Are All Programming Languages In English? Coding Questions


English speakers have it easy. It seems like coding languages were only developed for engineers of that spoken language. But what if you’re bilingual or a polyglot? Are all programming languages in English?

Mainstream programming languages are all in English. There are around 116 coding languages, targeting 38 non-English verbal languages. Keywords and library functions are generally anglocentric, but variables, comments, user-written classes, and methods can be in a programmer’s spoken language.

Let’s look at more statistics to find out why this is so.

Asian female coder looking confused in front of computer with english code.

Are All Coding Languages In English? By The Numbers

Out of the 8500+ programming languages over time, about 600 were developed in the United Kingdom, 2400 in the United States, 75 in Australia, and 160 in Canada. In other words, over a third of all programming languages were developed in English-speaking countries.

This doesn’t even consider languages created in non-English-speaking regions and translated into English to appeal to a global audience. 

For instance, the primary language used to develop the first Macintosh computers, PASCAL, was created in Switzerland. 

Niklaus Wirth, who developed it, could have used any of Switzerland’s four national languages but chose English.

Why English?

International languages in programming, mathematics, and science enable community contributions from anywhere globally as the world becomes more linked. Naturally, this means that the languages with the highest contributions will be better developed, resulting in more usage.

Standardization has a lot of authority. The quantities of data to acquire and retain are minimized when generalizations are made. The disadvantage is that the minority must learn the standard, which is a different language in this situation.

The use of generalization in aviation is a great example. English as an international language is required of all flight crews. This standardization means that airport traffic controllers need not master every language to work. The same applies to programming.

Furthermore, many computer languages are written in English because their developers spoke English as their first language. Those who did not speak English chose English keywords because most developers at that time were working in English. 

Buttons with different programming languages with virtual background.

These developers, for example, were targeting English-speaking programmers or were helping to evolve a programming language already in English:

  • Dennis Ritchie, an English-speaking American, developed C.
  • Bjarne Stroustrup, a Dane who predominantly spoke Danish, designed C++ in English so C developers could use it.
  • Pascal was developed by Niklaus Wirth, a Swiss who knew Swiss but developed Pascal in English to make it more accessible to programmers.
  • PHP was created by Rasmus Lerdorf, a Danish-Canadian who used English to replicate the syntax of other languages, particularly Perl and C.
  • Guido van Rossum, a Dutchman, created Python to expand the ABC language, which was written in English.

In all major programming languages, variable names, documentation, and comments are written in English. So, English is essential for a developer. If a programmer is stuck on something, searching in English or asking questions in English is the best way to get help.

Personal Note:

I’ve come across many fellow programmers who are ashamed that their English is not strong enough. Please do not be embarrassed. Growing up as an American, learning other languages is not emphasized. I had to move to other countries to know how behind I was in my verbal language skills. The fact that you are doing a complex skill in my native tongue is AMAZING to me. I doubt I’ll ever be able to fix a car in Mandarin or perform surgery in Spanish.   

In addition, most instructional materials – such as books, blogs, and podcasts – are in English. Switching to your mother tongue means foregoing a plethora of valuable resources.

This doesn’t imply that alternative programming languages don’t exist. They are just not as popular and widely adopted as English-based programming languages.

Do Chinese Programmers Code In English?

Yes, developers write using identical versions of the programming languages used worldwide. They use the keywords, library classes, and method names based on English. Chinese developers add comments to their sources frequently to clarify intentions.

All keywords are written in English. They don’t have to name their class, method, or variables in English but must type them in Roman letters. You can leave comments in Chinese, but the code must be written in English or typed in the Roman alphabet.

Programming comments and string data can be written in Chinese, but the rest must be in English. Compilers (programs that convert code into 1’s and 0’s in machine language) aren’t meant to deal with such symbols directly.

Because function names can be practically any combination of characters and digits, a Chinese programmer might use pinyin’s Wenyan or ZhPy to name functions, although this is not the standard practice.

The most widely used programming languages are JavaScript, C#, Java, Python, and Objective-C. In terms of written and spoken languages, the code will be in English, with comments in Cantonese or Mandarin, depending on where you are in China.

The Easy Programming Language, the most generally used PL with Chinese library functions and keywords, is also used. It is less known because most of its users are malware creators. Chinese Python translates Python into Chinese. The documentation is in Chinese, and a programmer may develop an entire program in Chinese because all the functions and variables are written in Chinese.

Are There Spanish Coding Languages?

There are three primary coding languages in Spanish. GarGar, Pauscal, and Latino are programming languages with their keywords and syntax in Spanish. A few additional languages are super-sets of mainstream languages that layer Spanish atop another English system.

GarGar is among the many Spanish-based programming languages available. It’s a procedural coding language for learning purposes and is based on Pascal. 

Pauscal is another Pascal-based programming language that started in 2001 with native syntax in Spanish. Its compiler targets 32-bit Windows and is a cross between a structural object-oriented and procedural language.  

There is also a language known as Latino, which is entirely based on Spanish and can create cross-platform programs. 

As with many non-English programming languages, most projects are super-sets of mainstream languages, unfortunately. 

English remains the basis for coding and in-demand expertise among IT businesses in most regions. While learning English is highly recommended, proficiency in the language is not mandatory. As a coder, remember that you are a natural problem solver and concentrate on honing that talent.

Mike Chu

Mike is a web developer and content writer living as a digital nomad. With more than 20 years of devops experience, he brings his "programmer with people skills" approach to help explain technology to the average user. Check out his full author bio by clicking here.