How to Learn Programming

Finding the right book or tutorial is like finding the right sneakers. There is no single model that suits everyone. You should find a book or tutorial you understand well and enjoy reading.

Computer programming is an extremely creative and absorbing activity. The best way to learn it is to be interested in it. Then you can learn it almost by yourself, with a little proper guidance. A tutorial or a book can provide the guidance, but you should be careful; there are many tutorials or books of questionable quality, which can ruin the otherwise pleasant experience.

It is common for programming beginners to get stuck or lose interest when guided by inadequate materials, which is truly unfortunate. If that happens to you, switch to another tutorial or book that suits you better.

Aside from bad learning materials, there are a few other pitfalls that programming beginners commonly stumble upon.

1. Don't Rush, Start Slow and Easy

In today’s age we have become accustomed to fast food and fast information. Everyone wants everything fast. Unfortunately, excessive speed will make it much harder to learn to program.

You can’t just race through tutorials at one page per minute. Such a strategy will mean you learn nothing. Learning programming takes time, a lot of time. Reading the text slowly and carefully requires only a tiny fraction of the time needed to learn programming. You also need to analyze the provided examples, to type them, to run them, and to do some exercises.

Many beginners also make the mistake of jumping into advanced materials too early. They think they know it all when, in fact, they don’t know much. And then they get stuck. So, pick up a simple tutorial which you can follow easily.

Less haste, more speed.

2. Follow the Instructions

If a book says you should type in a program, type it in. Don’t copy-paste programs. It is not just a mundane task; you need to practice typing the programs. If you don’t, the first program you write by yourself will be full of errors. It’s much easier to figure out the errors you make when typing a carefully designed program from a book, than when you are inventing your own stuff. So, type in all the example programs.

If the book says that you should solve some task, then do it! First try to solve the task by yourself. If you can’t, ask for help online.

3. Examine All the Provided Examples of Code Carefully

You should understand each piece of code provided in the book (except when the book explicitly says not to pay attention to a piece of code).

After you have typed an example program, run it to see how it works. You should run it several times for different input data (if the program accepts input data). You always need to figure out how the example program works.

4. Don't Get Stuck on Exercises, but Also Don't Neglect Them

Exercises make for good practice, but they are most helpful in testing your knowledge and strengthening it. Skipping an exercise is not a big deal. In fact, you might be able to skip all the exercises.

The problem arises when you stumble upon several exercises you are unable to successfully solve. That should be a cause for alarm. You should go back and try reading the chapter again, examining the examples more carefully. You might need to go further back and solve exercises from previous chapters if you have skipped them. If you can’t do it, ask for help online.

5. Don't Be Impatient, Be Curious

Becoming a programming master takes a long time. Even learning the basics might take months. So, take your time and read all the materials carefully. Haste will just make things harder.

Here is the good part: after you have learned the basics, the process of learning will just continue by itself. You will want to know more, and you will easily find more. But this time, everything will be much easier to understand.

Choosing a Programming Language

Usually, when confronted by the huge variety of computer languages available today, beginners get lost attempting to decide which programming language to learn first. The choice of your first programming language doesn’t matter much.

Let's say you wanted to buy a pair of sneakers. You can choose Nike or Reebok. So, you ask, "Which manufacturer makes the best sneakers?" The answer is: they both do. You should try out a few pairs and find out which ones fit you the best.

Finding the right book or tutorial is like finding the right sneakers. There is no single model that suits everyone. Choosing a specific programming language is like choosing the brand of sneakers; it doesn't matter much, it's much more important to find one that suits you well.

Therefore, you should find a book or tutorial you understand well and enjoy reading. For a beginner, most languages are more than good enough. But when you find a tutorial or book you like and understand well, and you are making good progress, then stick to it. Also, if you are making good progress in a programming language, stick to it even longer.

The languages themselves are not that hard to learn. Instead, the hardest things to learn are the basic programming concepts. Almost all programming languages are suitable for learning those concepts, as they are virtually identical no matter the language. Finding a good resource is of ultimate importance, while choosing a language is of very low importance.

With or without a specific language, you might get lost in a myriad of tutorials available online. Perhaps you have tried following a few, and got lost or confused. Your programs are not working the way they should.

Final Advice

What matters most is that you have chosen a quality book or tutorial you can easily understand and follow. If you can’t do that, something is not right. Good books have plentiful examples, well supported by intelligible explanations. They don’t progress to more complicated lessons until they have explained and reinforced the basics well enough.

We would certainly advise you to try our programming for beginners' tutorial. We recommend you start from the first chapter. Even if you have previously learned some basics, please try not to skip too much because each tutorial follows its own flow of thought. This tutorial expects that you have (mostly) acquired the knowledge presented in previous chapters before advancing to the next one.

You can also try learning from an interactive online computer programming tutorial. This tutorial is very easy to follow, and it requires no lengthy installation of additional software. Instead, you can immediately see the results of the programs you run in the browser window.

The process of learning programming is very rewarding although it can be frustrating at times when some errors escape your ability to find them. In those moments, don’t despair, just ask for help online.

Learning programming should be a fun and interesting experience. Welcome to the world of computer programming!