Hablas código informático?

Kevin Nelson | Managing Editor

For some they are the most dreaded classes you will take at University of San Diego: the courses you have to take to get to a third semester equivalent of a foreign language. Well there may be some good news for prospective students as an evolution of the language requirement might be changing.

In recent weeks Jeremy Ring, former Yahoo executive and now Florida senator, proposed a controversial and possibly life-changing bill for students. What he proposed was the addition of code languages such as C++ and JavaScript to the list of allowed foreign languages for foreign language requirements. For high school students in Florida this means instead of taking two years of a language like Spanish, German, or French, a student would be able to take a computer programming class.

Now, although the bill was only proposed in Florida, it has sent waves across the United States education system as colleges and high schools have opened debate about whether or not they should also add coding to their list of allowed foreign languages.

Senior Evan Westerberg, engineering major, sees this as a revolutionary change in education that would have benefitted him more in his education than his Spanish class.

“I think it’s a great idea.” Westerberg said. “As an engineer I am required to take a programming class already and if I had known a little bit of code in high school it would have helped tremendously in my class. I will most likely never use my knowledge of Spanish again, but I won’t be able to find a job that I won’t use some type of coding.”

This bill is meeting a lot of push back from some Florida lawmakers. The arguments against adding coding to the foreign language list is that spoken languages give a student the ability to speak and connect with other cultures whereas coding will simply help them understand how their internet browser is working. A foreign language will allow students to travel the world or make business deals with those that don’t speak English. It will also help them to be exposed to different cultures around the world.

Senior Tom Robinson fulfilled his language requirement in Spanish before studying abroad on Semester at Sea where he travelled to over 15 different countries.

“When I studied abroad the Spanish helped in the countries that spoke it,” Robinson said. “But even in the other countries I only needed to learn four or five easy words to communicate because almost everyone spoke some degree of English.”

The argument can definitely be made for spoken languages to be kept as a requirement because this knowledge can help you understand other people and other cultures. However, if that criteria exempts coding, why does a language such as Latin get included?

Latin is pretty much a dead language outside of Vatican City. It is used almost exclusively to teach students the roots and sources of words in every language and to help them get a better grade on the SAT vocabulary section.

Coding has a very similar foundation to Latin, with possibly even a better and more efficient use. Coding, like Latin, is very rarely spoken outside a specific community, but the language can teach students, businessmen and women to understand the basic essence of every technology they are using.

The fact is technology is changing our world whether we like it or not. Phone calls and postcards are rarely used and text messages and emails are how every student interacts and stays in touch. So when you are making a business deal and your computer crashes, will it be your knowledge of code that helps you or your third semester Spanish competency?

Companies like Google and Apple have even created apps and software in the recent years that will immediately translate text for the user. So even if you were in a country where you can’t speak the language, you can always pull out your iPhone and type, speak, or even photograph something you want translated and your phone will immediately tell you what you need to know.

Now, a foreign language can be very crucial and the elimination of foreign languages is not what anyone is proposing. But, looking at the facts, it is clear that not everyone needs to use a foreign language.

Obviously in majors and professions including international business and political science it may be really important to understand different languages. But, a lot of majors and professions will never use a foreign language.

For example, when I was hired for my most recent accounting internship, I was not asked how many foreign languages I spoke and nowhere on my resume does it say if I speak a foreign language. But what it does say on my resume is what computer programs I have worked with and used. In fact, as part of my interview I had to explain how to use a specific program and was asked how long I think it would take me to understand, use, and troubleshoot my company’s computer program.

Now this story may not deal with coding directly. But I have personally taken a coding class and I can tell you that my knowledge of code and how codes work within a computer have helped me understand more about what I do. This knowledge helps me not only at work, but also in my daily life, arguably more than my education in my six years of Spanish education.

If given the option would USD students take C++ or Java?

Senior Telly Korbakes fulfilled his three years of language requirement with Spanish. Although he has rarely used the language, he still would choose Spanish over coding.

“It’s just not for me.” Korbakes said, “I don’t think I will ever need to use coding and I had fun in my Spanish class, so I would definitely take Spanish again.”

Computer coding may not be for everyone, but it is definitely worth giving students the option. After all, it’s just as hard to understand as any other language you learn. As technology continues to revolutionize our world, it is possible that our education system and language requirements need to change with it.