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Computer Language in the Eye of A Language Student

Posted by Jingtian , 24 May 2007 · 142 views

Do students of languages and those of computer science take different approaches when it comes to computer learning? The answer is probably yes.

To give an example. When I, a fresh graduate who has just got the M.A. Degree in English Language and Literature, first started to learn Visual Basic for Applications, I took every line of code as English grammar sentences.

Sub AlertUser(value)
If value = 0 Then
AlertLabel.ForeColor = vbRed
AlertLabel.Font.Bold = True
AlertLabel.Font.Italic = True
End If
End Sub

First of all, Sub is very difficult to understand. What would a language student think when he/she first sees it? Is it a contraction? What does it mean? The if...then syntax is very easy to understand as it is a standard adverbial clause of condition. What does "vbRed" mean here? Visual Basic Red? Can I use "Red" instead? Why are there many dots, can I use "of" instead? And I tend to forget "End If" and "End Sub".

In a similar way, the following syntax is taken as an attributive clause:
select * from my_table where DateValue(mydate)=#2004-8-27#

One day I asked a guy who used to study software engineering what he would do if he met a long paragraph of codes? To understand every syntax first, or to try it first? He answered that he would of course use it, otherwise, one cannot be sure whether it works. It suddenly dawned on me that this might be the correct way to learn IT. Applying the method of learning natural sciences to language learning would not get one very far, therefore, the same might be true vice versa.

Later I decided to changed the way of acquiring IT knowledge. I collected quite a large amount of codes and used them from time to time. I understand some of them well, but there are also that I have no idea about. Just cut and paste to see whether it works. As time goes by and I gain experience, I will get the hang of them, I'm sure.

January 2017

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