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When Should You Learn A New Programming Language As A Beginner?

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When to learn new programming language

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

One of the obvious reasons why you’d learn another programming language is if you’re tasked with a project that requires a specific language. Let’s say your employer wants you to create a mobile app: You’d need to know Swift to build iOS apps or React for Android. Or, perhaps you need a more efficient way to automate tasks at work? In that case, you might want to use Ruby, JavaScript, or Python.

Bottom line: Deciding what programming language you should learn boils down to your goal. For example, if you want to build a website, you might want to learn JavaScript, or if you’re working with data, it might make more sense to learn something like SQL or Python. Once you’re familiar with programming generally, you can dive into more advanced and specific features for the language that’s most relevant to you, Alex says.

You’re changing careers (or thinking about it)

If you have your mind set on changing careers to a specific role in tech, then figuring out what languages you need to learn is relatively straightforward. For instance, if you want to become a data scientist, you’d want to learn SQL and Python. An aspiring web developer, on the other hand, would be better suited to learn HTML/CSS and JavaScript.

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.

Be sure to read job descriptions carefully, because they’ll typically list the technical skills and languages that are required for the role. For example, it might say something like, “Knowledge of Java required: JavaScript preferred.” In that case, JavaScript is a desired skill, but not a necessity to be considered for the position.

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.)

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If you’re not sure where to begin or what to learn next, this is a great place to start. Check out our top coding courses, Skill Paths, and Career Paths.

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March 22, 2022

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