Recommended Programming Language for Beginners

Recommended Programming Language for Beginners

Most of the “mainstream” programming languages for beginners—such as C, Java, C#, Perl, Ruby, and Python—can do the same—or nearly the same—tasks as the others. Java, for example, works cross-platform and is used for web apps and applets, but Ruby also can do large web apps and Python apps similarly run on Linux and Windows. SOA World points out that because many languages are modeled after each other, the syntax or structure of working on them is often nearly identical, so learning one often helps with learning the others. Determining the best programming language for beginners is not as straight forward as naming a specific language and needs much consideration and also varies from person to person.

If you’re just getting started in programming, sometimes it’s best to choose languages without many syntactical (or logical) rules because it allows the language to “Get out of its own way”. If you’ve tried one language and really struggled with it, try a simpler one. Lets look at a few options before you decide what to take on first.

C programming language trains you to write efficient code. Coding in C is stricter and has a steeper learning curve than other languages, and if you’re not planning on working on programs that interface with the hardware (tap into device drivers, for example, or operating system extensions), learning C will add to your education time, perhaps unnecessarily.

That said, C is one of, if not the, most widely used programming languages. There are a few reasons for this. C is to programming as learning basic anatomy is to a medical doctor. C is a “machine level” language, so you’ll learn how a program interacts with the hardware and learn the fundamentals of programming at the lowest—hardware—level (C is the foundation for Linux/GNU). You learn things like debugging programs, memory management, and how computers work that you don’t get from higher level languages like Java—all while prepping you to code efficiently for other languages. C is the “grandfather” of many other higher level languages, including Java, C#, and JavaScript.

JAVAJava is the second most popular programming language, and it’s the language taught in Stanford’s renowned (and free) Intro to CS programming course. Java enforces solid Object Oriented principles (OOP) that are used in modern languages including C++, Perl, Python, and PHP. Once you’ve learned Java, you can learn other OOP languages pretty easily. Java has the advantage of a long history of usage. There are lots of examples online, it’s been taught for decades, and it’s widely used for many purposes (including Android app development), so it’s a very practical language to learn. You won’t get machine-level control, as you would with C, but you’ll be able to access/manipulate the most important computer parts like the file system, graphics, and sound for any fairly sophisticated and modern program—that can run on any operating system.

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Many people recommend Python as the best beginner language because of its simplicity yet great capabilities. The code is easy to read and enforces good programming style (like indenting), without being overly strict about syntax (things like remembering to add a semicolon at the end of each line). Python requires less time, less lines of code, and less concepts to be taught to reach a given goal. It’s fun and frequent success breed confidence and interest in the student, who is then better placed to continue learning to program.

JavaScript (of little relation to Java) requires the least amount of set up to get started with, since it’s already built into web browsers. O’Reilly Media recommends you start with JavaScript because it has a relatively forgiving syntax (you can code loosely in JavaScript), you see immediate results from your code, and you don’t need a lot of tools. If you want to make cool interactive things for the web, JavaScript is a must-have skill and a good programming language for beginners. Consider whether or not you might want to go from coding as a hobby to doing it as a career and make an informed decision.

C# was designed to be simple and easy to use. Since C# is a high level language, it reads somewhat closer to English. In addition, this development language abstracts away (i.e. handles for you) most of the complex details of the machine (computer) so you can focus on programming instead of worrying about the little details many consider both tedious and difficult.

If you’re planning to get into C# game development, then Unity is also designed to be easy to get started with as well. It may take time to learn everything about this coding language, and sometimes it may take a bit more code to get some working prototype. However, as you get a hang of things, C# will become easier.

PHP programmingPHP is a server-side scripting language and is usually considered beginner-friendly because it’s easier to conceptualize what the PHP code will do, so it’s not difficult to pick up. Most websites have been built with PHP because the language is heavily specialized for the web.

Facebook, Wikipedia, Yahoo!, Tumbler, WordPress, and more have been built with PHP.

Objective-C / Swift (for iOS development) is a layer built on the C language, making it static, but it can also be used for dynamic typing. Apple’s Swift is a static language designed to be compatible with Objective-C, but its static-typing makes it more resilient to errors.

Inspired by Python, Swift aims to be easy for coding newbies to pick up, and has been designed to fix some of the issues of Objective-C.

C++ is a powerful language based on C. It is designed for programming systems software, but has also been used to build games/game engines, desktop apps, mobile apps, and web apps. C++ is powerful and fast, so even Facebook has developed several high performance and high reliability components with it. Many pieces of software have been built with C++, including Adobe Systems, Amazon, PayPal, Chrome, and more. Much like C, C++ is generally harder to learn for beginners on their own, so if you decide to learn C++ as your first language, feel free to look for a mentor via Meet ups.

SQL (“Sequel”), or Structured Query Language, is a query language used to communicate with databases. Although SQL cannot be used to build apps, it is used to manage the data in apps that use relational database manage systems (RDMS).

The back-end or server-side programmer usually uses one of the following:

  • Python
  • Ruby
  • PHP
  • Java
  • dot Net C# / VB.Net
  • Has database knowledge
  • Possibly has some sys admin knowledge

The front-end or client-side programmer

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • JavaScript and possibly has design skills

Mobile programmer

  • Objective-C
  • Java (for Android)
  • HTML/CSS for mobile websites
  • Potentially has server-side knowledge

3D programmer or game programmer

  • might use C/C++
  • OpenGL
  • Animation
  • Possibly has good artistic skill

High-Performance Programmers

  • C/C++
  • Java
  • R
  • May have background in mathematics or quantitative analysis

Programming

The first programming language you learn will likely be the hardest to learn. Picking something small and fun makes this less of a challenge and more of an adventure. It doesn’t really matter where you start as long as you keep going—keep writing code, keep reading code. Don’t forget to test it either. Once you have one language you’re happy with, picking up a new language is less of a feat, and you’ll pick up new skills on the way.

Computer programmers are in luck, since according to our list of most profitable programming languages to learn in 2016, they can easily become wealthy. And if you are struggling with job options, maybe taking a course in programming languages isn’t a bad idea, since the best of all is that you don’t have to have a degree, just the knowledge. Of course, employers want specific programming language skills, probably several of them. A bit more accurately, they want programmers who are skilled in programming and, thus, can learn new programming languages as they become useful for new problems.

Programming is a set of skills that are mostly language-independent. “Knowing Java” does not imply that you are a competent programmer. Moreover, programming languages are rarely used in isolation. A project will likely require several of them working together. In a sense, saying a language is in-demand is a bit like saying that, among the tools used to build a house, a nail gun is in demand. I’m not sure a construction worker would go up to a foreman looking for work by saying that they are totally awesome with a hammer or screwdriver. These are things that are part of a toolkit, employed by people that know how to build things, and containing many tools for many different tasks.

Programming is just solving problems, and programming languages all exist to solve some subset of all problems. This is why there are so many languages—some are better at solving certain types of problems than others. C is well-suited to problems involving machines with very limited computing resources; JavaScript is best suited to web applications; PHP interacts with servers; R is most useful for statistics and graphics; and so forth.