6 Quick & Proven Tips to Help You Learn JavaScript

6 Quick & Easy Tips on How to Learn JavaScript
Reading Time: 15 minutes

Have you ever wanted to learn JavaScript? It is currently one of the best and most used programming languages in the world. It is also the language of the web. What’s more, you can even use it to create apps and games. And, with the raise of internet of things, JavaScript will soon be everywhere. In short, this is the best time to learn JavaScript! Use these six tips to not only learn it, but master it. Prepare yourself for the future.

Table of Contents:

No.1: Read a lot

No.2: Get your hands dirty

The benefits of learning by practice

When reading about JavaScript can be dangerous

No.3: Try different learning mediums

Multiple learning mediums for deeper immersion

Add some interactivity

No.4: Learn JavaScript by watching others code

The benefits of watching others

The advantages of the information age

The first problem with learning by watching

The second problem with learning by watching

No.5: Practice often and deliberately

No.6: Study the code

The benefits of studying the code

No.1: Read a lot

I am an avid reader. So, it is no coincidence that my first tip on how to learn JavaScript will be about reading. Books, and other resources such as articles, can help you a lot to learn JavaScript. Along with learning by practice, books are my favorite way to learn new subjects. In case of learning JavaScript, there are two books I would recommend to anyone and everyone. The first one is Professional JavaScript for Web Developers by Nicolas C. Zackas.

This book will take you from the basics of JavaScript to the most advanced topics. When you finish this book, and practice what you’ve learned, you will have solid knowledge of JavaScript. I believe that this book can take you closer to become JavaScript expert, if you master all topics inside. However, this book will not be enough. Don’t get me wrong. This book is great and cover a lot. The problem is that a lot have changed with the introduction of ECMAScript 6.

This book covers previous version of JavaScript. So, if you read only that you will learn JavaScript, but you will not learn about the latest features of JavaScript. This is where the second book comes in. This book is Understanding ECMAScript by the same author and contains the cutting-edge information about JavaScript. Read it and ECMAScript 6 will no longer be an issue for you. One warning, don’t read it before reading Professional JavaScript for Web Developers.

Understanding ECMAScript will teach you the features of ECMAScript 6. However, you will not learn JavaScript basics. This is why you must read Professional JavaScript for Web Developers before Understanding ECMAScript. The second builds on the foundation of the first. Aside from these two books read articles and post about JavaScript. Immerse yourself in JavaScript.

No.2: Get your hands dirty

Reading alone is not enough. We all know that. In addition, it is not the best way to remember new knowledge. You don’t believe me? Think about everything you read yesterday. How much do you remember? How many numbers and facts can you recall? Chances are that you remember the headings of the articles you read. You can probably also tell what those articles were about. However, if someone gave you test to test specific facts and numbers, you would probably fail.

The indisputable fact is that you read those articles only once. When you read something with the purpose of learning it, you read it more than once. You read it a couple of times until you remember it very well. Still, I will argue that reading is not the most effective way to learn. It doesn’t matter if you want to learn JavaScript or something else. There is much more effective method to do that. This is learning by doing. The best way to learn to code is by writing the code.

I know that this sounds simple and quite logical. Yet, we often prefer reading about things instead of doing them. One reason can be that reading is easier more comfortable. And, since we seek comfort, reading about things looks like a better choice. It is not! If you want to learn JavaScript, and in less time, you need to get your hands dirty sooner rather than later.

The benefits of learning by practice

As I mentioned, when you practice something you learn it faster. You get immediate feedback and see what works. This is something books can’t reproduce, even electronic versions. When you decide to learn JavaScript by reading, you have to trust the results included in the book. These results are usually right. However, it can still happen that some snippet can have different results. Especially if the syntax in the book is outdated. In that case, some code might not even work.

The truth is that it takes time to write and publish a book. It is no surprise that when the book is finally out, the programming language already contains update that is not included in the book. As a result, you are learning something that might be obsolete. This is unlikely to happen if you focus on practice. If you learn JavaScript and use some online editors like CodePen, you are always using the latest version of the language. JavaScript is great example.

For a long time, there were almost no books about ECMAScript 6. Yet, you could already write code in this syntax if you used compilers such as Babel. In the world of programming, this is quite common. Books are often outdated right at the moment they are published, or very soon. The only way to stay on the edge is through learning by practice. Another reasons to learn JavaScript by practice are already mentioned immediate feedback and better retention of information.

