If you wanted to learn how to speak a new language, like Spanish, it wouldn’t make sense to pick up a few vocab words and then decide to start learning Mandarin, too. It’d be confusing, right?
Programming languages are a different story, according to Alex Kuntz, Curriculum Manager at Skillacademy. “You certainly don’t need to master one language before moving onto the next,” Alex says. In fact, it’s standard for programmers to toggle between different languages throughout their careers.
Pretty much all programming languages share core features, like variables, conditionals, loops, lists, and functions, Alex says. Once you have those fundamentals down, then you can absolutely dabble in another language — or several languages — and you’ll see how they utilize those same tasks, he says. Another big difference between spoken language and programming? You don’t have to memorize everything when you code — it’s very common to look up code snippets as you need them.
Don’t stress about learning everything there is to know about a specific programming language. “Instead focus on learning concepts, because those concepts will show up in almost every programming language,” Alex says. “And as long as you have a good grasp on the concepts in one language, it is relatively easy to master those concepts in a different language.”
Here are a few common instances when you would want to learn another programming language.
You’re starting a new project
You’re changing careers (or thinking about it)
Not sure which languages fit into the types of jobs you’re after? Take a look at our Career Paths. From Full-Stack Engineer to Computer Scientist to iOS Developer, we’ve compiled all of the technical skills (plus practice projects and interview advice) you need to know to apply for jobs.
If you already have a job and are looking for ways to leverage a promotion, adding a language to your tech stack is a smart way to upskill.
Think: What technical skills would give you a leg up in your current role? Where are the gaps in your team’s knowledge, and how could you fill them? How can learning a new language streamline your company’s workflow so it’s more efficient?
Once you determine what language would be best suited for your needs, here’s how to ask your employer to pay for professional development.
Good to know: Keep track of the projects that you work on as you learn; they’ll come in handy if you need to present a case study to advocate for your promotion. Check out our Portfolio Projects for more advanced projects that will help you showcase your skills.
You’re just curious
There’s a good chance you’ve heard the adage “programmers are perpetual students” before. That basically means that there’s always something new to learn. And with hundreds of programming languages out there, nobody knows absolutely everything there is to know about coding — that’s what makes it so rewarding and fun.
If you’ve hit a wall with a particular language or course, you might need to shake things up and start learning a new language to stay engaged. It may just be a matter of learning enough to try a project or code challenge to get more hands-on practice.
“It’s typical to stick with one language until you have those fundamentals down,” Alex says. “Then it’s a great idea to look at another language — or multiple other languages — to see how those languages handle those common features.”
If you’re taking a Skillacademy course, keep in mind that they’re self-paced. In addition to trying different courses altogether, you can always adjust your long-term goal or amp up your weekly learning targets. (On the flip side, if you need to take a break and come back to a course, that’s okay — you won’t lose your progress.)