In this post we share 7 tips that will help your learn programming, make your learnings stick better, and have more fun along the way! The most important advice I would give to anyone is to find what works for you and try to build a growth mindset with a habit of learning.
How to Learn Programming?
First of all, learning coding is not just about learning a particular programming language. It’s about learning how to think like a programmer. I think the most important advice I would give to anyone is to find what works for you. Try different learning tactics as there’s no one-size-fits-all model for learning. What works for one person may not work for you
Try to build a growth mindset, a habit of learning programming, and be curious and see new things and challenges as opportunities. Remember, what you don’t know now is a possibility (often an exciting one) to learn and explore something new, not a shortcoming that you have. Value the process over the end result and try to learn how to enjoy the learning process.
With that being said, here are 7 tips on how to learn programming faster. Whether or not you’re learning Python, Java, SQL, or any other programming language, these tips and tricks will help you along the way
7 Tips and Tricks to Learn Programming
- Find Your Learning Style
- Fundamentals: Learn the core concepts of the language
- Learn by Doing: Practice, Practice, Practice
- Summary, Cheat Sheet and Code by Hand
- Build your own Project
- Share, Teach and Ask for help
- Make Learning a Habit and Let it take time
Let’s have a closer look at them
Find Your Learning Style
There are several different learning styles. Each person has different learning preferences and styles that benefit them and might prefer different learning styles in different circumstances.
Here are some learning styles
- Reading and Writing: Learners who benefit from written material and remember what they read and often enjoy writing. Learners in this style prefer to learn information by reading notes, textbooks, blog posts, etc. It’s beneficial to rewrite notes and try rewording main ideas and principles to gain a deeper understanding
- Visual: Visual learners prefer the use of images, video and graphics to grasp and understand new information. Visual learners can utilise graphs, charts, maps, diagrams, and other forms of visual stimulation to effectively interpret information.For example, visual learners would learn how to change the tire on a bike better if they watch an instructional video rather than listening to an expert explain the process.
- Audio: Learns best by understanding content through listening and speaking in situations such as lectures and group discussions. If you have an easier way of understanding things from a lecture rather than reading it yourself, then maybe audio is your way of learning.
- Social learning: Working in groups to discuss and solve problems together. A good idea is to take turns teaching each other to make sure you all understand the information.
Important, there is no right or wrong answer to which learning style is best for you, or a mix of learning styles. By discovering and better understanding your learning styles, you can use methods that will improve the pace and, most importantly, quality of your learning.
Understand the Fundamentals: Learn the Core Concepts of the Programming Language
Programming fundamentals always need to come first. The better you understand them, the easier it is to learn more advanced concepts. Strive to be comfortable with the core concepts of the language before you are moving on.
Some advice regarding understanding the fundamentals
- Apply Your Theoretical Knowledge Practically: Even if it seems like simple fundamentals, like creating variables and doing simple calculations, try them out and solve some exercises.
- Don’t do Over Analysis and Get Stuck. Having a good understanding is important, but overanalysis can hamper your progress and motivation. Don’t dive to deep in the fundamentals, understand them, but you don’t have to be a master at them in the beginning.
- Read The Error Message Attentively: Pay attention to the errors given and try to understand why it happened and how it can be solved. If you don’t get the solution, just search on the internet about the error message.
Below are some of the core concepts found in several programming languages
- Variables and Datatypes: A variable is a way to store and refer to changing pieces of data, and data types refer to the different type of data we can store and use with the programming language
- Conditional Statements and Loops: The code will perform an action based on whether the statement is true or not. Most common conditional statement is the If-statement. In addition, a loop is a sequence of instructions that is continuously repeated until a certain condition is reached.
- Functions and/or Methods: A method is a block of code that performs a specific task. Think of a function/method as a subprogram that acts on data and may, or may not, return a value
- Data Input and Output: Involves handling a user’s input, storing that data, displaying results from the actions your program will make, etc.
Learn by Doing: Practice, Practice, Practice …
A common mistake that is easy to do while learning programming is just reading on websites, looking at the sample code, or watching a youtube tutorial, without practicing doing it yourself. Start coding and don’t skip the question in exercises thinking that it’s easy so no need to write the program.
You might be surprised at how something you read can seem so simple until you try to do it for yourself.
Learning by doing is the best way to learn when it comes to programming. You really need to “get your hands dirty” when learning a programming language and keep practicing it regularly. When you write your code, try different solutions to the problem, change your code to see different results, optimise the code, etc.