When reading about JavaScript can be dangerous

This feedback loop and improved retention is why even a book that is up-to-date will never be the best option. In addition, reading can actually hold you back. When you read about something it is easy to convince yourself that you are making progress. Why would you? You are getting through the pages and moving further in the book. Well, this is what you think and believe. What if someone gave you a test? Could you pass it as easily as you turn the pages?

In many cases, turning pages is easier than learning the knowledge contained in them. I learned this when I decided to learn JavaScript mostly by reading books and neglecting practice. I soon realized that, if waited for too long, I couldn’t recall everything I read about. Well, I read many things only once. So, this was another factor that prolonged my journey to learn JavaScript. In other words, my retention of information was very bad. Also, I had no feedback.

I thought that reading exercises in the book will work the same as doing them. Another big mistake! You can write code in your head from the morning till the evening. However, you will never know whether your code works until you test it. Not even experts and people with years of experience rely on their thoughts and assumptions. They test their ideas. I recommend that you do the same if you want to really learn JavaScript.

What if you are in not sure how much time you should dedicate to reading and practice? My answer is simple. Always spend more time in practice. And, if you have to choose between reading about something and practicing it, choose the later. Remember that reading about things can convince you about making progress. Don’t buy this illusion.

No.3: Try different learning mediums

So far, we discussed learning either by reading or by doing. These two approaches will be enough to help you learn JavaScript. However, you can increase your learning skills by using wider range of mediums. There is a theory saying that everyone has different learning style. There is some criticism and ongoing debate about plausibility of this theory. Who knows, maybe it works in a similar way like placebo. If you want, you can try different styles and see what works best for you.

What about those of you not convinced about existence of learning styles? I still want to encourage you to try different mediums. I understand that you may prefer books over videos. Or, that you like to try things on your own instead of reading about them. The last one works best for me. Books are close second. The reason why for using a variety of learning mediums to learn JavaScript is quite simple. The more mediums you use, the more immersed you are in the topic.

Multiple learning mediums for deeper immersion

Let’s say you decide to learn JavaScript only by reading some book. There is one problem with this approach. You will not get in contact with JavaScript often. Being in a regular contact with the subject is crucial for learning. And, the more frequent this contact is, the faster you will learn. So, if you want to learn JavaScript faster, the solution is straightforward. You need to significantly increase this frequency. In other words, you must immerse yourself in JavaScript.

This is why you should try and experiment with as many mediums as you can. Are you currently reading some good book about JavaScript? That’s great start! Now, how to take this further? For example, you can start reading blog articles about JavaScript. A great places to start is this blog and JavaScript Scene on medium led by Eric Elliott. Also, you can start listening to podcast about JavaScript. Two podcasts I recommend are JavaScript Jabber and JavaScriptAir.

What if you prefer video over sound? No problem! JavaScriptAir has also its own channel on YouTube. Another channel where you can learn JavaScript and other technologies related to web development is LearnCode.academy. Next channel dedicated to JavaScript is JSConfEU. If you are looking for courses, use search and pick your favorite. There are hundreds of channels and videos that will help you learn JavaScript. You can also try websites like Lynda and Udacity.

Some people ignore talks and podcasts because they don’t see them as useful. I disagree. These resources often feature people with great insights and know-how learned from years of practice. In addition, these resources are also usually more casual and entertaining than courses and books. So, you can use these resources to relax and while still learning a lot.

Add some interactivity

Another way to learn JavaScript faster is by attending online courses on websites such as Codecademy, treehouse and Code School. The biggest upside of these websites is that they are interactive. First, you watch some introductory video. Next, you can immediately train what you learned by doing exercises. This way, you practice everything you watch when the knowledge is still fresh. This combination of learning methods also helps you retain information.

The downside of these websites is that they are usually free to use only for limited time. Then, you have to pay some amount of money for subscription. Codecademy is an exception. You can train on Codecademy and learn JavaScript and other technologies for free. You will only not have access to extra resources and support. Another very good website for training your JavaScript skills is codewars. Here, you can challenge yourself with puzzles of various difficulty.

