Learning new Languages, Avoiding the Rut

If I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that I’m stuck in a rut when it comes to programming languages. I’m loath to learn PHP, Java, or even Python, but at the same time, I haven’t gotten out enough. I’ve gotten stuck in Perl. Perl is a great language, of course, but I need to learn other things, too. Teaching my kids with Lego Mindstorms will help me hone my Lispish skills and learn more about Scheme, but I want more. So, I’ve burned myself a copy of the Mono Live CD. Part of what sparked this has been a general dissatisfaction. I do love Perl, but I’ve known for a bit that I shouldn’t get stuck in a rut. I’ve been learning other languages, but only on the periphery. It hasn’t been a concious effort. The proverbial straw, though, was an interview with Chad Fowler, author of My Job Went to India. He talks about the dangers of knowing only one language — another thing I’ve been aware of, but hearing it from someone else drives the point home. In fact, when hiring a Java programmer, he got so many applications, that he trimmed the pool by using only those resumes that had both Java and SmallTalk experience. “We wanted to make an offer everyone who had both SmallTalk and Java experience,” he said. And while I’m not planning on learning Java (though, Squeak’s SmallTalk is a possiblity), it seems wise to heed his warning.

One thought on “Learning new Languages, Avoiding the Rut”

  1. Good for you

    At my current job I was hired because I knew perl. It was for a php job though. And then some time later, I was moved to the Java team, because the project I was hired for was put on hold (read:killed). While I thought I was a decent junior programmer at the time, my skills in all languages increased at a rapid rate, as things I had to learn in Java, not only gave me new ideas and tools, but it made real things I thought I already knew about other languages.

    I have to say, you could do a lot worse than C#. I spent a two month strech learning about it and I think it was time well spent.

    At the end of it all, I not only was a better thinker, but I also had a bit of a revelation. Perl was a great language. After all my traversing of the language landscape, I still found Perl small, beautiful and a treasure. I wonder what you will find. – nathan

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