Context Switching

March 5, 2008

I took, like, at least three linguistics classes in college in the 1990′s, so I’m a dangerous and ignorant, but curious, dilettante.

I remember learning something about people who are multi-lingual, that they store rules and vocabulary for each language in completely separate “pockets” of the brain. This keeps people from switching between languages mid-sentence–uncontrollably, at least, not the intentional English/Dutch back-and-forth DJs seem to do a lot–or lapsing into binary like that awesome SNL skit of Bill Gates that one time.

Which makes me think. Does learning a programming “language” follow neurologically in any of the same footsteps? Do we process statements in scripts like we read? I at least like to think so, as it would help explain why I like syntaxes (or syntices, if you like the archaic, thoughtful form of the word) like jQuery and hate to have to deal with perl.

I often have to deal with as many as half a dozen languages or contexts per day in my world of Web. Today I am jumping from python to JavaScript with punctuation moments of PHP, and irritants like dtml (don’t ask if you don’t know it) and CSS (CSS rocks, I just am not that polished at it these days), and of course HTML, etc.. I stumble with the occasional misplaced bracket or semicolon or dollar sign, but not nearly as often as you’d think. Are we pre-programmed to switch easily like this?

One Comment

  1. Momula says:

    I was hoping I could compartmentalize the muscle memory for typing QWERTY from what I need to type Dvorak, but as I get proficient in Dvorak, there’s sometimes some crossover. If I start to concentrate on hitting keys, I’ll hit Dvorak letters, because that’s what I had been concentrating on learning. Sometimes I have to look at the letters on the keys when switching back to QWERTY.

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