The Only Real Good Language to Start Working as a Developer

Do you already have a programming language in mind? Not good…

Terry BRUNIER - Start-up Dev
5 min readMay 9, 2022
The best programming language to begin in software engineering: just a myth (Image by Terry BRUNIER)

What language would you recommend to learn to start programming?

If your answer is a language that has less than 1 Billion users, you’re wrong! But you will easily understand why with the following example.

The Recipe to Lose Customers and Developers

This is the most caricatural example I have ever seen at work.

The scene takes place several years ago, in a small company, just a few months after I arrived in Japan.

I was having fun fixing a cute bug, due to data formatting, when the Japanese Product-Owner-sales-super-yes-man (PO) suddenly ran into the American senior developer on my left.

In an approximative English, the PO explained a big customer wants a fancy feature — I do not remember what and it doesn’t matter anyway — so he asked my colleague if he can immediately tell we will add that to the roadmap.

Senior Dev: “Yeah… Well… Just tell then the guy we can’t do that
PO: “
Oke~ tank’ you!

Guess what: This super costly highly risky change was added to the roadmap. As a result, it was never implemented.

  • The potential partner finally withdrew from negotiations
  • The senior developer flew away to work in a “better environment”

Of course, you can decide to blame the PO or the Dev, but the truth is that responsibility for good communication is always shared on both sides.

At the end of the day, successful professionals know how to avoid this kind of pitfalls with natural language.

Master This Secret Skill to Rule The World

Being a professional developer is challenging. You must keep learning programming languages, fancy frameworks, best practices, and so on.

But in addition to that, imagine you must learn Chinese, Arabic, or any language you totally ignore (grammar, syntax, pronunciation, symbols, etc.) just to be able to work as a developer.

That would be a great challenge, wouldn’t it?

For many developers around the world, English is difficult as it would be for you to practice their native language. And, contrary to what too many people believe, communication is more important than coding in solving problems. However, development teams are more and more including members coming from other countries.

As a great professional, there are several points you can consider to improve communication with non-native speakers.

This Is Not Your Holy Native Language

Just consider you are speaking and writing in another language.

Being easy to understand is much more important than following the elitist conventions. No need to be upset that someone doesn’t comply with the very artificial rule you made so many efforts to get used to when you were young.

In an international context, always prefer to lower ambiguity.

So, there is a good habit to have, even in writing:
choose words and turns of phrases that are easy to understand by non-natives when speaking.

For example, don’t say “Can’t do”, but “cannot do”.

Of course, “can’t” is easy to read. Therefore, it’s easy to look for a translation nowadays, with Google translation (or another solution such as DeepL). However, many foreigners simply cannot perceive the difference in vowels between can’t” and “can” when spoken.

In an effort of optimization, the human brain specializes early in identifying every sound/phoneme that exists in our first language (native language). It ignores the others. This makes it tedious to grasp and reproduce certain sounds as an adult.

You cannot blame people for not doing what is impossible, but you can find workarounds. As a developer, your job is to find solutions!

Don’t Beat Around The Bush

You would lose many readers with culturally-coupled expressions.

Using idiomatic expressions can give a good style to your message. Nice!
But what is your main intention?

  • Showing off how smart and sophisticated you are?
  • Or do you want to ensure good communication with anyone?

The cultural expressions are pleasing. They give satisfaction to readers for decrypting the underlying meaning (maybe not for “beat around the bush”).
They also make you feel like a member of the community. But only if you already have the reference.

Otherwise, this is the opposite: you feel lost and rejected.

Help people focus on your message by avoiding idiomatic expressions, slang, or any culturally-coupled expressions. You can still elaborate your own style by using metaphors, varying the text types, or making direct references to the common international culture you share with your readers.

So remember: Be more straight!
(If you want to correct this as “straighter”, read the previous part one more time)

Provide Explicit Metadata

Just being straight is not enough to ensure good communication.

Let’s consider the situation as described below.

David is a new developer at Dummy inc.
He has now his first evaluation with Ming, the manager.
Ming mainly says 3 things:

1. David, I noticed you come early in the morning, full of energy. It’s great to see your motivation.

2. Last month you merged some shit without waiting for review. Fortunately, it didn’t go to prod, but that generated conflicts hard to handle. Please be very careful.

3. You seem to learn fast. You already contributed to the project. Continue to do your best.

According to your psychology and your culture, there are different ways to decrypt the evaluation. The two following examples may help to be more aware of that diversity.

The Italian Pasta

David had a quite positive evaluation!
With this mindset, motivation and commitments are expected, like the spaghetti in your “Pasta alla carbonara”.

If someone notices them and makes a comment, it generally means they are outstanding. Usually, you would only point out troubles.

Therefore, the order doesn’t matter. You should just pay attention to adding one “point of improvement” in the evaluation not to risk appearing ironically too positive, insincere, or exaggerating.

The American Hot-Dog

David should be very careful after this poor evaluation…
The first and the last points are like the bread wrapping a hot dog. It allows you not to burn yourself with the sausage and not to stain your shirt. But basically, only what is inside the bread matters.

If the sausage is evaluated poorly, you should worry.

As you can see, the same sequence of messages can be understood in opposite ways. Culture can have a huge impact on interpretation, but personal experiences and psychology matter too.

Being straight might not be enough.

We should all provide some context to help interlocutors to get a more accurate understanding of the intended message. When it’s possible, ask the recipient to sum up what he or she understood.

Learn more about other cultures

As you already understood, the language you must master for successful software engineering is international English.

It does not only mean you should pay attention to avoid ambiguity for non-native speakers. You should also consider cultural differences to ensure clear communication. That is the perfect excuse to travel, taste exotic food, practice foreign languages and make new friends all around the World!

As a bonus tip, I recommend you Erin Meyer’s book, The Culture Map. It’s very stimulating and provides tools to improve your understanding of situations in international contexts.