Learning A Second Language

Before starting to learn a new programming language you should take a few considerations. How different is the new language from your current one? Compare the envivornment, paradigm, syntax, and level of automatic operations between the languages.

Tim Ferris wrote up twelve rules for learning a a new language. His rules were for a spoken language but they can also be applied to programming languages.

  • Learn the right words, the right way.
  • Learn cognates, things that are the same across languages.
  • Interact daily in the language through spaced repetition in a controlled environment.
  • Daily spoken practice.
  • Look for free resources.
  • Realize that experience makes it easier to infer rules.
  • Learn to effectively use mnemonics.
  • Embrace mistakes.
  • Create Smart goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound).
  • Jump from conversational to mastery.
  • Learn to sound more native through the use of idioms.
  • Keep going until you actually get things down.

Episode Breakdown

12:12 Pareto Rules

Pick the most commonly used constructs you see and master those before learning all the edge cases. The best way to do this is just build something, and learn what you need as you need it.

“That’s your first goal to be able to do something useful”

Look at online code samples from places like github to see what things are most commonly used. Think how bad the worst employed programmer in a particular language is, then realize that’s only bad if you stay there. Otherwise it’s a good starting point.

14:37 Learn Cognates

Learn structures that are the same in the new language as they are in the old. For Loops, for instance, are very similar in many C-Based languages.

15:55 Use the Language Daily

“I probably spent a good 3-4 months adding to it.”

Code katas and online samples are best for this or build a small app, working on it daily.

17:51 Practice in an Uncontrolled Environment

Take your daily code kata, and try to modify it differently every day. They call this a henka in Japanese martial arts. Continue building a small app and just debugging.

21:13 Find Forums for the Language in Question

Reddit tends to be good for this. Look at top trending questions on stackoverflow. Look up “Language [your language here] sucks” on google and read the articles.

22:08 Use Your Experience with Other Languages

“The benefit of the design patterns is they are for all object oriented languages”

Infer things about this one from your other languages. Structures are the same across languages. If you want to loop through a list, for instance, you need the list, an iteration variable, and some sort of looping structure, as well as some way to tell when you are done.

25:45 Embrace Mistakes

“This is really hard to do especially for programmers as we like to be the smartest people in the room”

Make mistakes. You’ll learn more, faster, from fixing a screw up than you will correctly following all steps in a tutorial.

28:53 Create SMART Goals

Pick goals that you know you can achieve.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound

32:38 Jump from Basic to Mastery

Get your code in front of others and invite criticism and correction. Practice a ton until simple things are second nature.

“If you don’t know how to do it type it and then eventually you’ll get to the point you don’t need the crutch”

38:31 Use the Idioms and Conventions of the Language

“I can tell when you switch from writing C# to JavaScript”

Don’t write javascript in C#. Write C# in C# and javascript in javascript. If working in a team, structure your code like the team’s code. It will make it easier for them to reason about if there are problems.

43:10 Don’t Switch Languages Too Early

At some point, the language will get on your nerves in a major way, and you’ll miss your first language. Getting past that is how you get better. Don’t be the person who can write “hello world” in ten different languages. That person is unemployed.

IoTease: Article

Industrial IoT Standards In The Works

This article describes how the Organization for Machine Automation (OMAC), OPC Foundation, and PLCopen are working together to create standards and protocols for Internet of Things specifications to allow interoperability.

Tricks of the Trade

Use what you know to figure out the stuff that you don’t know. There’s a lot you know that you may not completely value. When learning a second language you’ve already gotten through the learning curve of learning to program.

Editor’s Notes:

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