David Sergey Grigoryan

This book quite literally changed the way I approach software engineering, and definetely in top-five books that changed my life, along with Dune by Frank Herbert, Generation “P” by Pelevin, and Getting Things Done by Dave Allen. This book showed me a meaning and reason to enrich my horizons to read more and look into different disciplines for ideas and inspirations. I’m talking about “Seven Languages in Seven Weeks”, that’s seven programming languages.

My guess is that book is supposed to be read over seven weekends but I was a freelancer at the time and I simply blasted through book in couple of weeks. Prolog and Clojure were my favourite parts. Thing is, I was pretty sure I knew a lot of languages, I was front-end freelancer and was working with ActionScript and JavaScript, sometimes venturing into Java, PHP, Ruby and Python, they were all different languages right?

Before SLiSW I never thought about different paradigms, and how they can make hard problems easy simply by framing them differently. My entrire career and to some degree life can be looked as life before I read SLiSW and after. I started to read more books about languages I didn’t need, just to try them, I started to read prose in genres I didn’t enjoy before, to get ideas. I started to make plans to travel to South East Asia that were postponed indefenetely (until now). So you get the point, this book gave me an interesting outlook on my life, and I think improved me emensly, so thank you Bruce Tate! I think what happens here is akin to theory of Linguistic Relativity1 which states that languages could influence the way we think:

“The principle of linguistic relativity language affects the ways in which its respective speakers conceptualize their world, i.e. their world view, or otherwise influences their cognitive processes”

This actually was a push to start learning Italian and Mandarin, thought I was never interested in perfecting them, though I had a master plan to learn Italian accent to speak in English with Italian accent! But what I actually wanted is to learn grammar, structures, they ways word relate to each other. Most courses however either try to slowly grind foundation of a language for serious learning or focus on spoken go to phrases, but it was an interesting experience. This all was a part of the idea that was brewing in my mind ever since I read SLiSW. This book was good to me, but I can only share it to limited subset of friends, friends who happen to have academic or industry experience closely related to programming. I can’t recommend this to my mom, girlfriend or most of my friends.

So, I was wondering can we create a course that will go through 3 or 4 languages over the course of couple of month, with a goal of inspiring people and helping them think clearly, approach problems from different angles? Starting with some roman language, such as Spanish or Portugese, moving to slavic, probably Russian, which is still very similar yet have quirkiness to it, especially with absence of word ordering. Then Chinese and moving to Thai or Indonesian? If you are a linguist write me a mail: me@davidsergey.com

In any case I strongly recommend reading this book. It made turn gears in my mind turn for years, for five years to be exact, and I feel guilty for the fact that I didn’t recommend it to everybody I know.


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