Linguists Make Great Programmers

When most people think of a linguist, a few careers may pop up. Translators are an obvious connection, and being an educator in a foreign country may also be a viable option, but what about programming? When it comes to Code Platoon’s alumni, some of the most successful Coding Bootcamp graduates served as linguists within the military.

From the outside, it might not seem like the social science major would fit into a software engineering career, but in many ways, linguists can adapt their skills into the field of computer science. One of the best examples of this may be the American linguist Noam Chomsky. Primarily known to the masses for his political activism and work in the field of language interpretation, Chomsky also left a significant impression upon the field of programming with his contribution of the hierarchy of grammars (also known as the Chomsky hierarchy) which gave something short of a mathematical blueprint for grammar, a useful model for programming languages. Linguists may speak multiple languages but one of the critical areas of study for these wordsmiths is understanding languages’ structure

Marcos Castillio“Programming languages are just that – languages. You are learning syntax, you are learning the vocabulary so you can give the computer program instructions,” says Marcos Castillio, a Code Platoon graduate from Julia Platoon. “However, programming isn’t just learning the language, programming is problem-solving, and I think that’s where the similarity between language learning programming starts to branch off.”

Before participating in the Code Platoon, Marcos served with the U.S. Army as an Indonesian linguist. He also taught himself Japanese.  Following his separation from service, he became an English Teacher in Japan. After teaching for four years, Marcos knew he wanted a change in both scenery and career. A conversation with a software engineering friend made programming sound like a potential outlet. Marcos researched how to break into the field and found a few Coding Bootcamps that fit what he was looking for, but only a few programs would accept VET TEC as a financial option.  

I used the GI Bill to go to the University of Texas and get a degree in economics. I still had some time leftover (on his GI Bill), and with VET TEC, if you have one day of GI Bill leftover, at least you are eligible for it,” says Marcos. In January of 2019 Marcos applied for Code Platoon’s program and eight months later he was in the classroom beginning his next career. But what is it about Code Platoon, or Coding Bootcamps in general, that works so well with our Linguist Veterans?

“I think one of the biggest things for someone who has successfully gone through a DLI program is that they already understand the extended Bootcamp learning environment,” says Marcos, recalling the intense schedule at the Defense Language Institute. The days start early, and each hour spent in the classroom is vital, where most can’t afford to miss a single day of training. “I feel like going through Code Platoon was less intensive actually. I think anybody who thought about coding, a potential advantage for someone who has successfully gone through DLI would have is that you have already experienced the classroom in terms of style, and you’ve done it for longer.”

One of the big misconceptions of becoming a programmer is that you have to be an expert in math and science, and while having a background in those fields may be helpful, it isn’t completely necessary. 

“I was that person for the longest time. I’m not a math person,” Marcos says, hoping to dissuade potential applicants from walking away from their next possible career because of any doubt. “It is a different way of thinking that can be trained and something that you would have to get used to. But just because you haven’t done it before doesn’t mean you can’t be successful.”

If you are considering making a career change but have some doubts, we encourage you to prove yourself wrong. Check out what Code Platoon has to offer and apply today

Amanda Michelle Gordon is one of Code Platoon’s summer interns, serving in the Content and Marketing department. She is a U.S. Air Force Veteran and a student of SUNY New Paltz for Journalism and Sociology. In her free time, Amanda enjoys reading, the outdoors, and turning coffee into copy. You can find Amanda on LinkedIn and Twitter

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