There are no hard or easy languages

or: 01001100 01100001 01101110 01100111 01110101 01100001 01100111 01100101

Sometimes, you find that other people order their thoughts and ideas in different patterns. My own partner is a programmer.Heck, it's like he speaks a different language even when we're both speaking to each other in English. Expressing the very same thing I'm trying to get at will come out completely different, until he eventually earns an exasperated "that's what I've been saying!"

All this been making me think about the languages he and I know, and what that means for different ways of saying the same thing. A programmer will have learnt at least three or four languages. They're not made for addressing humans, but they're made by humans. But where the programming language and the human language have a thing in common is that they're all designed to express the same thing. Some are strict in where they make you put the words, some make you define exactly what your variable is saying, but it always comes down to the same thing: 1s and 0s.

And you know what? You don't see an awful lot of those programmers complaining about how their language is the hardest, or saying they picked up a particular one really quickly because it's easy. Hard and easy doesn't come into it, you just pick which one will be most suitable for doing the thing you want to do. I think us human language learners can definitely learn something very important from the nerd community here, so let me just come out and say it:

There are no hard or easy languages. They all do the same thing - encode information so you can pass it on.

It's true that every language will do its encoding thing in a different way, and some of them even use a different script which adds to the learning effort. But does this make them intrinsically hard? It really doesn't. The most commonly cited reason why a language might be more difficult are script and grammar. With English, you're in the lucky position of having just mildly prescriptive grammar. No matter what you do with, to or on that noun, it hardly ever changes. In German you have these niggly things called cases and you change the endings all the time depending on what you want that noun to be doing, or what you want it have done to and so on. Mr Fluent informs me that there is a similar way of identifying computer languages, some of them being more "loosely typed" and "strongly typed", where you may be able to just put things in order and let the context do the rest for you or alternatively you have to make sure you get every bit and aspect right, because otherwise your computer will only spit out error and nonsense.

He also tells me this, which I really loved: The stricter the language is about how you put things in their place, the easier it is to debug. In other words: It's easy to figure out what someone wants to tell you if every word plays its part in delivering meaning - could this mean that a language with strong and prescriptive grammar structures will be that little bit easier to understand, to translate? Or is it that humans just are more than 011010110 and we're the world's best code breaking machines, so discovering meaning even if the code is loose won't be an issue?