. The code was parsing HTML files to get data out of it, so you can imagine my predicament. A simple code change involving < 10 lines took about a week to make. As for why they were parsing the HTML file, that is another story all together. Sheesh
 
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If you are getting code written by a speaker of another language, surely you can find somebody to translate?
 
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As mentioned, there's a big difference between posts using incorrect grammar and punctuation due to a language barrier versus plain old sloppiness.

Since this is an English-based forum, then helping non-English members understand how to write English clearly and correctly is a good thing, in my opinion. I'm also very confident that it will help them read English and understand it better as well. And this most likely will help them understand the highly technical material that is posted here on the Ranch.

"How important is English when programming?"

I imagine that there are many technical books written in languages other than English. However, in regards to clearly understanding programming books written in English, then strong reading comprehension skills are very important, in my opinion. No one simply and magically starts writing and designing code, there is a learning process that must occur and must continuously occur as technology is constantly evolving. Reading correctly is very important and hence writing correctly is important as well.
 
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Henry Pinkerton wrote:Since this is an English-based forum, then helping non-English members understand how to write English clearly and correctly is a good thing, in my opinion.


Well, this is a Java-based forum and posting in English is required, though. But most of the users here are not expecting any help regarding the language when they post something on the forum. IMO, frequently pointing them to their grammatical errors is contrary to the friendly nature of JavaRanch.
 
Jimmy Clark
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Devaka, your opinion is certainly appreciated. Do you think that you understand what "most of the users" are expecting? And how are you measuring "frequently"?
 
Bear Bibeault
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I will point out errors in grammar, punctuation, and word usage when I feel that it impedes the understanding of the point that the user is trying to get across.

If the post is unreadable, it's not going to get answers.

I don't see anything unfriendly about that -- it's helping the poster get better, quicker answers.

I will also point out sloppy errors, especially in titles, that will prevent people searching for a topic at a later point from being able to find the topic. Sloppy titles are unfriendly to the rest of the membership.

Good communication skills, especially written skills in this Internet Age, I do believe are essential to being a successful software dweeb.

Of course this could all be done in an unfriendly manner -- "You dolt! Don't you know that you should never end a sentence with a freaking preposition?!?!" -- which would not be the Ranch way.

When I was in Catholic school, bad grammar would get you rapped across the knuckles with a wooden pointer. I don't think that's the Ranch way either.
 
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Bear Bibeault wrote:
Of course this could all be done in an unfriendly manner -- "You dolt! Don't you know that you should never end a sentence with a freaking preposition?!?!" -- which would not be the Ranch way.



I'm Iowan....we are notorious for ending sentences in prepositions. I always say things like "Where's my coat at?".

I always try to correct laziness and sloppyness, but try to do it politely. I feel that if a person is going to post and is asking for help, it should be in a clear, clean manner. If it is pretty obvious that the person isn't a native English speaker, I may correct or I may not, depending on how the post is written. If it is pretty obvious what the question is and it is fairly understandable I will let it be. If the post can be made significantly clearer, though, I will try to assist. I hope that the poster can use my advice to not only get their own question answered, but also understand other posts of the same nature.
 
Campbell Ritchie
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I think a preposition is something acceptable to end a sentence with.

It may be unfortunate that English is becoming, de facto, a lingua franca in computing, the net, etc. All well and good for those of us who grew up speaking English; we can usually correct grammatical or spelling errors almost unconsciously in "ordinary" English. It is more difficult to correct for sloppy use of jargon, eg writing "overloaded" instead of "overridden", because those terms have very specific meanings in Java.
For those who grew up speaking different languages it is more difficult because they may have difficulty with sloppy grammar. Rob and Jesper are exceptions, however, since 99% of the population of Holland speak better English than 99% of the population of England .
I would suggest that using clear simple explanations in comments and descriptions is more useful; whichever language they are in, they ought to be easy to translate.

Back to what I say about pseudocode: get it down to words of one syllable.

Grammatical and spelling errors can, however, be disastrous in job applications. If a company have 200 applications for 1 job, any CVs with such errors in will be rejected out of hand.
Note that last sentence would probably come out as . . .

If a company has 200 applications for 1 job, any resumes with such errors in will be rejected out of hand.

. . . in America, so as to prove that English varies from place to place.
 
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I know a song that teaches the prepositions, set to Yankee Doodle. Only thing I remember from 8th grade, actually.....

As for American English/English English, I had no idea what people were talking about on this site when referring to CVs for about 4 months. I had never heard that term, and was very confused. I am glad to see the English end their sentences with prepositions too!
 
Campbell Ritchie
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Sorry it's late, but there is a quite attributed to Winston Churchill about "things up with which I will not put."

