Learn a new programming language (basics) fast

2 minute read

While doing my best to understand Emacs, that I have been using as a primary development, writing, and play environment, I have felt the need to learn Emacs Lisp, or elisp. Because I didn’t know anything about lisps, aside from the basics learned while reading the SICP book, which I sadly have not finished yet. I could make a ton of excuses here, but I just found another, more interesting thing to read, or do.

What I wanted to do with elisp, as it is crucial to know it, before you can do any reasonable customization of Emacs, is to learn the most basic elements fast enough, without diving really deep into the language semantics and rules. I just wanted to be able to hack up a few functions, change a thing or two, and not feel like an idiot while looking at other people’s .emacs configuration files.

There is a really nice website I have found, to accomplish just that. To teach you the basics of almost any programming language (even brainfuck), in a reasonable amount of time. One pomodoro should be a reasonable amount of time for that. As there are only a couple of things you really have to know in the start, to grasp a language, and see if it is worth for you to dig in deeper, and explore it.

The site is called Learn X in Y Minutes, and it is a community site, which means, that if your favorite language is not included there, you can submit a pull request with the tutorial, and they will gladly accept it. I have only gone through the elisp tutorial, and it is well made, but as i glanced through some of the other ones, they seem good too.

In the start you should know how to assign variables, create methods, get some feedback in the REPL or the console, and maybe create classes if the language is one of the Object Oriented languages. Of course, I might be missing something, but those are the basics for me personally, to see if the language is worth learning, for me of course, not for you.

The site has made me wonder, if I could maybe come back to the dreadful C, and master it this time, after about a dozen failed trials over the years. I probably won’t be using it to program anything in it, but it is a magical unicorn for me, the thing i never did have the time to learn properly, maybe I will never need it, but there is no 32 year old who can say he won’t be needing a certain skill for the rest of his life. So I won’t say that either.

Here is the site link again, in case you don’t want to look for it in the text above: Learn X in Y Minutes