How to Learn a Programming Language

How to Learn a Programming Language

How to Learn a Programming Language
How to Learn a Programming Language

How to Learn a Programming Language: 5 Tips from a Professional Trainer

How to Learn a Programming Language New programming languages are born every day. If you have an interest in creating computer programs, mobile apps, websites, games or any other piece of software.

1. Understand the "Philosophy" Behind the Language

When I was first learning the earliest versions of Java, the language seemed verbose and unnecessarily complex. I was an inexperienced programmer at the time and was used to a procedural world coded in C.

Java was the furthest thing from procedural but I couldn’t appreciate its genius– or even it’s utility– because I didn’t understand the Object Oriented Philosophy behind it.

There is a reason we have a plethora of programming languages. Different languages are optimized to solve different types of problems or designed to work at different levels of abstraction within a computer system.

Understanding what the language you are learning is used for– and at what level of the "food chain" it works best at– is critical to understanding how to apply that language to solving actual problems.

2. Type in All the Code Examples Yourself

This tip is less philosophical and more practical. You have to be a maniac about typing in all the code examples presented while you learn.

Typing them in, instead of glancing at them in a book or in a video, is a more active process that stimulates memory and retention. Typing in the examples and making them work is perhaps the most important part of the learning process.

Perhaps most importantly, when typing in code examples, you will make mistakes. Finding those mistakes and correcting them is also an invaluable part of the learning process.

The more mistakes you make the more opportunity you will have to examine the code carefully and in time understand it.

3. Always Go One Step Further

I am a big fan of taking each lesson, lab or exercise and trying to take it one step further. Often, to do this, you have to consult the documentation for the language you are using. Doing this has two advantages.

  • First, you learn how the language documentation is structured and become familiar with it.
  • Secondly, you reinforce the concepts in the lesson and get used to solving small problems on your own in the language.
4. Learn with Many Short Examples — Not a Large Project

In the classroom, the type of "courseware" that you used was often dictated to you. Some courseware would, in each individual lesson, build towards completing a larger project.

I feel it’s very important to learn each individual language skill in isolation of others. Integration of skills is a more complex process than learning and mastering individual skill sets.

Integration is best learned once you have a solid foundation in the language – otherwise the chance of confusing concepts is too great.

5. Make It Run!

Always, always, always make your program run. Debug it until the result is correct. Don’t move on until you do. You’ve got to close the door behind you before opening a new one.

When you’re learning a programming skill, you are likely to need that skill to learn a higher level skill later. 

Sometimes it’s easy just to skip over a bump or leave an error unresolved — but you do so at your peril.
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Santosh Kumar

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