[Haskell-cafe] RE: Haskell as a first language?

Duncan Coutts duncan.coutts at worc.ox.ac.uk
Tue Jul 14 07:48:35 EDT 2009

On Tue, 2009-07-14 at 03:01 -0700, Michael Vanier wrote:

> Charles,
> Haskell is a wonderful language (my favorite language by far) but it is 
> pretty difficult for a beginner.  In fact, it is pretty difficult for 
> anyone to learn in my experience, because it has so many advanced 
> concepts that simply don't exist in other languages, and trying to 
> absorb them all at once will likely be overwhelming.

As a contrary data-point, at Oxford we teach functional programming
(using Haskell) as the first course at the very beginning of the
computer science degree. I know several other universities also use FP
and Haskell very early on in their CS courses. On the Oxford course
about half the students have had significant previous programming
experience. There does not appear to be a significant difference in how
quickly students with little previous programming experience learn FP
compared to those with more programming experience (keep in mind these
are young people, not mature students with years of professional
programming experience).

The point is, it's not at all clear that it's a harder language for
beginners. Unfortunately, it rather hard to gather decent evidence about
learning on which one could base decisions on the choice of language.


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