5 Tips for Learning a Programming Language

5 Tips for Learning a Programming Language

Learning a computer programming language can be challenging, but certainly worth pursuing. Here are 5 tips for learning a programming language.

Schedule Time for Learning

Depending on what your schedule looks like, you’ll want to allow time to keep up with your programming studies. You can always find nuggets of time when you really want to do something new. Try scheduling at least fifteen minutes a day during the week and up to one to two hours on the weekend devoted entirely to programming. Think of the times you can “squeeze” in a session to keep current. For example, if you’re on a business trip, when you get back to the hotel and before you settle in for the night jump right into a programming session. If you’re a parent, do your programming “homework” along with the kids and tell them what you’re doing. In other words, picture yourself doing a session at a certain time and then do it.

Choose a Book

Choose your first computer programming book and stick with it. Read and study it cover to cover. Certainly go ahead and take a look at the entire book to see what you have to look forward to but do not let it distract you from your goal. Also, feel free to use outside sources along the way to supplement each topic from the book, such as web sites, forums, and other books. Finally, realize that this will not be the only book you’ll use; therefore, your first book should be a beginner’s book.

Get Back on Track If You Fall Behind

Did you stumble and get behind? Why stop now? Forget about it, do not dwell on it, and pick up where you left off. In fact, test yourself on the older material first. Type in some code from the early material if you really need to get your mind back into programming. At least you have a point to start with rather than the beginning.

Enter Code Found in the Book

Which way do you think you’ll learn programming better with using a book:
1) Read the book and study the provided source code.
2) Read the book, go to the book’s website, copy and paste the code, then run it in a compiler.
3) Read the book, type in the source code and run the programs.

You probably wanted to say 1, but you know 3 is the correct answer. It’s just that 1 is so much easier, right? Here are the predicted results from each corresponding activity:

1) Be able to recognize a particular programming language and attempt to write some programs with little success and much frustration.
2) Learn how to use a compiler and an IDE. Write some programs with little success and much frustration.
3) Learn to use a compiler, how to type in the code correctly, and really see how the program operates by making the connection between fingers and brain. Write some programs with increasing success and less frustration over time.

Give it Some Time

Perhaps this last one is the toughest one of all. You must realize that learning a computer programming language takes time and commitment in order to be successful at programming. Compare it to growing a plant. You can build your knowledge like a healthy, bushy plant that you’ve pruned, watered and fertilized. Or, you can dabble with programming now and then, hoping to be a great programmer with little effort, like the plant water and prune very little, expecting it to thrive when it in fact ends up with long woody stems and yellowing leaves.

Remind yourself often because you are learning a programming language. Think specifically how much enjoyment you’ll get from finally being able to program a computer and design and write your own programs. Follow the tips above to help you keep your eyes on the prize.

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