How long did it take you to learn a programming language?

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#1 buzzloghtyear89  Icon User is offline

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How long did it take you to learn a programming language?

Posted 09 December 2013 - 04:25 PM

How long did it take you to learn a programming language (any language)? What did you do if you couldn't solve an answer?
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#2 depricated  Icon User is online

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Re: How long did it take you to learn a programming language?

Posted 09 December 2013 - 05:42 PM

I would say I still haven't fully learned any given language. But Google is my best friend.
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#3 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is online

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Re: How long did it take you to learn a programming language?

Posted 09 December 2013 - 06:32 PM

Depends what you want to mean by "learn" a language. Probably worth distinguishing between learning a language and learning to program here - these are quite different things.

I can offer you some possible benchmarks. You might want to say you know the language when
- you know all of the core syntax
- you know all of the core syntax and the standard libraries
- you can write a medium-sized project on your own
- you can be an active contributor to a large-scale project
- you can write a compiler for that language
- you can implement lisp in that language
- you can implement that language in lisp
- you're sick of that language and ready to move on to something else
- you've rediscovered how cool that language was all along
- ...

I would say that I knew Java pretty well after taking Data Structures and Algorithms, but I really knew the language after I took compilers. So either six months or a year, if you want to put it in those terms.

It gets faster as you go along. I took a couple of runs at Python before I really knuckled down and learned it, but when I actually made a serious effort, it only took me a few weeks to learn the nuts and bolts and a few more weeks to start feeling like I really knew what I was doing. I don't think this is because python is "easy", I think it's because I had a basis to work from. And when I've had to pick up languages since, I've found it's a lot easier - though some languages are harder to pick up than others. For example, PHP is quite difficult to work with if you're familiar with real languages, because every now and then, it just bites you in the leg for no reason. And ML has some really idiosyncratic features - it's kind of fun to learn, because it's so totally not an algol syntax, and it's not a lisp derivative, but it's also incredibly frustrating, because it just doesn't do what you expect.

This post has been edited by jon.kiparsky: 10 December 2013 - 09:29 AM

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#4 ybadragon  Icon User is offline

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Re: How long did it take you to learn a programming language?

Posted 09 December 2013 - 08:32 PM

you never stop learning a language unless development ceases for it, as they are constantly changing.
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#5 no2pencil  Icon User is online

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Re: How long did it take you to learn a programming language?

Posted 09 December 2013 - 09:24 PM

View Postbuzzloghtyear89, on 09 December 2013 - 06:25 PM, said:

What did you do if you couldn't solve an answer?

Before I had the internet I used to read books. Trial & error. Then once online Yahoo was king because Google didn't exist yet.

& as previously stated, there isn't really a status of 'learned'. You should always be learning.

Also, this question gets asked.... all the time. Welcome to Dream In Code! :D :^:
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#6 Lemur  Icon User is offline

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Re: How long did it take you to learn a programming language?

Posted 09 December 2013 - 09:34 PM

Definition of learning in this context: being able to build a non-trivial application and commit to existing code bases in the language.

First language, eventing in RPG Maker. About a year to two years.

Second language, PHP, gave up out of frustration.

Third language, Visual Basic. Half a year

Fourth language, Python, a month

Fifth language, C#, two weeks.

Sixth language, Ruby, two days.

Seventh through... Twenty Seventh? (I lose track) Anywhere from a few days to a month depending on how foreign it was. Of course I only list languages above that I actually did something in. PHP for the point of yes, people do say screw it on occasion.

How many languages am I seriously proficient in and can write large scale applications and architect them confidently? Ruby, Python,Bash/Shell, and C#. If I spent more time in other languages, it would take me about half a year to a full year to get to that point of confidence.

Why do I list Bash? In College we made a DSL for an SQL-like language using Sed, Awk, Grep, and a lot of regex. Bash is plenty capable of some nightmarish things all its own.
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#7 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is online

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Re: How long did it take you to learn a programming language?

