Programming Languages: Speaking in Binary Tongues

JavaScript, PHP, AJAX, C#, Perl, Python… most people have perhaps heard of one or more of these terms and may know them to be programming languages.  What they may not know is that these are truly languages in many senses of the the word.  “Fluency” in a programming language like Python is much like fluency in French or Tagalog.  Also, programming languages change and evolve just as spoken languages change over time.

History of Programming Languages

The first programming languages were developed before the computer.  These languages were codes that were used for calculations and tracking information.  Census data and translations were aided by codes that were invented out of necessity. Later the programming languages helped create the first computers and were specific to their applications.

Don’t Need to Reinvent the Language Wheel

programming language

Like spoken languages, programming languages have evolved from earlier iterations.  For example, Java derives much of its syntax from C++, which evolved from C, which in turn, comes from languages in the ALGOL tradition.  Spoken languages rarely come from nowhere.  The same is true of programming.

Today, the list of programming languages, alive and dead, rivals the languages spoken on the planet (alive and dead).  And this evolution of programming languages will continue as long as people are using computers, whatever form they take.  Languages grow and develop as the needs of the users change so the history of language is completely interwoven with the history of its users.  You could say it IS the history of its users.  The future of programming languages will involve new technology such as cloud storage and cloud computing and countless unforeseen technologies.  These new developments require a new way of thinking and communicating to evolve from the languages that currently are in use.

There is nothing that can stop the evolution of languages whether spoken or coded.  It is happening as you read this sentence and it will happen long after we are all gone or after we ourselves have been encoded into the cloud.  This topic could fill a book, but hopefully this little post provides some food for thought.




Cloud computing is creating a need for translating across programming language as well as

Languages of the Future

languageLanguages evolve over time. If you went back 1000 years, you might not understand a single sentence spoken anywhere on the planet. You could probably piece it together with a little work, but our modern syntax is brand new.

Language changes to fit the culture. Technology plays a big part in that. Imagine asking a person from the 12th century to “text me the directions to the McDonald’s”, or telling them to “just Google it yourself”. They’d look at you like you had a leg growing out of your forehead. Our language conforms to our current world situation by necessity. It gets us from place to place, and helps us interact with each other successfully. Grunting and pointing might have worked for our distant ancestors, but in our increasingly complicated and nuanced world, it just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Languages also mesh and meld as their speakers come into contact with each other and work to translate the sounds for objects and ideas. This is also by necessity. Trading goods with another culture takes at least some knowledge of each others language, even if just the words for numbers. When one culture comes into contact with another culture, they do a few things. They’ll fight, they’ll trade, and they’ll intermarry. If things go well, they fight very little, and trade and intermarry a lot. This way the languages will blend and you’ll have a brand new language.

In California, you can turn on a radio station and hear a new language forming in real time. The unofficial name for it is Spanglish, a mixture of Spanish and English. A few words will be Spanish, followed by a few in English. If a radio station can broadcast in this manner, it means their audience can understand it without translation. This means there are potentially millions of people who speak and comprehend this new mixture of languages. In fact this is the case. And this has happened in only around a century of two cultures and languages blending. It’s amazing how quickly we can adapt to communicate with our new neighbors.

They say love speaks it’s own language and if you’re in love, you don’t need words. That might be true of love, but for everything else, it helps to know at least a few words.

Google’s Voice Translator

Google has a new voice translator that is shattering the walls of language.  You’re going to see some interesting new possibilities come out of this new app.  Soon, we won’t be constrained by our particular languages around the world.

With the Google Voice Translator, you speak your desired phrase, and the app immediately translates it into your chosen language.  It happens as fast as any online translator.  The accuracy might not be perfect, but this will get you around in a foreign country very nicely.

Website Translation: Bringing the World Together

Right now, you could be reading this article in one of the 6,000 languages that people speak on this planet.  This article was originally written in English, but that doesn’t stop anyone from translating it into their native language.  In the past it would take at least one person, maybe more, to translate a long document from one language to another.  Nowadays we have translation applications that can do it in seconds.  We take for granted that you can find an article on the Internet that is in German and almost instantly be reading it in English and gaining valuable insight from another country.

Now we can see the viewpoints of people all around the world just by cutting and pasting an article into Google Translator or Babelfish.  Alternately, we can use a widget plugin that can add a handy translator right to the website.  With one or two clicks, you can be enjoying a French article in your native language.

Google Translate is an automatic translator that uses a database and technology to translate words, phrases, and sentences from one language into another.  This application can amazingly translate between 64 different languages.  And Google is continually adding to the capability of their translator.  GT also adds a phonetic rendering of the word or phrase to help with pronunciation.  On top of that, there is a speaker button next to the translation that will allow the user to hear a computer-generated voice version spoken of the words.   It’s a powerful system and helpful for anyone who needs to get a solid translation of text.

The nice thing about most translators including Google Translate is that you can cut and paste an article and put it right in the translator.  Just his the translate button and you’ll get a decent translation.  Of course semantics and grammar will differ from language to language, but that’s an inevitable hurdle.  Translators are getting better at it however and soon I’m sure the problem will be solved or at least hugely alleviated.

translationOther online translators include Bing Translator, and BabelFish.  BabelFish has been around for a while and offers free translations of 14 languages including Japanese, French, German, English, Spanish, Portugese and Italian.  Bing Translator is newer on the scene (as Bing is), but it’s quickly becoming a contender among great translator apps.

All of this of course does not replace the need for human translators.  Automatic translation services or applications, at this point, cannot always decipher the nuances of the human expression.  It can take a very skilled and seasoned multi-lingual specialist to really do great translations.  That said, everyday communication is benefiting from the current revolution in online translation.