Java and Python are programming languages that are often taught at universities. Nicole Pilsworth, 22, is a Junior Platform Engineer who graduated from the University of Bath this year with a degree in Maths and Computer Science. “I learned Java at uni which is one of the stricter, more difficult languages. It’s good to learn Java first because going from Java to Python is easier than the other direction,” she says. “We covered about 7 or 8 programming languages but we also learned about the programming principles that would help us to write good code for all languages.”
“Maths and Computer Science are both about problem solving,” says Nicole, who studied French and Spanish at school in Guildford. “Spoken languages and programming languages are about communication.”
There are many similarities between learning to speak a language and learning to code. “If you knew how to speak French and then saw Spanish for the first time, you’d be able to understand some Spanish words. It’s the same with coding. If you knew Python really well and saw Java, you’d know what the code was trying to do, even if it was in a very vague sense,” she says.
Software Engineer Alison Choy, 29, says that once you’ve learned one programming language, it’s much easier to learn a second one. This can be compared to learning spoken languages. Picking up a third language is often easier than learning a second language for the first time. “It was much easier to learn German after I’d learned English,” she says.
She moved from Hong Kong to the UK when she was 14. “I’d learned how to read and write some English before I moved but spoken English can be quite different,” she says. “And with English, there are more exceptions than rules.”
Something she found difficult about teaching herself how to code, which she did in order to complete her PhD, was knowing what terms to put into Google. “I had to figure out how to phrase the question to get the right answer,” she says. “With spoken languages, I always had people to ask for help.”
All languages develop over time. For example, when Italy was unified in 1861, each region had its own dialect. The Tuscan dialect became the most prevalent but the language wasn’t fully unified until the 1950s when televisions became more popular, according to the Italian Language School EuroPass. Different dialects continue to be used today, coming together to make up one language. Sam compared this to the relatively new programming language Kotlin. “The creators of Kotlin try to pick and choose what they consider the best elements of other programming languages,” he says.
Just as the popularity of certain programming languages changes over time, the words and phrases we use in everyday spoken languages go in and out of fashion. Even though the word ‘fintech’ has been used by people in the industry to mean financial technology for years, it only made it into the American dictionary Merriam-Webster earlier this month on 7th September 2018.
So while the name of our industry may have only just been recognised as mainstream vocabulary, both fintech and Starling are ever evolving, adapting and changing with the times, like language itself.