[Haskell-cafe] Why Perl is more learnable than Haskell

kynn kynnjo at gmail.com
Wed Apr 11 08:55:08 EDT 2007

Perl is a large, ugly, messy language filled with quirks and eccentricities,
while Haskell is an extremely elegant language whose design is guided by a
few overriding ideas.  (Or so I'm told.)

Based on this one would think that it would be much easier to learn Haskell
than to learn Perl, but my experience is exactly the opposite.

I've been wanting to learn Haskell for years, literally, but it has been a
case of Sisyphus and the Rock.  Despite my efforts, I never get to the level
of expertise that would make Haskell useful to me.  (I don't need elegant
factorial or Fibonacci functions in my everyday work.)  Sooner or later life
intervenes: big project due, long trip abroad, etc., and when I finally
return to learning Haskell, I have forgotten almost everything I learned and
I have to start all over again.  (BTW, I've heard similar stories from many
wannabe Haskell programmers.)

Arguably, this experience means that I have no business learning Haskell,
because it's just not relevant to my work.  Maybe so, but I still cling to
the fanciful notion that if I knew Haskell well enough, I would find plenty
of stuff to do with it in my daily work...

Anyway, in contrast to my struggle with Haskell, I learned Perl
incrementally over the years, by using it in daily little projects, ranging
at first from command-line snippets to 100-line self-contained scripts, and
moving on to larger, hairier projects.  This daily reinforcement of the
little bits of Perl I was picking up was crucial to my being able to retain
it and move forward.

Perhaps Haskell will never lend itself to something like a Perl one-liner,
but still I wish that there were books on Haskell that focused on making
Haskell useful to the learner as quickly as possible...  If such already
exist and I've missed it, please let me know.

Or I can always wait until I retire; then I'll probably have a sufficiently
long stretch of free time in my hands (barring any operations, strokes,
heart attacks, hip fractures, etc.).  I bet I could start a Haskell Wannabes
Club at the nursing home...


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