Things I wish I knew: Part 1 - Focus on a single language

It’s been a couple years since my last blog post which is a bit ridiculous, but in these last 2 years I’ve learned a thing or two and I thought it would be best to get used to blogging consistently. I decided to start a series of posts titled “Things I wish I knew.” This series will focus on my personal thoughts and experiences about the process of learning web development.

I’ve grown a lot from being an intern/apprentice to mid-level developer and today I would like to talk about why you should focus on a single language when you first start learning web development.

When you first start out you realize how many programming languages are out there. How do you choose? Choosing a specific language as your foundation is probably one of the hardest decisions to make. At General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive (WDI) course we learned Full-Stack Web Development by building apps with Ruby on Rails. As a result I personally started off with only 2 options: Ruby and JavaScript.

Throughout my first 6 weeks as a student at General Assembly, we started off learning the basics of Ruby/Sinatra/Ruby on Rails. I vividly recall watching a few of my classmates slowly become passionate about the language and it was really inspiring to see how someone could fall in love with something. Unfortunately for me, Ruby and Back-End Web Development in general were a lot harder for me to grasp at first. I spent more time playing catch-up and the process of learning Ruby felt more like a chore after a while and I was jealous that I didn’t feel the same passion as others, but everyone is different. It is a frustrating part of coding in general, but that is just how it is sometimes.

After a few weeks of struggling we finally starting learning the basics of Front-End Web Development. I still remember my eyes lighting up when we first went over JavaScript. JavaScript put a fire in me. The creative and flexible aspects of JavaScript & Front-End Web Development spoke more to me because I was coming in from a creative background, so I had an easier time adjusting to this new world because of the concepts and terminology. I am a visual learner and I had a better time with this feedback loop of trial and error that JS provided me and it was a natural adjustment. It gave me a sense of familiarity and I remember at that exact moment deciding that this is what I want to mainly focus on.

The main takeaway is that everyone is different and this may seem simple, but it’s more efficient to focus on learning a programming language that you actually enjoy. It is better to start the foundation of learning from personal interest or passion because you will get a lot more out of it in the long run. Do your research and weigh the pro’s and con’s of a specific language as well as its popularity. After you gain intermediate to expert level knowledge in one language, it becomes easier to learn another.