Although this may not be the right fit for all beginners, I think that you should at least give it a try. Codewars offers a lot of challenges that require basic knowledge of JavaScript. So, even if you just got on the path to learn JavaScript, you can already test your skills. I should also mention that these challenges are more fun than just following some tutorial or watching videos. One more thing. Codewars also offers community of code enthusiast you can talk with.

No.4: Learn JavaScript by watching others code

Another often used method for acquiring new skills is learning by watching others. Learning by watching colleagues is usually how new employees get their first experience. Have you ever worked for somebody else? Yes, summer job counts too. Then, chances are that your employer took you through the work process. If it was not your employer, than it was another employee. She either showed you how to do it or let you watch her.

The benefits of watching others

If you remember, I once mentioned that I worked on a stock exchange. This was approximately seven years ago. Anyway, my first day at work was all about sitting next to my colleague and watching him at work. Then, when it looked like understood the process, I got the opportunity to try what I’ve learned in real. This was the last time before I jumped into entrepreneurship. Still, I see, or do, the same happening again and again when I work with startups or build some.

I believe that this is one of the best methods for employee onboarding. The chance to watch some do the work is a great opportunity. And, not only if you want to learn JavaScript. It works for everything. The reason is that you can see how someone else think about the problem. You can also ask immediately when you don’t understand something. Can you do this when you read a book, manual or watch video? I don’t think so.

If you are lucky, you can find the answer on the web. If not, you have to find someone who knows the answer, in your free time. However, this may not help because that person doesn’t know the circumstance. Therefore, the answer may work only in some cases. In addition, you will not see her thought process leading to this answer. As a result, your understanding will be shallow at best.

The advantages of the information age

You are excited about this way to learn JavaScript. However, you don’t work with anyone who can help you with that. Also, you may not be actually working in a regular job. For example, you might be freelancer or entrepreneur wanting to learn JavaScript. What can you do? You still have couple of options. First, you can use social media to contact people who are already good in JavaScript. Just make sure to have something in exchange for their time. And, make it worthy their time.

This applies even if you want to ask one of your friends. Don’t ask for anything if you don’t have something valuable to repay this favor. Your friend will probably be willing to give you some of his time. However, this is not a win-win deal. Sure, he is your friend. Also, he can even say that he doesn’t want anything. Still, you remember one thing. If agrees with helping you learn JavaScript, it will cost him some time. So, used this at least as a motivation to work hard and learn fast.

What if you are too shy to ask someone to help you learn JavaScript by watching him code? And, what if you also don’t have any friend skilled in JavaScript? Assuming that you have an access on the Internet, there is another option. There are at least two websites where you can watch people … Code. No, this is not joke. The first one is LiveCoding.tv the second is WatchPeopleCode. You can watch on both these websites for free. So, even if you are shy, you have no excuses.

The first problem with learning by watching

There are two things I want to mention before we move to the next tip. First, remember your goals. You are using these live streams to learn JavaScript. Don’t binge-watch others and use learning as a reason to procrastinate. When you learn something you have to take that knowledge and practice it. Gaining knowledge without applying it is a waste of your time. In addition, you are more likely to forget what you don’t apply. To avoid this, you must practice (see tip 5).

The second problem with learning by watching

The second thing is that watching alone will not do the job on its own. Think about the amount of time average American spends watching TV. If watching alone was enough, the world would be full of experts and high performers. Unfortunately, this is not true. The missing piece of the puzzle is feedback. When you watch someone code JavaScript you need to understand her thought process. This and deep understanding of the subject is what separates experts from the rest.

The problem is that acquiring knowledge is not enough to get that deep understanding. Otherwise, everyone could become an expert just by reading a book. Think about this as the “what”. What’s missing is the “why”. You need to understand why she did it in this way instead of another. When you sit next to someone, you can ask on anything. I believe that this is the way to learn JavaScript and just anything – asking questions. If you don’t understand something, you ask.

And, when you get the answers you can fill in the gaps in your knowledge. The problem with only watching is that there is nobody to answer your questions. This is why videos on YouTube will get you only so far. If you decide to use YouTube to learn JavaScript you can learn a lot. You can reach advanced level of knowledge. Hover, I don’t think that you can become an expert in JavaScript because you lack the why. Still, there are potential solutions for this issue.

The first streaming website I mentioned, LiveCoding.tv, allows users to chat with each other. So, if you have a question you can ask the other person. Another solution is to use multiple resources. When you find something you don’t understand, ask people on forums like StackOverflow. It is not the same as having someone next to you. However, it will do the job. Just make sure to fill all gaps. Build foundation for the knowledge you will learn in the future. Any gap is potential risk.

