The NCSL Blog


By Isaac S. Solano

Should computer coding be considered a foreign language?

illusration of woman with computer code; credit U.S. News and World ReportThis question may be on the minds of many state lawmakers across the country during the 2017 legislative sessions.

The issue of coding is a part of larger movement to improve K-12 computer science education. Components include allowing computer science classes to satisfy existing graduation requirements for math or science, establishing computer science standards, and strengthening the computer science teacher certification process.

During 2016 legislative session, Florida introduced Senate Bill 468 that would allow high school students to take computer coding classes instead of foreign language classes. Proponents of such change argue that computer coding skills are valued communication skills necessary to compete in the 21st century job market.

According to, there are currently 512,340 open computing jobs in the United States, but only 33 states allow certain computer science courses to count for high school graduation requirements.

Although the Florida bill ultimately did not pass, this policy discussion is far from over. Actions from last year indicate that states including Georgia and Rhode Island are poised to take the issue up this year.

Opponents argue that computer coding and foreign language skills are fundamentally different, and coding classes should not be allowed to replace foreign language classes. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language notes that French, Japanese and Spanish are languages with a vocabulary of approximately 100,000 words, while typical computing language has a vocabulary of about 100 words.

Certain states have taken another approach when it comes to allowing computer coding classes to substitute certain graduation requirements. For example, in 2016, Colorado House Bill 1198 was enacted and gave students the option of replacing certain math courses with computer coding courses.

For more resources on coding as a foreign language check out this US News and World Report article. For more resources on other K-12 education issues, check out NCSL’s page.

Isaac S. Solano is an intern in NCSL’s Education Program.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.