I want to share with you some tips that can be useful when you are about to learn a new language
1) It’s just another programming language
If it’s not your first programming language, then you’re fine: it’s just another programming language.
Most operators, types, loops and conditionals will be the same you already know, just with a different syntax.
2) Start from Hello World
Learning a new programming language by coding something quite complex can be really frustrating and you will be tempted to give up.
Don’t be afraid to start from something really simple as an Hello World or something similar
3) Get an editor with syntax highlighting
This is a must-do both for new and well known languages.
Don’t believe programmers claiming they write their code with NotePad… this sounds like visual effects in Lord of the Rings movie have been made with MS Paint.
There are so many ways to help our job, whatever it should be, it would be stupid not to make it as easy as we can.
A good editor should have row numbers, syntax highlighting, and support a wide number of languages so you will have to learn one interface to rule them all.
The one I love is PSPad.
4) Get some books
Now it’s time to get seriously into the new language. Go to Amazon and search for some books. I recommend you to get at least a beginners guide, the “your new language” Bible and an advanced book.
I highly recommend the Bible because of its friendly way of explaining and the complete coverage of the language.
5) Start translating
Now it’s time to translate your projects made in an “old” language into the new one. This process is called “porting”.
There’s nothing better than facing the same old problems in a new way.
If it’s your first language, then jump directly to next step.
6) Start rewriting
Look in the web for examples with source code, read them and rewrite them in your way. At the end, your script will probably look slightly different than the original one, but it will work the same way.
Remember every programmer has his own way to write code, so using someone else code is never the better way to learn a language. Rewrite it.
7) Submit your work
It’s time to submit your work to related portals. People will rate and comment it and you will know if what you called “ultimate address book” is really useful or just another script.
Never mind, seven steps ago you even wasn’t able to write “Hello world”…
8) Languages change. And what about you?
All major languages change during time to face new technologies. Just think about Actionscript or Php.
They evolve day by day… this means you should do the same.
But I have some advices:
8a) Don’t be a “latest release fanatic”… when Php 5 was released, some programmers I know started complaining because their servers did not installed it.
The most amazing thing is the most complex script they did was a form validation. There is no need to learn php5 if your job is validating forms. Php3 will do the same.
When a new release of the language hits the market, it takes about two years (in some cases even more) before you MUST master it.
So don’t waste precious time to be the first to explore the new version. Let others do the dirty job for you and learn from their experience.
8b) Don’t be an “old release fanatic”… if you don’t have to dive yourself into the new version, you also don’t have to stick forever to the old one.
There will be a time you knowledge will be obsolete, and a programmer with an obsolete knowledge is not a programmer.
It’s up to you to decide when it’s time to switch to the new version
9) Don’t learn everything
Your time is limited, and your brain – like it or not – is limited too.
So you should choose wisely what to learn and what not to learn.
In my case, I decided to quit ASP for Actionscript. I had not enough time to learn both languages.
My preferred dynamic web language is Php, so I decided there was no need to master ASP for the sake of mastering it.
10) Nothing lasts forever
What is the best language today, will be obsolete in the future.
Actually I use less than an half of the languages I had to learn… programming languages are like women… you will meet a lot of them in your life, but you will only have two or three of them by your side at the same time… (this can be the last post in this blog if my wife reads it…)