6 Tips to Learn a New Programming Language Quicker

Tech Insights for Professionals

Tech Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for IT pros

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Follow these 6 simple tips and you should find the process of learning a new programming language is much faster and smoother.

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There's a lot of debate at the moment about which programming languages will be the most important skills to add to a professional's résumé, as the world of software development evolves and focuses more heavily on mobile deployment and new approaches.

But while there are a range of emerging and niche languages that are fighting for attention, there's no single language that looks set to be the primary tool for every scenario. In fact, one of the most important skills for any programmer in the coming years will be versatility, and having two or more languages on your CV will be great for your career prospects.

Therefore, it's not so much about what languages you know, but how quickly you can learn them, which will separate the most skilled and in-demand professionals from the rest. Being able to show you can adapt to changing needs and always be on top of the latest trends will be vital for any programmer.

But learning a new language can often be a daunting experience. Getting to grips with the unique quirks of a new language, understanding the differences and training yourself out of whatever ingrained methods and memories you have from your existing skills can be a big ask.

However, there are a few things you can do to make the task easier. Here are some of our top tips:

1. Get stuck in early

When studying a new language for the first time, it's easy to get bogged down in the theory. But many of us learn faster when we're at least partially hands on, so the earlier you start experimenting with the code itself, the better. Sure, it'll look untidy at first, but being able to see where you've made mistakes and going back to fix them as you go along is the best way to build your understanding of a language.

2. Take advantage of multiple sources

Relying too heavily on a single source for your learning, whether this is a textbook, an online tutorial or practical exercises, can mean you end up with a narrow focus that leaves you unable to spot any weaknesses. No source is perfect, so by cross-referencing and using multiple methods of learning, you can make up for any blind spots in your primary material.

3. Talk to existing experts

As is the case with most things, the best educators are the ones who've seen it and done it all. No matter what language you choose to learn, there's certain to be a great community of existing experts who'll be happy to share their knowledge. Whether it's general best practice advice or being able to look at a piece of your code to point out any errors you've missed, most forums are happy to help newbies, so don't be afraid to ask questions.

4. Consider going old-school

Coding by hand using old-fashioned pen and paper may seem counterintuitive, but it's actually a great way to practice your skills and make sure you understand what you're doing. It helps ensure you're paying attention to the key logical steps the code requires and it builds good habits, as you'll have to review it carefully yourself, instead of relying on machines to tell you when something won't work.

5. Keep a clear schedule...

Maintaining a consistent, planned schedule for your learning session is vital if you want to pick up skills quickly. The longer you spend between sessions, the more time you'll have to spend simply refreshing what you learned last time rather than moving on to the next steps. Devoting some time every day to your project - or, at the very least, several set times a week - ensures you don't lose any of the knowledge you're gaining.

6. ...but don't work too hard

However, at the same time, it’s vital to avoid burnout. Taking frequent breaks isn't just good for destressing - it's proven to help you retain what you're learning. Similarly, burning the midnight oil to try and get through the next stage of a course will almost certainly be more of a hindrance than a help. People who get enough sleep find it 4.9 times easier to get motivated at work, and are 1.9 times more likely to be happier in their job than those that don't get enough rest - so make sure you know when to put the books down!

As is the case with foreign languages, once you've learned a second, adding a third or fourth string to your bow will be much easier, so follow these tips and you should be well set for whatever the future has in store.

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