May 10, 2022

Tech Workers In Latin America Want To Make Spanish The Primary Language Of Programming

As Latin America pushes to build a robust tech sector, the language barrier will remain a major obstacle, especially for high-quality positions, according to some in the industry. This is largely because the English language remains the predominant foundation for coding and an in-demand skill required by tech companies in Mexico and abroad.

According to a recent study by the Spain-based IT services firm Everis, 55% of companies in Latin America said that finding the right employee was difficult, while experts estimate that the region will see 10 million new IT job openings by 2025.

The existing gap in the labor market in the IT sector is not new. Companies in the sector often highlight the difficulties they have in finding talent and even retaining it.

Last year we reported that the next decade could see a global shortage of more than 85 million tech workers, representing $8.5 trillion in lost annual revenue.

But if most of the jobs that will be available require English language skills – how will Latin Americans secure the jobs they’re qualified for when many can only speak Spanish.

This is what tech leaders in the region are trying to solve.

There has now been an uptick in coding boot camps, and meetup organizations that aim to provide translations of educational materials for those who cannot speak or understand English.

Marian Villa Roldán is a Colombian programmer and the co-founder of Pionerasdev, a Medellín-based nonprofit that helps women learn how to code.

She told Rest of the World that one of the main barriers for Spanish speakers is the lack of a Spanish programming language and a lack of coding resources in Spanish. “We have technical people who understand the implementation, but they don’t feel very comfortable having a conversation in English,” she told Rest of World. 

“English is a necessity [to become a programmer],” she said

But Gabriela Rocha, Laboratoria’s co-founder and COO, thinks otherwise.

Her organization, which helps women learn to code and land jobs in technology, has experimented with teaching English as part of its curriculum. But even still it continues to hold its entire six-month intensive boot camp in Spanish and only 14% of its students have an advanced level of English, with 50% holding an intermediate level and 36% a beginner level, she told the Rest of World.

Laboratoria reportedly operates under the idea that students need to know just enough English to learn how to code and access educational documentation, but not necessarily to attain a level beyond that.

“Latin America is a region accustomed to [English] and how to work around it,” Rocha said. “The great majority of opportunities for our students are still within Latin America and don’t require English.”

More than 75% of the jobs Laboratoria students land don’t use English as a primary language.

There is an ongoing debate around this issue and how it should be addressed.

Abbianca Makoni

Abbianca Makoni is a content executive and writer at POCIT! She has years of experience reporting on critical issues affecting diverse communities around the globe.