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

Thomas Davie tom.davie at gmail.com
Tue Jul 14 12:06:26 EDT 2009

On 14 Jul 2009, at 13:48, Duncan Coutts wrote:

> 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.

What I'd be interested to see is how fast beginners pick up haskell  
compared to imperative language – is it actually hard to learn, or do  
we just forget how hard it was to learn a new paradigm when we first  
learned imperative programming.  I guess it's rather hard to establish  
a metric for how fast the learning occurs though.


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