Thinking about transitioning from your current work to a new programming language? Here’s what you need to know!
In the coding world, it makes a lot of sense to study other languages, even if you’re only familiar with the basic syntax. This is especially true for families of languages, like C, C#, C++, and so on.
It’s also an important part of staying current in the field, as programming languages are constantly evolving. The same is true of many development and coding careers, which may require you to learn and use alternate languages. For instance, web developers may start with HTML (related: HTML tutorial) and CSS, but eventually, they’ll need to learn PHP, Java, and some others, if they want to be competitive in their field.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a web developer, software developer, front or back-end developer, game developer, or beyond, knowing more than one language makes you much more valuable to potential employers and clients.
But how do you go about learning a new language, and how do you switch? Is there anything different you need to know from the first time you jumped in?
Why Do Coders Switch to a New Programming Language?
There are many reasons why a developer might want to learn, or swap completely to a new language. One misconception is that this is an uncommon practice, but that’s not true at all. Skilled developers change things up all the time, whether by learning something new or choosing a whole new focus.
Some reasons for doing so include:
- Improving skill sets for current projects
- Increasing eligibility for new opportunities
- Ready to try something different
- Looking to take on a more expansive solo role
- Would like a pay increase or promotion
It’s also important to point out that just because you switch to another language, doesn’t mean you lose previous knowledge and experience. In most cases, a swap is more of a gain than anything because you’re adding a new platform or language to your repertoire — you’re not losing anything.
How to Choose Your New Programming Language?
Before choosing a language, consider what your mission is. Are you looking to improve your resume and boost your career? Is there a particular job opportunity or client you want to work with? Are you merely doing it to broaden your horizons?
You’ll be investing a lot of time into learning the new language, regardless of your background in programming. It makes sense to use that time wisely and choose something that’s going to provide you with the biggest return, or the most benefits.
In-Family Languages or Out?
The next thing you’ll need to consider is whether you want to stay within the same family of programming languages or not. If you want to branch outside of your wheelhouse, things are going to be a bit more complicated, but don’t let that stop you.
Languages that are within the same family have remarkably similar elements. They might have similar writing patterns, nearly identical libraries, recognizable syntax, and so on. When you swap between them, because they are so similar, it will usually be quick, easy, and it will feel familiar. Moving from C++ to Java, for instance, is going to feel uncanny.
The question for you is, do you want it all to feel familiar, or do you want to start fresh?
Once you have your answer, you can make your move!
Tips for Learning or Transitioning to a New Programming Language
1. Practice Makes Perfect
You may have been working with code for years, developing various applications, but you still need to earn experience working with your new language(s). Don’t avoid or forget to practice because you’re familiar with the field.
2. Don’t Skip the Fundamentals
It makes sense to want to skip the basics, you probably know them like the back of your hand. However, with other languages, there may be context and practices you need to know, buried in those fundamentals.
What’s more, the better grasp you have on the fundamentals, the better off you’ll be when you move to the intermediate and more advanced concepts.
3. Join a Community
Being able to communicate and learn insights from like-minded developers, especially those with real-world experience is invaluable. That’s why it’s always a good idea to join and participate in a developer community. There are many out there, from subreddits to expansive forums, and you should be able to find dedicated communities for nearly every programming language.
4. Build Your Own Code
Generally, because you’re starting with a bit more experience, you can do a lot more with the code than just cloning or copying the samples. Take some initiative and build your own code at each learning stage. This allows you to experience writing code in the new language, and it’s a fantastic way to practice what you’ve learned so far!
5. Explore New Resources
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different websites, platforms, and even media dedicated to coding. If you’re used to browsing traditional courses online, then why not try a coding game? If you’re always reading code tutorials, then branch out and start watching some videos on YouTube instead.
Explore new resources as you’re learning, and it will help create a more memorable experience overall, which should lead to you retaining more information.
6. Stay True to the Syntax
The biggest challenge of moving from one language to another comes from the minor changes in the syntax. Languages may use different symbols, different yet similar commands, or they may have other styling quirks — like whether or not you can leave a blank line. It will be tough, but try not to bring what you know about syntax from the other languages and stick to the basics.
7. Find a Mentor
Find someone that understands the language and is willing to review your code. They will be able to give you the proper criticism and set you on the right path. They can also provide additional insights you might not gain from lessons, courses, or your own experiences. For instance, maybe they know a better development environment or tool to use. Perhaps they have some insights on what frameworks are the best to work with?
8. Start a Project
Once you feel you know enough about the language, you can start your own coding project. You’ll learn a lot by trying to build your first website or mobile app.
Investing in Yourself
Think of learning a new language as investing in yourself, your skills, and your future. The broader your skill set the better the opportunities you have, and the more valuable you will be to potential clients and employers. That alone is worth the price of admission, especially when admission only costs you time.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.