Your favourite programming language is not good enough

I was blown away by the amount of response - mostly positive - on my Python is important post. However, a lot of the replies, both positive and... slightly less positive, really highlighted an issue I have with how a lot developers seem to approach programming languages: the search for the Perfect Language to Love and Protect. Why are so many developers so very emotional when it comes to their favourite programming language? Considering that no language can (yet) magically translate the perfect idea in your head into machine code, all of them exist on a scale of badness - they all limit you more than your own thoughts or the hardware does.

I believe that the primary reason people feel the need to vehemently defend a particular language is that they are lazy. Of course, good programmers are always lazy (why else automate?), but this is a specific and very bad laziness - being too lazy to learn. If my favourite language is better than anything else, or maybe at least just as good as anything else, I don't have to spend time and effort learning new languages.

The main problem with this is not only that you won't find the perfect language, but that when you're only comfortable in one or two languages, the way you solve problems become limited by whats possible to do in those languages - and if the languages you know are similar and from the same paradigm, the problem gets worse.

When you choose a language to solve a problem, by all means, use the language you feel you will solve it best in - the more powerful, more productive, most comfortable, the one with the most libraries... but if you want to be a serious programmer or developer, rather than someone who dabbles a bit in programming, you need to learn new languages, and you need to stop believing that you found that one language that is better than the rest. All programming languages have made trade-offs, and none is perfect. I would argue that some languages are better than others, but no language is the best at everything, and no language got everything right. Python has it's own problems (its not that it is dynamically typed), so has the different Lisp dialects (its not that it has too many parenthesis), and so has Haskell (its the indisputable fact that it is weird1).

Learn new languages. Learn not to be partisan and defend 'your' language against any criticism. If you haven't already, read Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, and learn some form of Lisp - it will make you see and feel the limitations of other languages, and the pain will make you a better programmer, whatever language you use.

  1. No, I'm not being serious. Haskell is next on my list of languages to learn. ^
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