immerse yourself in code

May 20, 20203 min read

Learning to program is a lot like learning a new language. There’s new vocabulary like regex and ternary and viewset. And there’s new syntax too: Instead of, “If you see someone, say hello!”, you might say: If (person) { return 'hello!' } The meaning is the same, but the sentence structure differs.

How do we learn a language? Well, we learned our native tongue by listening to our families and community speak, and trying to imitate them. Similarly, the proper way to learn a second language is through immersion. That’s why people finally learn a language in 3 months of living in a foreign country, after having taken 5 years of the language in school without making meaningful progress.

You can create second language immersion even if you aren’t in a foreign country. I have a Serbian friend who taught herself Spanish by binge-watching Mexican soap operas. She watched them so much that they had a similar effect of total immersion, even though no one around her spoke Spanish.

Similarly, you can create a programming immersion no matter where you are. When Andrew dropped out of college to be the first software engineer at Culdesac, he was inexperienced. To try to catch up to his role, he replaced idle Youtube browsing with watching programming videos. He only read programming books, and he only listened to programming podcasts. For months.

I attended a programming bootcamp, which creates a similar immersive effect. We had class six days a week. On my Sundays off, I studied or caught up on assignments. In fact, before Hack Reactor starts you’re advised to tell your friends that you won’t see them for 3 months. You won’t have time to socialize.

So if you want to learn to code, I suggest immersing yourself in code, whether in the metaverse (by surrounding yourself with relevant YouTube videos and podcasts) or in person (by going to a bootcamp or to Hackathons).

If you can, I’d also recommend going to San Francisco for a few months. Just as the best place to learn Japanese is Japan, the best place to learn to code is San Francisco. Choose any house off Craigslist, and you’re liable to have roommates who are software engineers (this happened to me when I first moved to SF!). In the evenings I’d tell them about what I was learning and sometimes get an impromptu lesson, or relevant advice, or just encouragement. In San Francisco you will be immersed in tech.

Fully immersed (_tyedied).