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Re: learning languages [Was: Re: Y Store now C++]

Adam Turoff <ziggy@panix.com> writes at 15:07 14-Mar-2003 -0500:
> On Fri, Mar 14, 2003 at 10:34:14AM -0600, Trevis Rothwell wrote:
> > Based on your experience, how hard is it, really, for a programmer
> > to learn a new language?
> In my experience, that's a question that cannot be answered in the
> large.  Each segment of the bell curve will have a different average
> answer.
> Hackers, such as those who use Common Lisp to define mini-languages
> seem to define and learn new languages as a standard part of problem
> solving.  People on the opposite end of the bell curve learned one
> language with great difficulty, and it would be very difficult for
> them to learn a second language.

You're linking facility for learning new programming languages with the
Murray bell curve (genetic IQ)?  Have experiments been done?  Knowing
the true factors would inform programming language technology adoption,
software engineering practice, CS education...

My own intuition is that facility with programming languages is largely
learned.  First languages are hard because people are learning abstract
foreign concepts.  Some people have a leg up because they've had some
more prior exposure to related concepts.[*] Good programmers are good
because they've invested large amounts of time and energy learning
useful things.  Mediocre programmers are mediocre because they haven't
made the investment in learning much useful things (maybe they've tried,
but they've haven't read the most useful materials and played with the
most useful toys).

[*] Some percentage has more raw wetware horsepower than some others,
    but I recall a credible result that the extreme high end of learning
    rate is no more than twice "normal."