Tim Cook says it’s better to learn to code than learn English as a second language

Think different.
Think different.
Image: Reuters/Brendan Mcdermid
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Coding, says Apple CEO Tim Cook, is the best foreign language that a student in any country can learn.

The tech leader—who is touring France this week, including meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron—gave some brief thoughts on education in a video interview with French outlet Konbini. Said Cook:

If I were a French student and I were 10 years old, I think it would be more important to learn coding than English. I’m not telling people not to learn English—but this is a language that you can [use to] express yourself to 7 billion people in the world. I think coding should be required in every public school in the world.

He added that programming encourages students of all disciplines to be inventive and experimental: “It’s not just for the computer scientists. Creativity is in the front seat; technology is in the backseat.”

Apple has some skin in the game here. Cook went on to promote the company’s own programming language—Swift—that it would like developers to use for building apps within its own product ecosystem. But there’s value yet in Cook’s championing of learning to code. A computer-science education, at least in countries like the US, is one of the most viable and lucrative career paths open to young people today.

To be sure, research shows learning a (real) foreign language benefits the mind in a myriad of ways. It can increase a person’s tolerance—or change one’s personality. You might as well reap those benefits while making yourself more employable, to boot.