What Programming Language Should I Learn First?
So you want to learn to code? Developing programming skills is a great step towards your future because programming languages can open up a wide range of careers, and there’s currently a positive job outlook for developers.
But where do you start? What programming language should you learn? What is the best language for beginners? In this article, we will outline the uses and strengths of a variety of popular coding languages to help you get started on your education.
What Are Programming Languages?
A programming language is a technology that allows us to communicate with computers and give them instructions to follow. A computer’s native tongue is binary code. All computers use the binary language, which is composed of ones and zeros.
Programming languages allow us to translate these ones and zeros into human language. The two basic types of programming languages are high-level languages and low-level languages. The distinction is based on the level of abstraction and how they communicate with the computer.
A programming language closer to machine code or binary is known as a low-level language. These can be difficult languages to read because they operate on a low level of abstraction, but they are fast and give the computer precise instructions.
High-level programming languages are closer to how humans communicate. They use words in their instructions, making them easier to program and write. This used to mean they took more time to execute, but newer computers are built with advanced processors that can execute programs in milliseconds.
Now, let’s take a look at the different types of programming paradigms.
Procedural Programming Languages
Procedural programming involves writing a series of well-structured instructions for the computer to follow. It divides the program into procedures containing a series of steps to be carried out. Here, the coder tells the computer what to do, how to do it, and in what order to accomplish the task.
Procedural programming languages are excellent for general-purpose programming. A few notable examples are BASIC, C, Microsoft Visual Studio, Pascal, and Java.
Functional Programming Languages
A functional programming language uses mathematical functions and equations, rather than statements, to communicate with a computer. These languages are best for handling symbolic computation, for data manipulation, and for listing processing applications. Some examples include SQL, PHP, Rust, Go, and Raku.
Object Oriented Programming Languages
These are the most widely used languages. They involve writing programs based on the concepts of objects and classes. These objects contain data and codes that give instructions to the computer.
Scripting Programming Languages
Scripting languages are languages that do not need a compiler to execute. Instead, they are interpreted. They create a unique runtime environment that automates tasks without the need for a compilation step. Examples of popular scripting languages are Bash, Perl, Ruby, and PHP.
Logic Programming Languages
As the name implies, logic programming is a programming paradigm largely based on logic. Here, the user creates a sequence of instructions in logical form to express facts and rules, and then the computer uses inferences to find a solution to the question. Prolog, Datalog, ALF, and XSB are notable examples of this type of language.
How to Choose the Best Programming Language to Learn
The programming language you choose to learn should be based on the problem you are trying to solve, or what you are trying to achieve. Some people learn to code simply for fun, while others are hoping to get a high-paying job without having to go to college.
If you are looking to go into front end web development, you might want to start with a markup language like HTML or CSS. If you are looking to analyze data, then SQL, Python, or R might be more appropriate.
The Most Popular Programming Languages to Learn First
Before you choose the programming language you want to learn first, it would be helpful for you to understand the particular uses of some of the more popular languages. That way you can pick the one that is best for you.
Python is a general-purpose programming language. It has numerous applications in machine learning, data science, software development, artificial intelligence, and backend development. This is why NASA, Google, Netflix, Spotify, and many more popular tech companies use Python to power their services.
Python is fast, beginner-friendly, and easy to use, which makes it a popular choice for beginners. Python’s syntax uses simple English so newbies can more easily obtain a fundamental knowledge of programming. Moreover, there are plenty of resources to help you learn Python, which can be very helpful for people who are learning independently.
An upgraded version of C, C++ is a powerful general-purpose language that is widely used for computer science and programming. It is a great beginner language because it is the root of many other languages. It can be used to develop operating systems, browsers, and games. Even more impressively, it supports procedural, functional, and object oriented programming paradigms.
C++ gives developers the ability to work with different compilers on a variety of platforms, making it a powerful and flexible language. You should learn C++ because it makes learning other languages a lot easier. It also provides you with a larger skill set than some other popular languages.
During your research, you might have come across Ruby on Rails. Ruby is the language, and Rails is the framework. Ruby is a popular coding language used for web development and offers easy-to-use syntax. People with no prior experience can learn Ruby with minimal difficulty.
Ruby is a high-level language that doesn’t require you to know many commands or much programming vocabulary. You can accomplish your task with just a few lines of code. Airbnb, GitHub, Shopify, and many other tech companies employ Ruby for mobile development and data analysis.
C# is a very popular language to learn. It offers a multi-paradigm system that is versatile and easy to learn. It is a general-purpose, object oriented language that can be employed to perform a wide range of tasks in different professions.
C# is primarily designed for use on the Windows .NET framework. It is widely used for backend web development, game development, and mobile app development.
C# is a great first language to learn if you are looking to start a career in game design or Microsoft app development. There are numerous job opportunities for programmers who are proficient in this language because many companies are using the .NET framework.
HTML and CSS
These two are great languages for beginners. HTML, which stands for Hypertext Markup Language, and CSS, short for Cascading Style Sheets, are two mainstream languages widely used for building and designing websites. HTML provides the core structure of the website and CSS creates the visual layout of the page.
Many businesses use these languages for their blogs, emails, and advertisements. Learning them will prove crucial in your programming journey.
Java is another language widely employed by major companies for building enterprise-scale web applications. It is an object oriented, high-performance language known to be extremely stable. Java also is used for major Android and iOS apps.
Java is not the most beginner-friendly language, but there is a huge job market for Java programmers. So, if you are looking to pursue a career path with a positive job outlook, you might want to consider Java.
How to Learn to Code
Thankfully, you do not have to go back to school to develop coding skills. There are easier ways to learn to code. Read below to learn more about some of your options.
A coding bootcamp is a short-term training program that seeks to equip students with practical, job-ready skills for careers in tech. This type of education could prove useful to you if you want to acquire a range of coding skills within a short period from experts in the field.
Bootcamps are flexible, allowing students to customize their schedules and take courses at their own pace. Moreover, they are cheaper than conventional education, and even offer career support after the program ends. Notable examples of bootcamps you should consider are Flatiron School, Kenzie Academy, BrainStation, General Assembly, and Springboard.
You can also acquire coding skills right from your mobile devices. There are many apps on your phone’s mobile store that have been created with the sole purpose of teaching programming skills to users. Grasshopper, Mimo, CodeHub, and Encode are notable examples of the best apps for learning to code.
Although you may have to pay to access the full courses offered by the apps, many of them offer good value for your money.
Online Learning Platforms
You could utilize online learning platforms to learn to code from the comfort of your home. These platforms host numerous online courses from top universities. Even better, many of these learning resources are free. Coursera, EdX, and MIT OpenCourseWare are a few notable examples of platforms that host MOOC courses.
Which Programming Language Should I Learn in 2021?
There is no wrong programming language to learn first. There is a huge market for programmers with knowledge of any language. You should choose your first language based on what you are hoping to achieve with your programming skills, or what area of the tech world you are hoping to enter. Once you learn one, you will find it easier to learn others.