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Lost in Translation.

Overcoming the Language Barrier

Hundreds of programming languages present challenges and opportunities for developers.

July 11, 2013

It's clear to just about everyone that the way we use the Internet has changed drastically in the past give years. What's not always so obvious is what goes on behing the scenes. Since our relationship with the Cloud has completely morphed, it follows that the way programs are created and maintained has evolved, too.

The Experts Weigh In.

New Relic’s article, “In Any Language: Adapting to the Polyglot Programming Challenge” highlights the state of affairs in use of programming languages. They report that in 2011, Forrester Research found:

  • ¼ of programmers wrote in only one language
  • ½ wrote in only two languages

It’s impossible to count the exact number of existing languages, but the major ones number in the hundreds. Some are similar in nature, but to expect one person to speak, for example, French, Italian, Spanish, English, German and Romanian, is still far-fetched.

The article explains that there’s no one “perfect” choice. It’s a double-edged sword, because the versatility of scripts means developers can create something beautiful, functional and unique; this is what’s allowed us to get where we are now. On the other hand, things can get messy if nothing is done to simplify the situation at hand.

Foreseeable Issues.

With the rise of apps, it appears the 2011 trend can’t continue. Many apps require multiple languages, or rely on a cloud-based backend that is written in another language. Consider the following “What If”s:

  • …a program is developed in one language, the developer leaves the company, and the next can’t understand it?
  • …a programmer’s primary/ preferred language becomes “obsolete” or is no longer compatible with new needs? Or in a particular industry?
  • …a customer has certain language needs that developers can’t fulfill?
  • …existing applications need to be modified or retooled to new devices?

Thinking Ahead.

These are serious issues that need to be addressed. In the meantime, we have a few solutions that revolve around long-term vision and technology:

  • Understanding company goals and products will help businesses hire the right people for the present and future.
  • Hiring a diverse team when a variety of skills is needed, and not skimping on the development department if that’s what creates profit for your business.
  • Seeking outside help, and knowing when to do so.
  • Keeping up-to-date with current trends and products, and integrating the old with the new when possible.

With every challenge comes the opportunity for something new, better and smarter to take over, whether a product or a change in mindset. The Internet and the way programmers and people interact with it is going to change, but the need for intelligent thought and action never will! 

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