[Haskell-cafe] Haskell as a first language?

Gareth Smith gds at doc.ic.ac.uk
Tue Jul 14 13:11:45 EDT 2009

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

Then Duncan said:
> 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.

At Imperial College, Haskell's also the first language the undergrads
touch and people seem to like it.

I think it's easy to forget how reassuring it is to be surrounded by
lots of other beginners when one is learning something completely new -
like programming. A lot of people here seem to be suggesting that haskell is
an advanced language for advanced programmers. I think it more likely
that people whose first experience of haskell is online are likely to
come into contact with mostly advanced programmers in here and on
#haskell. This is great, because they can teach us things - but it can
also be off-putting, because they can seem so far beyond us.

Imagine trying to learn basic arithmetic in a university common room
full of category theorists.

Personally, I think that haskell is a great beginners language. Just
don't feel that you have to be able to keep up with all the #haskellers.
It's absolutely fine to not understand what a monad transformer is.


More information about the Haskell-Cafe mailing list