In medieval Europe, if you wanted to access the technology of writing, you had to acquire a new language at the same time. Writing meant Latin. Writing in the vernacular—in the mother tongues, in languages that people already spoke—was an obscure, marginalized sideline. Why would you even want to learn to write in English or French? There’s nothing to read there, whereas Latin got you access to the intellectual tradition of an entire lingua franca.

We have a tendency to look back at this historical era and wonder why people bothered with all that Latin when they could have just written in the language they already spoke. At the time, learning Latin in order to learn how to write was as logical as learning English in order to code is today, even though we now know that children learn to read much faster if they’re taught in their mother tongue first. The arguments for English-based code that I see on websites like Stack Overflow are much the same: Why not just learn English? It gains you access to an entire technological tradition.

(Evidently, I wasn’t the first person to start asking these questions)

Like every language that comes before it, as unlikely as it may seem at this point in time, English as we know it will lose its place as the world’s language. But what happens to computer programming languages when that happens?

Is programming going to become something like opera, where foreign language knowledge is a pre-requisite to fully understanding it?

Will new programming languages eventually be created with other languages in mind? Will old programming languages be modified?