As a new learner, you may have chosen both the most exciting and most frustrating time to learn JavaScript. For the experienced JavaScript developer, much has changed in the last few years. JavaScript has new features and more elegant ways to express its old features—we call that syntactic sugar. Tools such as Babel allow us to use all this newness and be sure our code will work with older browsers. React Native brought JavaScript to the native mobile development landscape. You can even write JavaScript for IoT .

Yet, I would not be surprised if all the JavaScript development that excites us may leave you, the beginner, atrophied and unsure where to start. It’s possible the few things I mentioned above sound like nonsense right now. That’s OK. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed.

For you, the ambitious student lost in the endless scroll of Google results, I’ve provided some tips that will serve you well as you begin your journey to learn today’s most popular programming language.

 

1. Use Structured, Guided Resources

The trouble with cobbling together your own curriculum from the myriad resources scattered across the Web is that you don’t know what you don’t know. Some resources assume years of programming experience while others are so niche that they’re incomprehensible to any beginner. Where do you start?

So, biased opinion here, Treehouse is a great resource. Other websites such as W3Schools and FreeCodeCamp are helpful, but what we do best at Treehouse is segment difficult into digestible for new learners. We think about our content as a progression that will guide you from wherever you are to a thorough comprehension of the JavaScript language.

Shameless plug aside, the important is that you receive some guidance. One-on-one mentoring is another great option. We have all tried to teach ourselves something without the benefit of guidance and structure. The results are predictable. We end up discouraged, and we often quit.

 

2. Build a Project

Many resources, including those above, teach you concepts through example projects. Project-based learning helps you master common ways to dissect and solve challenges. The knowledge and practice you gain from coursework are important, but you must wobble along without the wheels at some point.

Whether you contribute to an open-source project, design your own website, or make an LED blink on a microcontroller, struggling to solve a puzzle with pieces that you must fabricate will improve your learning like nothing else.

I find that my programming projects spawn from my non-programming hobbies. What do you enjoy? Sports, board games, music? What would you like to see in the that doesn’t exist? What already exists that you could improve?

To be clear, this does not mean you must solve problems in a vacuum. Read the documentation on the Mozilla Developer Network. Browse Stack Overflow. Google when you’re stuck. Learning to research is part of learning to solve your own problems.

 

3. Make a Commitment, Form a Habit

At some point, as you learn, frustrations will threaten to extinguish every spark of motivation you can generate. You may want to give up on this stupid-doesn’t-make-any-sense-language. If you’re not struggling, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. Keep your head up.

The trick to busting through sticking points and trekking across plateaus is to make learning a habit and a practice. People often say that starting is the hardest part. I disagree. The hardest part is sticking with something when you feel stagnant and can’t find a good reason to keep going. That’s why you should work to make learning a habit—a regular action that no longer relies on visits from the fickle emotion we call motivation.

Whatever your struggle, it’s a war of attrition. Don’t exhaust yourself with coding binges and quit when your wheels fly off. Keep moving forward a bit at a time. The two tools I’ve found most useful while changing some of my own habits are the StickK app and the 100 Days of Code Challenge.

 

4. Listen to Podcasts

I treat podcasts like continuing education credits. Unlike formal coursework, podcasts offer a high-level overview of technologies that you can digest while doing the dishes or running.

For example, as you learn JavaScript, you will hear about the popular JavaScript framework, React. You may have wondered: What is it? Who’s using it? When should you use React? Where can you learn it? Why is it popular? How is it different from other frameworks? These are the types of questions that are typically answered in a podcast episode.

Conversations between experts on your subject provide a great launching pad for further learning. Sometimes the conversation will be above your level of understanding (this is often true for me). That’s a good thing too. You now know what you don’t know. Progress.

Personally, I enjoy Front End Happy Hour, The Changelog, and Software Engineering Daily. The folks at The Changelog also produce JS Party, which might be exactly what you need.

 

5. Attend a Meetup (or Several)

Much like podcasts, Meetups provide exposure to new topics, tools and ideas. More importantly, they’re social events. Meetups attract senior developers, new learners like yourself, and everyone in between. A Meetup is a great place to seek advice, find a mentor or share your own learning.

One of the best things about JavaScript is how universally applicable it has become. In Portland, we have a Meetup for JavaScript and the Internet of Things. We have a TypeScript Meetup. We have a group that discusses JavaScript over donuts. Search for Meetups in your area, and attend those that look interesting. Each Meetup attracts different people who are interested in different things, so visit a few and see what appeals to you.

 

Summary

These tips and resources are a starting point. I encourage you to leave a comment with resources you’ve enjoyed during your own learning journey (I’d especially enjoy podcast recommendations). I’m excited for you as you begin to learn JavaScript. Just remember, take it one day at a time.


 
Wade Christensen enjoys making things with cameras, code, pencils, paint, saws, food … Professionally, he makes videos at Treehouse. Twitter: @astuteape

 

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