You can be a 50-year-old, underpaid and dissatisfied with your job, trying to get into the technology industry in some way or the other. Or you can be an 18-year-old, waiting tables and economically not in a condition to attend college, wanting desperately to work for Google. Or you can be any one of the countless people who has started to learn to code, only to be daunted by the enormity of the scope and the complexity of such a task, especially if you are a beginner. DO NOT WORRY. This blog post will attempt to give you some good tips so that you can find the best way to learn a programming language.
Learning programming is not unlike any other learning process. We have already written a post on how to learn anything easily. I highly recommend that you check it out first. Now we can dive deep into how to productively learn any programming language.
1) Learn by doing
Ask any good programmer, he or she will say that the best way to learn a programming language is by ‘learning by doing’. By that, I mean this: Instead of reading a bunch of programming books while lying on the bed, start practicing the language by writing programs and testing them on your own. This might seem like a no-brainer, but practice is crucial to learn any programming language; knowledge just by itself is not enough. While writing a program, you might hit many obstacles that you would not have anticipated before. This might ultimately help you master the programming language. And once you have experienced the sense of accomplishment and the surge of satisfaction that come after squashing a bug and seeing the output on the screen, I promise you that you won’t look back. Of course, you would have to work really hard and commit yourself to the task, but the reward is worth it.
2) Learn from multiple sources
Here’s a rookie mistake that most learners make: They think that they have made a big commitment when they signed up for, say a Udemy course, and focus only on that single course when they have access to an abundant wealth of resources online, mostly free. So, here’s a tip: As soon as you finish learning a topic from one particular source, do a quick google search on the topic and read a few blog posts on it. Watch a couple of YouTube videos. Check out the official documentation page for the language. Of course, it takes time. But think of it as an investment you make to become a master at what you are learning.
3) Actively use Stack Overflow
The best way to learn a programming language is not by finding the best content. The best way to learn a programming language is by finding the best process. That is the idea behind all the tips mentioned here, especially this one. For example, let’s take Stack Overflow, which is basically a question and answer site for developers. Obviously, you would find precious content on the site which would definitely help you improve your knowledge. But to get the most of the site, you need to become an active consumer rather than a passive one: you have to ask questions yourself and answer other people’s questions, instead of just reading the content passively. Sure, you might get downvoted for a wrong answer or a seemingly stupid question. But that’s all a part of the learning process, and remember this: the only stupid question is the one that is not asked.
4) Always tinker with your code
So, you are learning programming by doing. You are coding along with your instructor. Great, but please don’t stop there. Experiment with your code. Start looking at avenues to expand your code’s functionality. Or try to reduce the lines of code to improve the readability of your program. Or make it more efficient and run faster. Tinker with it in any of the other countless, creative ways you can think of. Do anything short of destroying your development machine. It is very important to understand the philosophy of programming in a language while learning one. Come up with your own signature programming idioms after a while, if you can. All in all, just play with your code.
5) Practice, Practice, Practice
I can’t stress this enough. While it is true that you would have to practice a lot to gain mastery on any subject, when it comes to programming it is especially true. There are a couple of reasons for that. The first and the obvious reason is that programming is an art and you will lose touch if you don’t practice enough. But the more important reason is that technology is always improving at a breakneck speed. The code libraries you use today will be deprecated tomorrow. There will be new versions of the programming language. There will be multiple paradigm shifts, like mobile and the internet, in the future. To prepare for all this and to become an expert, you need to practice your art unceasingly. Again, remember: Learning is a process.
Finally, I do have a confession to make: There is no single best way to learn a programming language. It depends entirely on you. Follow whatever that works for you. But I do hope that these tips would help you to become a better programmer. Also, don’t forget to check out our highly curated lists of resources to learn different programming languages. Enjoy.