"Pu up with" is a sort of composite verb which incorporates an word otherwise used as a preposition, so " . . . will put up with." is what you say.
 
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I think program technique is more important than any luaguage which used to communicate, for now if you are writting some machine program perhaps you could not agreen with me, That's sure you can't complete any a runnable piece of program even simple hello example if you have not learn Java. but let' me get a think how to learn Java, more common and popular style is learn from other people, Now the luaguage is only way to communicate.
The Java is used to communicate for humman with machine, the english is used to communicate for human with human, why our ancestor could invent so extremely greate machine called computer, In root it can be used by ourseives to create more valuable products and reduce our cost. For a java devloper, mostly of time we need to create software for customer according by requirement, the question is how to exactly and really get the customer need. this is time for luaguage.
 
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That about sums it up, I think.
 
David Newton
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(Copied from original thread.)

Henry Pinkerton wrote:This is a strange question. English is not a programming lanuguage [sic], so no executable code can ever be written in English.


It's a perfectly reasonable question; the bulk of code isn't reserved words--it's variables, methods (if your language separates the two concepts), comments, etc., which are often *not* written in English.

Learning and following the rules of any language is strongly related to the activity of writing good computing code. (and earlier) The practice of writing correct English is strongly related to the activity of writing good code.


Those sentences aren't equivalent; English doesn't have anything to do with writing good code. There is also, of course, the phenomenon of people who couldn't write their way out of a box still being able to produce wonderful code.

(I think it would be more accurate the other way: writing good code is strongly related to learning and following the rules of language except when it isn't, since some of the most beautiful uses of language come when we discard the "rules".)

[...] and in English, the first letter of a name is capitalized. Hibernate, Spring, Struts, etc.


Except when they're not, like iBatis, jQuery, etc.
 
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The idea that proper English doesn't permit ending sentences with prepositions is mostly bogus - an attempt to artificially constrain something to a rule that never really existed except in the minds of the obsessive and in extreme cases can really torture the sentence structure for no good end.

However, we do have rules for a reason. We should only break them for a reason, and when we do, there should be some sort of replacement rules. The idea is to facilitate communication, and that generally works best when the recipient's attention is focused on the message and not the medium. Otherwise, we might as well just devolve into SMS-speak, DIY spelling (a fine old tradition of early American correspondence), and random noise.
 
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Well said Tim.
 
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Hi,

We all know the importance of English. English is not important in coding , but for that for which we are writing the code. I mean, English is a language used to communicate with human. We use code to communicate with our machine.

So, English is required to get the requirements of the client and coding is used to fulfill that requirement.

Thanks.
 
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prashant snv wrote:
We all know the importance of English. English is not important in coding , but for that for which we are writing the code. I mean, English is a language used to communicate with human. We use code to communicate with our machine.

So, English is required to get the requirements of the client and coding is used to fulfill that requirement.



Ummmm... no. Code is indeed read by machines, but it also needs to be readable by humans. Writing well-commented code with well-chosen names is very important, almost all the time. If you write code that works but is incomprehensible, then your value to your team is limited -- and many customers won't be interested in hiring you back.
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Ernest Friedman-Hill wrote: If you write code that works but is incomprehensible


Unless you are in this contest. Of course then you don't have a team or someone who needs to maintain your code.
 
Jimmy Clark
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I'm not aware of how many programming and software design books are published in various languages other than English. In my experience, I have never seen a non-English programming book in Barnes & Noble or Borders in the U.S.A.

If most programming books are written English, then having a good understanding of English might be required to correctly understand the technical concepts, author expertise, and other material in the book. Is reading and consistently studying technology required to be an effective software design in today's time? I would say yes.

In this context, how important is English to being able to continuously and consistently program efficiently? Very important.
 
Bear Bibeault
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Frank Bennett wrote:I'm not aware of how many programming and software design books are published in various languages other than English. In my experience, I have never seen a non-English programming book in Barnes & Noble or Borders in the U.S.A.


Would you really expect to see a book in Korean in the US?

My books have been translated into: German, Chinese, Russian and Korean. And those are just the ones I know about.
 
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Klingon is incoming.

In addition to translations, there are "native-first" editions which never see the US shores. I'd expect that the US book output dwarfs that of other countries, but there *are* other countries with their own technical expertise and publishing industries.
 
Bear Bibeault
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Negotiations with the Klingons are proving difficult. The term "In Action" in the titles jives well with their sensibilities, but they feel that soft covers have no honor.
 
Jimmy Clark
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In the U.S.A., who typically retains foreign language rights, the author or the publisher?
 
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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Frank Bennett wrote:In the U.S.A., who typically retains foreign language rights, the author or the publisher?



Publisher.
 
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