Posted 09 December 2013 - 09:42 PM

View Postybadragon, on 09 December 2013 - 10:32 PM, said:

you never stop learning a language unless development ceases for it, as they are constantly changing.



I disagree. If you have to keep learning a language, it's probably not a well designed language, or else you don't know the language yet. You want to save your energy for learning new libraries, and learning new techniques, and learning new math. You don't want to was your finite attention figuring out the changes someone's made to the language - those should be predictable from the language itself. (for example, python2.7 to python3)
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#8 ybadragon  Icon User is offline

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Re: How long did it take you to learn a programming language?

Posted 09 December 2013 - 10:20 PM

I can agree with that on some level, but there is always something new to learn, is what I was getting at. I am still learning all the ins and outs with VB.Net, and I am very proficient in it.
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#9 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is online

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Re: How long did it take you to learn a programming language?

Posted 09 December 2013 - 10:23 PM

I think I allowed for the VB case. Second clause of the second sentence. :)
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#10 ybadragon  Icon User is offline

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Re: How long did it take you to learn a programming language?

Posted 09 December 2013 - 10:32 PM

VB.Net is a well designed language.
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#11 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is online

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Re: How long did it take you to learn a programming language?

Posted 09 December 2013 - 10:35 PM

I see.

I suppose I must be wrong then.
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#12 lordofduct  Icon User is online

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Re: How long did it take you to learn a programming language?

Posted 10 December 2013 - 07:52 AM

ybadragon - your argument is merely an argument of semantics where you're using a definition of "learned" that makes it nearly impossible to accomplish. I could say the same thing about English, I haven't "learned" English because it is changing every moment of every day.

But really, that's not a practical definition of the word "learned" for the context of OP's question. You instead sound like some philosophy student with a joint in his mouth preaching about how all experience is asymptotic to true knowledge of the universe.

phlrpppp (that's me blowing a raspberry with my tongue)

For all intents and purposes I have learned English. I am proficient enough in it, and have been for several years, that other English users can understand me. I have also learned VB.Net; I am proficient in it, and have been for several years, that I can write complex applications with it that the compiler understands me.

If you don't like this more practical definition for "learned"... well go find a conversation where your definition has use. Because in this context it has little to no use, except to annoy others with blahzy sentiments.
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#13 ybadragon  Icon User is offline

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Re: How long did it take you to learn a programming language?

Posted 10 December 2013 - 07:54 AM

do you feel better now?
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#14 lordofduct  Icon User is online

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Re: How long did it take you to learn a programming language?

Posted 10 December 2013 - 07:58 AM

Oh and at OP's original question.


As I've collected more and more languages it's been faster and faster. Using the definition for where I was proficient enough to write non-trivial applications in the language at a professional level.

My first languages like C# and AS3 took me quite some time, probably around 1 to 2 years to really learn them (despite working professionally with them both well before I learned them...)

Where as VB.Net took me about 30 minutes to pick up the syntax to start working in it professionally, and had it learned within a month's time. It helped though that I was familiar with the .Net framework, and that BASIC has a very easy syntax to it.

View Postybadragon, on 10 December 2013 - 09:54 AM, said:

do you feel better now?


Really, that's your response?

Sure, everything I said had to do with "feeling better".

Your retort is a non-sequitur... good job.
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#15 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: How long did it take you to learn a programming language?

Posted 10 December 2013 - 08:02 AM

View Postbuzzloghtyear89, on 09 December 2013 - 05:25 PM, said:

How long did it take you to learn a programming language (any language)?

Depending on the various times of my life and the language - twelve hours to a semester or two.

View Postbuzzloghtyear89, on 09 December 2013 - 05:25 PM, said:

What did you do if you couldn't solve an answer?

Took a break, walked around, slept, and came back at the problem with fresh eyes. Failing that I asked for some opinions and sounding boards.
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