Get coding people: It's the new Mandarin, and it's not just children who can learn how to do it

Come September, it will be taught in schools – and clubs. Susie Mesure gets a lesson in basic computer-speak

Forget Mandarin and don't bother with Arabic. To get ahead in 2014 it's all about Java and Ruby, if not Python and PHP. And if you're wondering what I'm on about, then you obviously haven't received the Government's memo: this is the year of code.

But bizarrely, on the very day that Lottie Dexter, ambassador for the whole initiative, launched the programme, she was forced to admit on air that she didn't have the first clue what coding was all about, because she hasn't learnt how to do it – yet.

However, The Independent on Sunday promises you can avoid similar embarrassment by reading on....

Coding is nothing more than the language you use to give instructions to a computer to make it do something – the digital language it speaks. There are lots, from Javascript (which is nothing like Java) to C++, which is most definitely not the same as C#.

The simplest way to code is to have a go at one of the many online tutorials. Try Codeacademy: with two clicks you can be on your way to learning Python. Or Ruby. Or PHP. If that's a bit daunting, there's Google Blockly, which is perfect for children because you do not have to type anything – but you do need to be able to read.

Or, if you think you might like a little personal guidance, you could try one of the intensive day sessions run by Decoded. John Ridpath, its head of product, promises you'll be building your own – simple – website after just one day. It will cost you around £500 if you do a Saturday session; slightly more if your company pays – but it will cram a lot in.

An option for those aged nine to 11 is to find a free after-school code club, or children could join a CoderDojo. These volunteer-run clubs are free, and open to anyone aged five to 17.

Coding is not only for schoolkids keen to get ahead before Michael Gove introduces it to the curriculum from September, but for you and me. Programming is like one big logic puzzle, because it's all "if this, then that", so it beats Sudoku for a spot of mental gymnastics. But that's no excuse to leave it to the children. As Mr Ridpath points out, most businesses these days have become tech companies to some extent, because of the need for an online presence.

And Adam Ball from Coding Cupboard, an outfit that launches this week as a conduit to connect small businesses with student coders, adds that what with all the scare stories about Google and Facebook hoarding people's data, wouldn't it be good if you were "empowered to analyse that data?"

Then there's the job market. A recent O2 report warned that the UK will need an extra 750,000 new "digital workers" by 2017 to keep up with demand. There simply aren't enough to go round, which means big pay cheques for the few.

If all that hasn't convinced you, then just heed the words of Bill Liao, founder of CoderDojo, who says the "best programmers are poets. Brilliant code is like poetry". And who wouldn't like to be able to write beautiful poetry?

Even Ms Dexter intends to give it a go. Asked about her much-maligned Newsnight admission, she said: "I'm leading this campaign because I want to encourage people who would never even have considered coding to give it a go. As I learn, I will post a weekly diary to share my experiences and believe this will help encourage others to join our journey.I'm not asking anyone to do anything that I am not prepared to do alongside them."

The challenge is on.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

WORLDbytes: Two-Day Intensive Camera training and Shoot: Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th March

expenses on shoots: WORLDbytes: Volunteering with a media based charity,for a ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 4 Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: A school in Tameside is currently l...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 - £70 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind are currently looking for ...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003