I was once asked “why bother learning these other languages, if you can’t use them”. It hadn’t occurred to this person that I code off hours. I’ve also been asked “what if you find these other languages actually are better than C++? Won’t you find it depressing having to code in a normal language then?”
It’s a good question. I don’t know if there’s one answer, but I’ve found mine.
Learning Lisp, Haskell, Python, and others has given me a greater appreciation for computer science, for the theory and universe of knowledge that lies underneath the surface of programming. Now when I code, I don’t just solve the problem at hand. I see different ways to solve it. I see other remote problems its related to. I appreciate the aesthetic of it all.
It’s not for everyone, but I find the mathematics underlying it all very beautiful.
And as for my day job in old-school-C++? Well, I hack together a prototype in Python in a couple hours, then spend a week translating it to C++ (adding verbosity, manual error handling, unfolding metaprogramming, etc). My boss doesn’t necessarily understand the whole languages thing, but he’s happy when I get a 2 wk job done in one. I’m happy too; having gotten through the icky bits of the problem in Python, I spend less time working on the boring bits in C++, and can move on to the next project sooner.
There is one last question, that I’m not sure I really have a good answer to. “Won’t you be tempted to use features that don’t exist in a normal language?” I’m hoping this will evaporate. Templates have existed in C++ since ’88 (pdf), various people have hacked lambdas in, and VC10 has added them for real. Short those facilities, it’s not like I have forgotten how to write imperative code. It’s still an option – I just now realize the development expenses of that option.
I’m curious, other answers do you choose for these question?