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The Ugly American Programmer


WOW! look at all the comments…
So american programmers are ugly…


Arrrggh, you arrogant Americans don’t even speak English!


this just in…
According to jeff…
american programmers are ugly…


It also annoys me that .NET exceptions so eagerly want to use you local language.

I can’t copy paste crap like that in Google, I won’t find anything useful.

Please everything in English Microsoft.

In addition my sister has a Dutch copy of Adobe Photoshop. It’s absolutely horrible. All tutorials on the net are useless as the Dutch terminology doesn’t make any sense at all…


ATC controllers everywhere use American English. It’s not Queen (or the even worse Queenie), it’s Quebec.

Small airports will let it slide, but the other pilots will sometimes make fun of you. Large airports don’t appreciate a grammatical argument during approach and will politely remind you over the air…

Center, Two-Four-Kilo-Queen turning final.
Two-Four-Kilo-QUEBEC clear, One-Six left.

Frenchmen do everything in French when they can, but they can’t design a proper airframe in any case, so I wouldn’t want to follow their example - they use lowercase, uppercase, AND greek letters in their wiring diagrams, rendering them unreadable. Work on an A350 and you’ll know what I’m talking about…




A logical extension of this argument is that all programming should be in PHP and JavaScript because there are more examples, programmers and learning materials ;0)

Perhaps also programmers who are not native English speakers are better programmers because they understand languages better ;'0


English is understood by English speaking countries and western minorities (as mine: Italian).

I don’t think Chinese programmers care about English. Maybe Russian do that much neither.

English thinking hackers could even be the reason behind current programming languages design: full of inconsistencies, just as English language is.


Not fair. Other natural languages would have equivalent influence.

Python designing by a Dutch programmer is not a coincidence.


I live in Venezuela, my native language is spanish.

of all my coworkers, in this company, and in the affiliates coding caves which we share services, I might the only who actually speaks english. The rest just… Well basically they munch it and destroy it with every word uttered.

They also have this muscle memory exercise, where they try to find first the answer to a problem in Spanish. Most likely the odds of sucess are about 1%. If they don’t they have to go and try in english. And this is where it gets ugly. Most people don’t get the technical lingo used in the internet these days.

English, is a must in the Developers Land, No matter your language, translations to spanish are horribly textual, and lack meaning (usually translated by novel readers instead of engineers)


Coding and commenting in English comes naturally after you have read all the books and tutorials in said language.

But thinking in English? No way! Here’s a native born Finn which loves the expressiveness of Finnish language. I honestly do believe that it is one of the most adaptable languages for solving abstract problems. The words are just starting points which can be decorated with suffixes.

Here’s an example: (Kirja being a base word)
kirja a book,
kirjain a letter (of the alphabet),
kirje a piece of correspondence, a letter,
kirjasto a library,
kirjailija an author,
kirjallisuus literature,
kirjoittaa to write,
kirjoittaja a writer,
kirjuri a scribe, a clerk,
kirjallinen something in written form,
kirjata to write down, register, record,
kirjasin a font,
… and the list goes on…

Finnish has a much smaller core vocabulary than english and that’s because we can ‘make words on the fly’ =).


Every time you talk about coding in Visual Basic you lose one nerd point.

But the language point is a good one. Back in the COBOL days my dad was asked directions in San Diego by a couple of Japanese guys who he knew were programmers. They didn’t understand him when he gave directions in English… so he translated the directions into COBOL-esque statements, and they understood him.


I’ve seen only 3 comments so far mention Unicode so I think it’s a point worth saying - and repeating.

The reason English is the lingua-franca of programming is that most programming tools/languages in the past (and even present) simply didn’t (don’t) support Unicode. Heck, Unicode didn’t even exist initially. So all those languages with their special characters simply couldn’t be used, all you had was ASCII - and therefore English.

But there’s nothing magical about English that makes it a better programming language in general. The lack of proper documentation is not a reason, it’s an excuse - and a lousy one at that.

Yes, using a single language makes it easier to search for solutions, assuming they are even available to be searched. However the negative side of using English is that for non-English speakers it provides an additional overhead for sitting down and writing their ideas. It can also promote bad coding practices since for example you are much less likely to use meaningful variable names in a language you don’t know well.

Unicode is slowly making inroads into programming languages and tools. What is stopping wide-spread adoption of non-English language programming in non-English countries is:

  1. The prevalence of native-English programmers/businesses and the need to work with them, especially in this age of the global village.
  2. Still patchy support of Unicode on older Linux systems still in wide use, e.g. RHEL4.
  3. The large head-start English has as a programming language. People have already invented and popularized many programming terms in English. All of these will have to be re-invented for each language and over-come the inertia of people used to the equivalent English term.

Personally, I think English has enough of a head-start over other languages to make it very hard to unseat it as the preferred programming language even for non-native English speakers. But don’t be fooled into thinking this makes English somehow better or special. It was just lucky to be first…


Off the topic of English, but on the topic of The Ugly American

The term is usually misused.

The PHYSICALLY ugly protagonist of the 1958 book The Ugly American


was a kind and helpful person, maybe even a prototype for what JFK would propose for the Peace Corp. Some other characters were wealthy, snobby, BEHAVIORALLY ugly Americans.


With all the different cultures I have worked with, Japanese are a little different. They insist in Japanese and documentation and generally find it frustrating to read English documentation.

And this is one of the discussions where everyone can form an opinion and looks like everyone has :slight_smile:


I’m from Argentina, I learned english reading books. I lived a couple of years in NC, USA. I’m really good at english and I can tell you I had the oportunity of work with Indians, Frenchs and Italians and english was our universal lang, man…just like GMT. IT IS ENGLISH because today english is universal. Could be chinese, but no, it is english. In my company 95% of guys who work on IT speaks fluent english and it is not a requirement to be hired.


What i really hate is when you buy a manual in native language (e.g. Dutch) and try to find your way around an English VS2008. You better understand the concept because of the native language but cannot find the buttons to apply the concept because they are English and the translations are crappy.


I’d also agree that English is the majority language of software development, but that doesn’t mean all software knowledge is uniformly in English.

Perhaps an appropriate question then for native english speakers is, what second language would provide the most added value for you as a developer?


I tried to go with c# when it was a brand new language, but at the time typing c# into search engine would give you nothing, and it would often break the search (I think it would delete everything after the #).

To find out that this has changed is great. I suppose it was just a case of being a little bit on the bleeding edge. We definitely bled a little for going with it too soon.


I am a Portuguese/Brazilian and I mostly agree with you on this issue.
For me, it all depends on whether you want to belong to a community or not. If you want to belong to the international community of developers then it is straightforward and simple: learn English well. This is also the rule if you want to belong to the international community of science and/or businesses. English is the new Latin, the common language of the world, what Esperanto wanted to be.
If you want to communicate in a different language then you should join a different community. There are many programming communities in Spanish and Portuguese. You can join them. But the fact is that there is much more gold and knowledge exchange in the English communities.