Is coding the new English?

Imagine a room with around 70 female grown-ups (and a handful of men, to be fair) staring eagerly at their laptops and writing their first lines of code. A scene from Matrix IV? A vision from the distant future? Nope.

On the occasion of the 2017 EU code week, the recently opened innovation and collaboration space Kraftwerk in Zurich hosted a workshop for all those folks that always wanted to but never got to try coding. Under the friendly guidance of Chanel Greco, an experienced developer and tech instructor, we were introduced to the fascinating world of coding, specifically html and css. As we were taught, html and css technically do not qualify as programming languages but they are ideal to give programming newbies like myself a kickstart in code.

During the two hours workshop I experienced both the beauty and pitfalls of html and css. The magical feeling to see an html webpage coming together with imagery and content after writing my first lines of code was quickly – if only temporarily – overshadowed by the dramatic impact of what I thought was just a minor spelling mistake in the code. Precision is king and queen when you code, that I learned very quickly.

At the end of the workshop, I was the proud coder and creator of my first ever website. Or well, technically it was a website but obviously not one that would stand up to the stringent inspection of a communications professional (like me). But hey, it was a start and it definitely got me going.



Mission achieved for the lovely ladies Melanie Kovacs and Janine Fuchs from WeShapeTech and Master21, the two organizations behind the workshop. They aim to make code literacy the new normal and offer boot camps and summer courses together with networking activities. With their call, they’re in good company. In a recent interview, Tim Cook, CEO of apple, called coding the most crucial skill for young people to learn. Rather than being a specialized skill just for technology aficionados, coding should be seen as a skill that enables you to be creative and to create, and above all, to potentially express yourself to 7 billion people around the world, Cook argues.

Will my eight-month-old son learn how to code when he joins kindergarten in a few years? No clue. (For those of you interested in getting the spark across to your young ones: Codillion offers programming and robotics classes as of the age of five). The discussions have only recently started but they sound very familiar to me. I still remember the heated debate a few years ago, when teachers and educational policy makers argued with each other about whether English should be taught in primary school in Switzerland. It seems the debate has moved on. Coding is the new English.