Best ways to Learn a Programming Language

Looking to dive into the world of programming?

Java, Python, PHP, Ruby, JavaScript, Scala, C++, C#, Groovy…the list of languages is endless, and the ways you can use them goes on and on, too.

While learning a programming language isn’t for the faint of heart, it can set you up for success in many different professions, projects, and other facets of your life and the world. But how do you actually begin your coding journey? Here are the best ways to learn a language.

Why Learn a Programming Language?

The reasons to learn a programming language are many and varied. Today, you can’t turn the corner without running into a tech professional. If you want to be a software developer, it’s obvious coding is an important skill to have in your repertoire. But that’s not the only profession where this knowledge has a place. Other careers where it comes in handy include:

  • Marketing
  • Graphic design
  • Growth hacking
  • User experience (UX) design
  • Business analytics
  • Technical writing
  • Engineering
  • Science
  • Project management
  • Product management

Even in careers where coding isn’t central to the role, coding can come in handy. For example, if you’re a blogger, knowledge of coding will allow you to manipulate the backend of your website, improve its appearance, and make it more presentable and unique. The skill will also serve to boost your resume and candidacy for future jobs.

Additionally, it will help you nurture skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, and curiosity. That’s because programming requires you to think deeply about how to resolve errors and make something work. Learning to code will also enable you to rely more on yourself, rather than others — like your IT support team — to fix issues.

Why Do You Want to Code?

In order to figure out your methodology for learning a programming language, you need to consider your motivation. The ways you gain these skills will depend on why you’re doing it in the first place. Is it integral to the career you want? Are you planning on actually becoming a developer? Is it more of a hobby? Or, maybe it will boost your skillset and earning potential, even if it’s not pivotal to your current role.

This rationale will help guide your programming journey.

5 Ways to Learn a Programming Language

1. Research Languages

First things first, you’ll need to look into different languages to determine which is the best starting point. This will depend on what you want to do — and what you want to make. For example, any type of website, UX, or graphic designer will probably want to know Javascript, which allows you to bring dynamic features to websites and other products. Meanwhile, Android app creators should learn Java and Kotlin.

Some languages are easier to tackle for beginners than others, so this should also be a consideration. Python, for example, is considered approachable, given how easy to read and write it is.

2. Look Into Courses and Bootcamps

Bootcamps have become a bit of a buzzword, with many claiming to dramatically boost learning potential. The length and cost of these short, jam-packed programs vary, but the gist is the same: they teach you programming skills in a short span of time, with comprehensive curricula.

Looking for something more affordable? Sites like Codecademy offer free, online courses to teach you how to code like a pro.

3. Work on Real Projects

Learning the theory is important, but practice is equally, if not more, essential to programming. You should be flexing your programming muscle regularly by working on real projects — a website, a simple app, or whatever you choose. This will help you hone your skills.

While your project shouldn’t be so overwhelmingly complicated that you can’t even fathom where to start, it should be something that stretches you — that’s how you’ll learn. This will also enable you to start building a portfolio, which will be very important if you want to find a job in the field.

4. Find Support

Even if you’re teaching yourself — or planning to teach yourself — the art and science of coding, it’s still useful to have support from others. There are plenty of communities for techies, such as the famed Stack Overflow. There are also language or tool-specific forums. Even Reddit has plenty of subreddits dedicated to programming. These are all excellent resources to help you master languages and receive guidance.

5. Read Up

It may sound old-fashioned, but reading actual books is one of the best ways to learn a programming language. There are plenty of books pertaining to individual languages, methodologies, and so on, as well as comprehensive texts to usher you into the world of software development. Here are some tips on how to find the best book for you:

  • Look for recent publication dates because the programming world is constantly developing and changing, and tech guides quickly become outdated.
  • You may find books that specialize in certain areas or languages most useful since they’re geared toward your specific needs.
  • Read the reviews to find out what skills you will learn and whether the topics align with your needs — as well as that they’re geared toward your level of proficiency.

There’s no doubt about it: programming skills will open up doors for you. And while it’s not necessarily a simple path, it’s a practical and highly lucrative one. It might even be easier than you originally thought!

I’m a tech writer, IT enthusiast, and business development manager living in Miami.