By June 21, 2019

Switching From One Programming Language to Another: The Benefits of Being Flexible

Any specialist should expand their knowledge and skills if they want to become the best. This applies to many areas, including coding.

Programming languages evolve ​​regularly, and projects are becoming more demanding. Today, it is not enough to know only one language. Even guru programmer Joel Spolsky states that there are at least four languages that can make you a successful developer—C#, Java, PHP, and Python. Thus, knowing them can give you a competitive edge.

But what are the benefits of becoming a “polyglot of programming languages”? What are some tips on effective switching? And how can you avoid turning into an “eternal newbie”?

Read on to find out.

Why Are Coders Switching?

Some programmers might think language switching is uncommon, believing that it's best to master one language instead. But actually, many coders practice language switching. It happens for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Adjusting to the current trends in programming.
  • Looking to change the specifics of work.
  • Aiming to get the desired job.
  • Improving professional skills.

Language switching is a common practice, but each developer has their own experience with it. Still, analyzing a huge number of use cases, one general rule applies: You need to know why you’re switching so that you can choose the right language for you.

How To Choose a New Language to Learn

The first thing that people should always pay attention to when choosing a language to learn is its relevance and flexibility.

So, before jumping on the bandwagon, do the following:

First, analyze the market trends—demand, vacancies, and salaries, as well as barriers to entry.

Second, establish your purpose for learning:

  • You want to become a developer of mobile apps (native or hybrid).
  • You want to involve yourself in the entertainment industry and develop games, casino solutions, etc.
  • You want to create e-commerce websites.
  • You are looking for something sophisticated and innovative like blockchain.

Your end goal will help determine the language that you should focus on.

Finally, it’s worth considering your previous language, as it can define how steep the learning curve of a new programming language will be.The thing is that most programming languages are interdependent and have much in common—patterns, algorithms, syntax, etc. Therefore, understanding this interdependence can be a great step in increasing your ability to learn a new language.

Programming Languages: Interdependence and Patterns

While switching from one programming language to another, you won’t want to spend ages mastering the new coding principles. To facilitate the learning process, you could opt for languages of the same family or explore the fundamental languages first.

Learning the C-Family Languages

Some experts will advise you to start learning C language. This language helps you understand all the basic rules and coding patterns. After you understand the fundamentals, any programming language will seem much easier for you.

In addition, many languages ​​belong to the C-family—for example, Go, Objective-C, C++, and Java. Even languages such as Python, Perl, PHP, and Ruby have syntax and programming basics that are similar to C, although they do not belong to this family.

Languages that come from the same family have related patterns, syntax, and libraries, so there’s no need to switch to a different approach to coding. Thus, if you already know a language from the C-family, then switching to, say, C++ or Java will be no trouble for you.

Switching Between Languages of Different Families

Still, other developers find the previous approach too conservative and even archaic. They even advise starting with Python, which is similar to JavaScript in that it is flexible. Python supports different programming paradigms, enjoys a vast standard library, and has an easy-to-understand syntax. Using it, you can create anything from simple web applications to neural networks.

Furthermore, there are those who argue that after learning Haskell, any language will be easier to master because this one is the purest and most classic.

Often, however, learning a new language is not an easy task. Your progress can be slow because of various factors—second-rate learning material, lack of motivation, or unclear goals, among others. More issues can arise from the complexity of a language.

For example, if you have been using JavaScript for a long time, then it will be tough to quickly switch to C#. Different language paradigms require different thinking.

But fear not! It's only a matter of getting used to it. Beginnings are difficult, but it gets easier.

The Most Significant Is the Basics

Most experts agree on one thing: You first need to master a fundamental language. Among the languages that many consider compulsory to learn are:

  • Python
  • PHP
  • JavaScript
  • C++
  • C#
  • Java
  • Haskell
  • Ruby
  • Objective-C

Today, these are also the most popular and widely used programming languages. Of course, you don't have to learn all these languages at once. It's just that they are now setting the trend for programming.

Best Practices for Learning a New Language

If you really want to master a new programming language, remember that you must be patient and consistent. Try to take into account these simple tips:

Know Your Learning Goal

If you understand why you want to learn a certain programming language and where you can apply it, you will be more focused and motivated.

Roughly, there are two common reasons for learning another programming language. The first one is new project requirements, since some languages are a better fit for particular projects than others. Let’s say you need to develop a website game. In this case, the best option will be JavaScript, so being a Haskell expert won’t help you much on this project.

The other reason is expanding your portfolio to boost career opportunities.

New technologies pop up on a daily basis, affecting the way programming languages are used. Some languages become obsolete, while others gain in popularity. To be a go-to developer, you need to master trending new languages.

Use Quality Training Material

Opt for professional manuals and video tutorials. Books like C++ for Dummies are no good for effective learning.

Fortunately, there are many helpful resources that you can make use of. For free courses, you can check Coursera, edX, or MIT. Also, there are industry-specific forums where seasoned developers share their insights and guide newbies through the intricacies of programming. One such example is Stack Overflow.

Practice

To be successful at learning German, for instance, you have to practice speaking it. The same applies to Python, Java, Rust, etc. Write strings of code and simple programs and use coding simulators. To scale up your skills in a new programming language, you can opt for dedicated platforms—there are lots of them like Coderbyte, CodinGame, and Codewars.

Experiment

Coding gurus advise learners to try converting programs from one language into another. Transferring the codebase of the existing project to a new language can be a time-consuming, yet helpful, process. With it, you can explore various coding challenges and solve them by experimenting with the new concepts and paradigms.

Following these tips will help make the process of switching languages easier and prevent you from feeling like an “eternal beginner.” You should remember that a good programmer is not someone who knows the basics of as many languages as possible; they are someone who knows how to effectively make use of them.

Become a Sought-After Developer With Language Switching

Language switching is a normal practice in the era of code mastery evolution. Expert developers learn new languages in order to change programming specifics or gain a solid competitive advantage.

In general, if you want to become a sought-after developer, you should deepen your knowledge of various programming languages by constantly mastering their principles and algorithms. And of course, don’t forget to analyze the market trends.

Once you know all the ins and outs, you will have no trouble spotting the best opportunity to improve your programming skills and stay in demand in the job market.

About the author

    Julia Beyers

    Acquiring a wealth of experience in writing articles on trends and prospects for the development of the game industry in the world, Julia has found herself as a Freelance Journalist. She is writing now about blockchain and cryptocurrencies trends, sometimes covering importance of bitcoin for various other industries.