Computer Programming For Non-English Speakers


Learning computer science (CS) presents many challenges in itself – however, it becomes increasingly more complicated if the learner has the additional disadvantage of not speaking the language CS is taught in. The current learning methods may not always be as accommodating for non-native speakers as they could be, causing various additional and, arguably, unnecessary learning challenges. Hence, the proposed study aims to investigate significant barriers to CS education and how the process could be improved.


The specific technical problem that the proposed research aims to address is creating CS learning materials that are more accessible and culturally neutral. Before being able to create and interpret a functional piece of code in any programming language, people must understand the guidance for it. Hence, non-native English speakers should be able to access the instructions on programming in a way that makes their learning process more manageable. According to Alaofi (2020), poor knowledge of the English language was predictive of poor CS performance. Coupled with the fact that most CS is conducted, taught, and discussed in English, not knowing it created an enormous potential for erroneous coding (Guo, 2018). One of the implications is the loss of potentially highly qualified specialists due to the lack of accommodations at the beginning of their educational journey.


The proposed technical solution to the outlined problem aims to eliminate the barriers, curtail misunderstandings, and make CS more accessible to speakers of any language. The study investigates several scholarly publications to obtain the best techniques and approaches for higher accessibility to achieve such an aim. Some common suggestions included excluding excessive use of highly localized and technical jargon, relying highly on visuals, and incorporating dictionaries for specific terms (Alaofi, 2020; Guo, 2018). Further, Hagiwara and Rodriguez (2021) recommend increasing lab and hands-on learning times instead of prioritizing lectures, encouraging cooperation, and accounting for the stress non-native speakers may experience. Therefore, educators are highly encouraged to engage students in experiential learning and account for varying levels of English proficiency instead of viewing the student body as homogenous in terms of skills.