Learn another real language, young American programmers!
By vbkraemer on Jul 26, 2007
Joel has an entry with Advice for Computer Science College Students. His first piece of advice is "Learn how to write before graduating".
Advice I wish I had heard and heeded, back in the day...
I would say this is even more important than when Joel went to college or joined Microsoft. As development teams become more diverse, people who didn't learn American English and idiomatic usages will be reading the documents that you write. You will be able to work more effectively with folks that have learned English as a second (third, fourth) language if you can write clearly in English. That makes the team that you are part of more valuable to your employer.
I work with folks who speak many different languages on a daily basis. Most of the communication between us is written (as e-mails and IMs). Your communication will probably be written, too.
I would add a corollary to this advice, targeted at American C.S. students:
- Study a Language other than English
- I don't have advice on which language you "should" study. The software development world is changing too fast for such specific advice to useful or relevant by the time you read this.
Studying another language will improve your ability to "see" that you are not "on the same wavelength" with a peer. That is a valuable skill... The faster you realize there is a problem in your communications, the faster they can be corrected and the "real work" can happen. This even applies to situations where you are both speaking English.
Full disclosure: I studied French for a couple years in high school. I can say crepe with the worst of them. I studied Mandarin for a couple years in college. I still eat with a fork when I go to a Chinese restaurant.