When you think of coding languages, you might think of Java or Python. But science shows that other languages – the ones we use to communicate with each other – are more closely related to coding than previously thought.

A March 2020 study published in the UK-based journal Scientific Reports, looked at whether memory, problem-solving and an aptitude for numbers or languages influenced how people learned to code. Researchers recruited 42 participants to try out a popular online coding course. Before the classes, participants went through a battery of tests designed to look at their various existing skills. As they progressed in the course, researchers were able to track how quickly they learned and how well they did in the tests.

After completion of the course, researchers found that how well students learned to code was mostly explained by problem-solving and working memory. But they also found that language learning ability and general cognitive skills were the best indicators of how quickly people picked up programming languages, like Python.

In fact, language aptitude explained almost 20 per cent of the difference in how quickly people learned to code. Surprisingly, the maths-based pre-test only explained two per cent of the variability in how quickly students learned and had no bearing on how well they performed. All this goes to show that, contrary to popular belief, learning to code depended a lot more on people’s language skills than it did on their maths skills.

So, perceptions of coding being related to maths are perhaps incorrect. Moreover, according to the US-based science news website Massive Science, many studies have shown that girls typically have higher language skills than boys, on average, so the idea that female coders are few and far between could be a thing of the past.

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