Create a Cheat Sheet or Summary and learn to Code by Hand
A cheat sheet is as the name suggests a small compact sheet containing all the formulas, important points and theories. For programming languages it’s generally a summary of important syntax, tricks, data types, commonly used library functions, etc. Cheat sheets are like a concentrated version of your notes.
I think Cheat sheets are an incredible way to organise and learn information faster. It allows you to summarise and structure the concepts that you are learning and extracting what’s important.
Furthermore, coding by hand can give you an understanding of syntax and algorithms and strengthens your understanding. Being able to code without help from tools is a great skill and shows that you understand what you are doing.
And finally, related to coding by hand, I would like to mention Pseudocode. Pseudocode is a code-like text used to describe how the algorithm should be formed within computer programming. You could think of pseudocode as a “code sketch“of how an algorithm is structured, often written in bullet points. There is no general standard for pseudocode; instead, the important thing is to be consistent with the words and format used.
Build Your Own Project
Projects are fun, tangible ways that allow you to shift from just taking tutorials and exercises to building your own projects. When you complete a tutorial for a programming language and have done many exercises, you may find that you’re not sure how to apply the basic concepts of the language you’re learning.
The key to learning new languages is to apply them to real world situations, in other words, learn programming by building stuff.
Why don’t you use the programming language with something you are really interested in? For example, when I was learning new concepts in Python, I built a small project where I was trying (with emphasis on trying) to predict points for my Fantasy Premier League team.
I never evaluated if the actual prediction setup worked better than my gut feeling, but the actual code in Python worked as I had hoped, and I learned a lot on the way by building it – which was the original goal.
Share, Teach and Ask For Help
Engage in a community and ask for help, share your progress, and teach others what you have learned. Explain various concepts that you have learned to a friend, for example, how do you explain how a function in Python works in a simple way.
Learning by teaching others is an extremely effective way of learning a new topic. People who share and teach what they’ve learned have a better understanding and knowledge retention.
On the other hand, if you get stuck and need help, don’t be afraid to reach out. There are numerous online communities, and people are often more helpful than expected. If you ask for help, explain the steps you took that created the problem so the person helping you can run through them and share any code you’ve already written.
They may notice something you’ve overlooked or a problem in your existing code. Explain what you expected to see, what happened, and what you think the problem could be.
Make Learning a Habit and Let it Take Time
Try to make learning the new programming language a habit you enjoy. One of the major challenges we all have with learning something new is finding time. For me, building a habit of doing small steps each day, compared to trying to take a big leap right away, has been a game changer. Building a habit enables you to learn and practice regularly. Start small and gradually increase your habit in very small ways, you will be surprised how it will build up over time.
If you’re curious to learn more about habits I can highly recommend the brilliant book Atomic Habits, it’s one of my favourite books, and the How to Build a New Habit: This is Your Strategy Guide by James Clear author of Atomic Habits.
Related to the above, let your programming learnings take time. Don’t try to rush it and think that you will be a master programmer within a week. You will become a great programmer by experiences and solving problems, things that take time to build.
Finally, when debugging, it’s so easy to go down the rabbit hole for hours and be determined to solve the problem. However, often it’s best to step away from it for a few hours, and return with a fresh perspective. Why not take a walk and get some fresh air, and then return with new energy and perhaps some fresh ideas on how to fix the bugs.
Infographic: 7 Tips and Tricks to Learn Programming
A summary of our 7 tips and tricks for learning programming in an infographic
FAQ: Learn Programming
How do I start learning programming?
There are a ton of educational sites where you can find great, and often free, programming tutorials. Some of my favourites are Codecademy, freeCodeCamp, Khan Academy, W3Schools, TutorialsPoint, and there’s many many more…
Learning programming is not just about learning a particular programming language. It’s about learning how to think like a programmer. I think the most important advice I would give to anyone is to find what works for you.
Try different learning tactics as there’s no one-size-fits-all model for learning. What works for one person may not work for you
Is programming hard to learn?
The answer is both yes and no, but I would say no, programming is not hard to learn. Much like any other skill, learning how to code requires time and persistence. The difficulty will depend on the programming language itself and what kind of software you’d like to make.
Programming is all about learning certain languages. Just like learning any type of new language, it is not necessarily easy to master quickly, but it’s possible to make major strides in quite a short time.
Can I learn programming by myself?
There are many great programmers out there who were self-taught. So it’s definitely possible that you can be a self-taught programmer.
However, I must say that having friends and/or colleagues that can support you will help you along the way with solutions to problems and keeping motivation up.