No.5: Practice often and deliberately

Yes, you can’t get deep understanding of anything unless you practice it. And, getting your hands dirty is not enough. Sure, you can spend the whole day playing with console.log or functions. However, after you know and understand these concepts, you have to move on. If you practice only what you already know, you will never learn JavaScript completely. If you want to learn JavaScript, you must constantly push yourself. The same is true for any other subject or skill.

Learning is about leaving your comfort zone. Think about your childhood. How did you learn to ride a bike? You started with training wheels and practiced with them for a while. Then, when you were able to maintain the balance, you removed those wheels. This was important. It pushed you out of your comfort zone. This was stimuli for your brain to adapt to new situation by learning. Otherwise, you would never learn how to ride a bike on your own.

You need to challenge your brain to motivate it to learn. This is why remember stressful or scary situations so well. These situations are life-threatening challenges. And, they are definitely pushing you outside your comfort zone. When you want to learn JavaScript, or anything else, leaving your comfort zone is necessary. Remember, you have to challenge yourself. Try things that are slightly above your current level. When you can work with some concept without any help, move on.

Only practicing what you know will get you nowhere. Don’t try to fool yourself that this will help you retain knowledge because you repeat it. Regular rehearsal is important. However, doing only that is a waste of your time. Sure, dedicate some of your time for rehearsal. Then, focus on progress. Great book on this subject is Peak by Anders Ericsson.

No.6: Study the code

We discussed that the best way to learn to code is by writing the code. We also discussed the importance of practice, especially the importance of deliberate practice. Now it is time for the last tip that will help you learn JavaScript. Wait for it … Study code of other programmers and developers. Many developers all over the world are using various JavaScript libraries. Yet, they know only little or nothing at about them. jQuery is great example.

jQuery is one of the most used JavaScript libraries in the world, if not the most. Interestingly, only small number of people who use it read its source code. I have to admit that I also never read the full source code of jQuery. So, I have some work to do as well. Anyway, how reading source code can help you learn JavaScript? Well, it is not the best thing to do in the beginning. You will probably have a hard time understanding it. As a result, it can confuse you.

A better time for this tip is when you pass the beginner level and move to intermediate. This is when you should understand the source code written by others. You should understand at least some parts of it. Although it could still be a challenge, it should be like reading a foreign language. You know the vocabulary. Now, you just need to practice it and really get into it.

The benefits of studying the code

What’s the point of reading code created by other programmers and developers? You will see how other people write the code. You will have the chance to explore different coding practices. Studying code may not directly help you learn JavaScript. Still, it can help you polish your skills and find your coding style. You will see how other programmers and developers use code to solve problems. When two people use code to solve the same problem, the results are not the same.

The result is different not only due to different coding styles. It is also different because everyone uses different thought process. Different points of view are another factor. You can learn from all of that. I’m not suggesting that you have to adopt coding style or practices of other people. Explore a variety of styles and choose your own. And, if you like something, use it. If not, don’t. The same for practices. Nobody will punish you for that, except if you are in the team with guidelines.

One note about reading code written by other people. Focus on quality instead of quantity. You probably wouldn’t read a bad book to learn JavaScript. So, don’t do the same in case of studying source code. Choose only code written by experts. Also, remember that source code is often written by more than one person. For example, jQuery repository on GitHub has more than 200 contributors. Keep this in mind. It might be also better to start with smaller projects than big ones.

Closing thoughts on how to learn JavaScript

These are my six tips that will help you learn JavaScript. You may have noticed that I didn’t mention attending school or university. There are two reasons for that. First, I’m not fan of school system because I think that it is outdated and inefficient. The second reason follows the first. You can learn JavaScript faster by reading books, articles and dedicating time to practice. I should also mention that the “school of life” is also cheaper. You will have to buy a lot of books to match tuition.

There is one downside with the decision to learn JavaScript on your own. You need a discipline. You must invest your time in reading and practice. Nobody else will do this for you. Fortunately, you can develop discipline. Therefore, you can work on minimizing this downside. Now, it is up to you to use these tips and learn JavaScript. Then, you are one step closer to JavaScript mastery.

Thank you very much for your time.

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