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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
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

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher

£130 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher Jan 2015 - July...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Our exclusive client in St Albans Hertfords...

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Primary Teachers

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 Teachers needed in Hertfordshir...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee