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Life after JavaScript: The Benefits of Learning a 2nd Language

How many programming languages do you know? According to our recent survey, around 80% of readers know at least two. Well over half of you use PHP on a regular basis, and I be willing to bet a significant number started web development with the language, as did I. Recently I decided it was time to think about adding another language to my resume (as if I didn’t have enough on my ‘to learn’ list already). I ended up working my way through an online Scala tutorial. For anyone who isn’t familiar with it, Scala is a general purpose compiled language (like Java, it compiles to portable bytecode) with static typing. Although like JavaScript it’s a multi-paradigm language, it has a lot of advanced functional programming (FP) features found in purely functional languages like Haskell. If the recent popularity of FP has struck a chord with you, there’s much in Scala to get your teeth into.

Now, you might be thinking “Why would I want to start learning another language now? I’m planning to work with JavaScript for the foreseeable future!” You probably also have a laundry list of JavaScript related things to learn. There are some good reasons to consider picking up a new language, though. A good way to really get to grips with concepts, such as static typing, or programming paradigms, such as FP, is to work in a language that forces you to use those things. JavaScript’s flexibility is part of its appeal for a lot of people, but it also allows you to side-step certain problems. Learning to write idiomatic code for that language will teach you different ways of looking at and approaching problems that will change the way you write JavaScript. Additionally, having the language restrict you to programming in a certain style will really help you to understand its strengths and weaknesses.

Exposure to these new paradigms, concepts, and styles of programming can be especially useful for those of us who are self-taught and don’t have any formal training. Computer Science graduates are likely to have seen many of these ideas as part of their studies. To get the most benefit, consider studying languages that are quite different from JavaScript.

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