If you’ve spent the majority of your career as a programmer mastering a single coding language, you might be intimidated to learn a new one. Sure, all programming languages are rooted in similar logic, and learning a second language is much easier than starting from scratch, but you’ll still have to train your brain to think in different ways, breaking down complex problems using different methodologies.
Still, learning a second (or third) language is valuable for your career, giving you a bigger skillset you can use in different contexts, and granting you better problem-solving skills in the process.
So what strategies can you use to learn that new language faster?
Learning a New Programming Language
Try using these strategies if you want to pick up those new skills as quickly as possible:
- Get plenty of sleep. Your lifestyle habits can have a significant impact on how fast and how efficiently you learn. Namely, getting enough sleep every night can help ensure that you’re working efficiently; in fact, professionals who get enough sleep are 1.5 times more likely to be satisfied with their performance. On top of that, sleep plays a role in memory formation, so ample sleep could help you remember all those new syntax rules.
- Start playing with the code immediately. It’s tempting to brush up on as much theory as possible before getting your hands on the code and putting it to the test, but it’s better if you start playing with the code immediately, and throughout the learning process. Most of us learn best by doing, and it’s the only way to make (and eventually correct) your own mistakes.
- Try coding by hand. It’s counterintuitive to code by hand, using pencil and paper. It takes more time and there’s no way to run your code to check whether it works or not. But writing code by hand will force you to pay closer attention to what you’re writing and will make you pay more attention to the details. Plus, you’ll have to think more critically about the code you’re writing, since you won’t have an easy way to check its functionality.
- Learn from different sources. If you can, try to get your knowledge from multiple sources. Going through an online tutorial is a good way to build your foundation, but other sources might draw your attention to other important fundamentals. If you draw on multiple sources, you’ll have a higher chance of making up for the weaknesses of your primary source, and you’ll get more exposure to the community.
- Talk to existing specialists. Speaking of exposure to the community, involve yourself in discussions related to your new programming language as often as possible. Forums like CodeProject and Stack Overflow are friendly to newcomers, but are also filled with experienced professionals who are more than willing to help you on your journey. Read old conversation threads, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Take frequent breaks. Research shows that taking breaks when studying helps improve your memory retention and the total efficiency of your learning efforts. Though you may want to power through a tough challenge or the next chapter, it might be better to take 10 minutes to decompress before forging ahead.
- Stay on a consistent path. If you go more than a week between learning sessions, you’ll run the risk of losing some of the new knowledge and experience you’ve gained. If possible, stay on a daily or multiple-times-weekly schedule. The more consistent you are with learning new things and practicing your recently acquired skills, the better your retention will be.
These strategies can be applied no matter how many programming languages you want to learn—and if you want to become a well-rounded coder, you should be at least fleetingly familiar with six or more. Of course, the more languages you add to your skillset, the more time and effort it’s going to take to keep up with the latest developments in each of those fields. Make sure you’re prepared for the upkeep, as well as the initial learning process.