There is a new language on the block; more universal than English, and handier than French.
Coding, which can be described as an international computer language, will soon become a second mother tongue to the future generation.
But you wonder whether that’s true. Does coding count as a new language? And, if so, what benefits are there to learning it?
Anyone can benefit from coding
According to Pieter Joubert, academic navigator at Vega’s course in Game Design, coding has more applications today than ever before.
“I passionately believe that coding is more than just a tool you use during your job, but rather a way of thinking and a general approach to life,” says Joubert.
“Coding has its basis in problem solving and creative thinking, which are applied within rather tight constraints,” he adds.
Joubert believes anyone can benefit from the basic skills that programming provides.
Jessi Sunkel, marketing manager at Young Engineers South Africa, points out that there are many different skills, languages, and uses of coding.
“If you don’t want to become a programmer, you just need to ask yourself whether you will still benefit from learning about algorithmic thinking and problem solving – and the answer is yes,” says Sunkel.
All careers can benefit from coding
According to Sunkel, all careers and businesses could benefit from having employees who have some sort of background in coding – whether it’s coding at school level or a degree.
Joubert points out that data and the analysis of data have become critical to the success of modern business.
He explains that marketing managers, for example, might not need to fully use coding as part of their job description, but it could be an advantage.
“Having even a general knowledge of the processes and capabilities involved with data mining would make them better equipped to speak to developers who are actually managing the data,” says Joubert.
Although it’s difficult to predict which careers would be next in line to benefit from coding, Joubert believes almost any future career could benefit from understanding the basics of coding.
“Whether it is photographers writing a small script to rename all their photographs, or an HR manager using an Excel formula to calculate a staff member’s annual leave,” he says.
He points out an interesting example of a career that has become almost entirely programming and data focused: astronomy.
“Instead of staring at the stars through telescopes, astronomers are staring at Python code which helps them sift through terabytes of astronomical data,” says Joubert.
According to Claire Minnaar, who’s been coding for 20 years and recently co-founded Code Plant, there are many career applications to coding.
“Many bloggers run websites on WordPress and knowing a bit of HTML when writing a blog post could make their lives a little easier,” says Minnaar.
“While WordPress has an editor to format fonts, sometimes you want to be able to adjust something in a particular way that the editor doesn’t give you functionality for,” she adds.
Her husband, who works with hardware and networks, is learning coding for the first time. So far, it’s enabling him to automate things, both at the office and at home.
“Just this morning, I was chatting with my trainer at the gym and their team wanted to start coding to simplify some of their monthly tasks,” she says.
“Besides this, I wouldn’t be surprised if accountants or those in the financial sector could benefit by being able to build their own algorithms, functions, and formulas.
“I think any career could benefit from knowing how to code a bit and particularly those who are in the IT and education industry,” says Minnaar.
What about children?
Minnaar’s new organisation, Code Plant, will become a coding academy for children. With her own children, ages 6 to 9, taking part in the pilot programme, she understands its value.
“I would love to see coding as part of school’s curriculum. It wouldn’t replace subjects like maths and science, but it would help put maths into practice,” says Minnaar.
“Based on watching the children in our class and how they learn, I noticed they grasped the concepts really quickly. They are learning about logic and how to solve problems at a young age,” she explains.
Minnaar believes these are the top benefits of children learning how to code:
- Teaches structured and logical thinking
- Promotes creativity
- Teaches children how to deal with challenges (in coding, we would refer to this as a “bug”)
- Teaches perseverance
Joubert points out that coding will definitely be taught to children in the future, and he strongly supports this idea.
“Countries like Finland are moving towards having coding as a primary school subject that is compulsory for all learners,” says Joubert.
Rachael Pahwaringira, head of legal at Code for Change, believes everyone should know the basics of coding because we are headed towards the 4th industrial revolution.
Code for Change is in the process of launching CodeJIKA: a free, South African website that will help students teach themselves how to code.
“Our aim is to have every high school in South Africa teach coding as part of their curriculum,” says Pahwaringira.
Their goal is to have coding clubs in 100 secondary schools by the end of 2018.
“They will learn soft skills and artificial intelligence which will help them cope and excel in the future digital economy,” says Pahwaringira.
How can someone get started with coding?
According to Joubert, there are many sources that can allow one to get started with programming including online tutorials, free video lessons, and even game-like interactive coding environments.
“The most important requirement is to have a passion for the topic and a willingness to put in the hard yards to get to grip with coding,” says Joubert.
After school, Minnaar took a course in coding because it was the “in thing” back then. But while studying, she also taught herself a second language.
“YouTube didn’t exist when I started programming. So, I bought myself a ‘Delphi For Dummies’ book and I ended up doing my year-end college project in Delphi,” says Minnaar.
“Today, between online courses, YouTube, books, and general web resources, you can find everything you need to start programming.
“Once a person has learnt one language and understands the basics of programming, learning new languages is relatively quick,” she adds.
Choosing a language to start with
However, before you can start coding you need to decide which language you would like to learn first – and there are hundreds to choose from.
According to Arnold Graaff, founder of Code College, it is not about making the right choice of a language early.
“Instead, it is more about picking a language that can teach you coding comprehensively, and all the things around coding you need to be aware of,” says Graaff.
According to Clint Clark, co-founder of CodeSpace, a small segment of people are able to learn completely autonomously.
“Others benefit from in-person courses and coding along with a group of people on a similar journey,” he explains.
Clark believes choosing a language depends on the purpose of studying the language.
“If you want to pursue a career as a developer, you should analyse employment trends and which languages are most in demand,” says Clark.
“It is not too late to re-skill yourself; we need to move with the time and everything these days is about technology,” says Pahwaringira.
Have a look at the below infographic to find out which languages the other specialists recommend you start with: