Coding and Languages

I believe that humanities students should not have to learn code. That is not to say that it is not helpful. I will bring forward an example from my experience:

In my high school, everyone was required to take four years of Latin, with the addition of either Greek or Spanish. During my process of learning Latin, I learned more about the structuring of language, prose, and poetry. This especially helped me understand some of the roots and grammar of English. But is Latin necessary for learning English or reading classical literature? No. I know students in my class that struggled to understand Latin grammar, and therefore never fully understood the Latin poems without an English translation. Can Latin be helpful? Of course. When looking at the original language, you can understand the nuance in meaning and have a greater understanding of how the meaning is being created. Below is an example of a piece of code that I created. The first link is to a Latin to English dictionary. The second link is to an English translation of Ovid’s “The Metamorphoses”.

<a href=””>Latin to English Dictionary</a>

<br><a href=””>Ovid’s “The Metamorphoses”</a>

I see similarities in learning to code and learning a language, as Matt Kirschenbaum brings up in their article. It may be helpful to some individuals and may become a hindrance to others. Even without an educational setting, the digital world provides sources to help people learn and acquire new skills. For example, we used HTML dog to further our understanding of code. Similarly, the Latin to English dictionary helps people further understand Latin vocabulary and grammar. In this class, we have been able to jump right into investigating Digital Humanities without needing to code. Similarly, one can read and appreciate the stories in Ovid’s “The Metamorphoses” without knowing any Latin. Prior to taking this class, I had no exposure to coding. With the tutorials, I can begin to understand the process of creating websites, but there is so much more to the digital world. Evan Donahue speaks about the diversity within computer science alone:

The “discipline” of computer science is made up of a diverse collection of different areas of work with discourses as mutually unintelligible as those of Judaic studies and film theory.

Evan Donahue, “A ‘Hello World’ Apart (why humanities students should NOT learn to program),” hastac, May 28, 2010.

As I mentioned earlier, I think coding, as a specific area of study, can give context and help some individuals progress in their understanding of the digital world. However, with the wide variety, even within one field, people should not be limited by having to start with coding.


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