Learning Multiple Coding Languages At Once & Why It’s A Terrible Idea

Written By: Grant Darling
January 25, 2022

Learning a programming language is no small task, but do you know what’s even more difficult? Learning multiple coding languages at once.

In fact, it’s a terrible idea and you really shouldn’t do it.

I get it. Learning how to code is a long and slow journey and you want to be the best programmer in the world right? Well, allow me to let you in on a secret! You’ll get there much faster if you stick with one language, learn it well, and move on from there.

In this article, I am going to explain to you why it is so important to learn one one programming language well instead of trying to learn a bunch at once.

So without further ado, let’s just dive into it!

Learning Multiple Coding Languages At Once After Your First Language

Before we dive into why learning multiple coding languages at once is such a bad idea, I first want to talk to anyone who already knows one language well.

After you learn your first language, it is very possible to learn multiple languages at once. If you can build a coding project without external help and feel comfortable in that language. It’s much easier to learn other languages.

At this point, learning a new language should be as easy as looking up some documentation and building random projects in the language you want to learn. The more you practice, the better you’ll get.

But, and this is a big but, this still may not be the most efficient way.

For me, as a self-taught developer, studying language design really helped me understand the underlying process between all coding languages. You stop looking at programming languages as vastly different entities and instead as design decisions.

At the end of the day, every language is converted down to ones and zeros anyways!

If you want a really great course that is completely free, check out Programming Languages with Dan Grossman. It’s a really amazing course and the instructor is very knowledgeable. I had a ton of fun working through the problems and learned so much more than I could have asked for!

Just do it, you have nothing to lose.

Why Learning Multiple Coding Languages Is A Terrible Idea

Okay, back to the real objective of this article. To try and persuade you newcomers to walk before you run and only learn one coding language at first.

1. Most of What You Learn As A Programmer Comes After The Syntax

Here’s a piece of, probably not so motivating, information! Learning the syntax of a programming language really isn’t the hard part of being a developer. That part comes after you finally grasp the syntax to take on new challenges.

Whether that means building a piece of software that doesn’t exist yet, learning data structures and algorithms, or simply doing daily bug hunting. All of these things come after you learn enough about a language that the syntax becomes second-hand knowledge. You think less about “how am I going to do something?”, and more about “what best way can I do something?”.

If you are constantly jumping from programming language to programming language, you’ll never be comfortable enough in a single syntax to start progressing from a novice developer to an advanced one.

2. You’ll Get Overwhelmed Quickly

You want to hear another great piece of advice? It’s very normal when working as a programmer to feel overwhelmed. The difference between a novice and an advanced programmer is that the advanced programmer knows how to break down problems so they are no longer overwhelming.

This is equally true when learning multiple programming languages. If you want to learn two or more programming languages at the same time, you are probably going to feel overwhelmed very quickly. It might even be the reason you looked up this article!

Human beings are not good multi-taskers. Focus your time and attention on one thing at a time and you will excel much faster. Focus your attention on one language until you have it down well. Then, once you start comparing languages you can make sense of it by comparing them to your first language.

If you try learning two languages at the same time, you are much more likely to confuse the syntax. Causing you to spend more time than just focusing on learning one.

3. Specializing Makes You More Money

Don’t get me wrong, I highly recommend you learn two or multiple programming languages. It will ultimately make you a better developer.

However, if there is anything I had learned from my four-year commerce degree, it is that specializing makes you valuable.

When I first started my journey as a web developer, I dreamt of being a full-stack developer. Those are the guys that really know what they’re doing because they learned multiple coding languages, right?

Well, not exactly. While there are tons of super talented, great full-stack developers out there, it doesn’t mean they are better.

Full-stack developers are great in smaller companies where developers need to wear multiple hats. They’re valuable because they can work in multiple languages which is necessary for certain companies.

The problem is that it is harder to rise to the top of the payscale working with multiple languages.

Why is that? Because it’s hard to prove you’re the best in a particular language.

If you can show a recruiter/employer that you have 5 years of experience and tons of very advanced projects in the language they are looking for, they will want to hire you.

They are going to want to see you can code in other languages as well and be able to learn and adapt. However, ultimately, if the role is for a Java developer, they are going to hire the individual with the most impressive Java experience. Assuming all other variables are the same. Such as equal years of experience and DSA knowledge.

If you want to be a JavaScript developer, for example, there is a huge range in the amount of money you could get paid.

According to ZipRecruiter, the low end is USD $45K a year and the high end is USD $166K.

Ultimately, the point here is that you want to have a skill set that is in demand and you want to be the best at it. Learning multiple languages doesn’t make you the best at any specific language and learning a single language well can help get you to the top of this pay scale.

Not that money is the only thing, it’s just something you should keep in mind.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article has helped you realize that learning multiple coding languages at once is often a terrible idea. Learning two or more programming languages means you are spending more time learning syntax than focusing on the parts of development that really matter. Such as building software or learning DSA.

Putting too much on your plate also ensures you are going to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of knowledge you need to know and burn out. It is important for a programmer to break problems down and solve them one at a time. This is also true in learning multiple programming languages.

Finally, specializing in a specific language is just a smart move in general. You want to be the best within a specific domain in order to make the most money.

Although, in my personal opinion, it is still very smart to learn multiple coding languages eventually. I think it is a much better idea to learn one programming language very well and then expand from there.

If you’re new to programming and want to know the best language to learn data structures and algorithms, check this out.

If you want to become a web developer, check out this guide.

As always, happy coding!

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