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The Easiest Programming Languages to Learn — What Are They and How Should You Choose One?

With a strong desire and proper motivation, anyone who can read, write, and work with a keyboard can learn programming. This is the encouraging statement of Vitaly Shulga, EPAM Training & Development Manager. VItaly is confident about this statement based on his experience, and he provides more helpful information below, exclusively for the Anywhere Club blog.

Vitaly Shulga

The first step is defining your goal

— Generally speaking, there are two reasons why a person may want to start learning programming:

  • To become a programmer, make money, and enjoy it; or
  • To improve their programming skills in service of another goal: for example, someone who works as a physicist, mathematician, or biologist, and needs a programming language to solve applied problems in their field of activity.
  • To me, the second situation is easier. Certain specialized programming languages ​​are designed to work with certain scientific tools; MATLAB and R language are examples. Moreover, there are different packages for professionals like physicists and mathematicians that have their own languages. This eliminates the need to choose a language to focus on. Instead, you study what is necessary for your goal.

    In the first situation, everything is much more complicated and interesting. If a person decides to become a race car driver, they do not look for the easiest car to drive. Similarly, in the programming context, if you want to create complex systems and work with big data and a high load, you don’t focus on learning the easiest programming language. In addition, the programming language will not likely be the most difficult part of your learning curve. To work as a programmer today, it is not enough to know a programming language. You need to master a lot of additional libraries, tools, etc., as well.

    The second step is choosing a language

    — There are several things that determine the complexity of your initial development as a programmer. When a person first begins to learn a programming language, they cannot create a single functional program. The whole process of learning in this early stage does not lead to any observable result. This is very demotivating. By analogy, when you go to the gym to gain or lose weight, in just two weeks you are unlikely to see any results. The same is true for programming. There are languages ​​in which the period of development is longer, and others in which it is shorter. The more time and effort you need to spend before seeing results, the more inclined people are to give up and quit learning the language.

    Generally, one of the complexities in programming languages ​​is memory management. If a language has automatic memory management, it will be easier to work with. If not, there is an additional layer of complexity that can make life very difficult at the start.

    So, which programming language would I recommend learning first? One with automatic memory management. On this basis alone, you can create the category of "light programming languages":

    • Python;
    • Java;
    • C#; and
    • JavaScript.

    What languages would I not recommend to start? Those in which there is no automatic memory management. With these languages, you have to handle it manually, which is quite difficult:

    • C; and
    • C++.

    Java

    — If you plan to choose among the "light languages," pay special attention to Java. It's a good language for getting started in the world of programming. It clearly shows the object-oriented model. There is a huge amount of literature on it, and there are a large number of programmers working with it — so there is a high probability of finding a friend with whom you can professionally communicate and receive advice.

    JavaScript

    — JavaScript is mostly used for front-end development and has been wildly popular in recent years. Its popularity means that there is more information available, plus an established community, and widely accessible trainings. JavaScript is known primarily as a front-end framework, but is also used for back-end tasks and embedded systems.

    Python

    — Python is said to be even easier to learn than Java or JavaScript, perhaps because it's a minimalist language. It is interpreted, it does not need to be compiled before running, and syntactic constructs in Python look simpler. It is not necessary to put ";" at the end of the line. Python is used more for data analysis, machine learning, scripts, and lightweight applications.

    C#

    — C# is more suitable for back-end development and is used to create games. If you know C#, you can work on anything — much like with Java and Python. Someone who knows one of these languages well can solve almost any engineering problem.

    SQL

    — SQL is a database query language. It is worth learning from the very beginning of your studies. There are many professions for which knowledge of SQL is a must-have. If you add Python to SQL, you have excellent growth potential. This is a language that is easy to start learning. You can really achieve your first programming result in half an hour. It also debugs well (debug is debugging programs). When you solve a problem, you need to check the operability of the intermediate code. SQL will deal with this the fastest. It has lightweight environments for writing queries. The bottom line is that every developer, regardless of language, will need to know SQL.

    Step 3 — where to start

    — Let’s put all of this in context. The fact is that none of the programming languages discussed here ​requires any specialized knowledge in order to learn it; neither mathematics nor English. The number of keywords that any programming language has is limited. Usually, there are about 50 of them. With a number like that, they can simply be learned. If a person does not know English, but knows another language, or knows how to read in Latin, this is already sufficient to learn programming. Most documentation will be in English. But there are a huge number of articles and videos in other languages ​​— Spanish, Chinese, Russian, etc.

    If a person decides today to study programming, then today they will write their first program. The question is whether they will understand what they are doing and how it works. Once their understanding develops, then learning begins to take place at a completely different (faster) speed. The most basic programming concepts will take several days of classes to learn in a relaxed mode. Then, it all depends on the person and how much time they are willing to allocate per day for training. Next, libraries must be added to each language. As I said above, it’s one thing to know the language, and another to learn the necessary libraries and frameworks. Next, work with Cloud, web services, and databases begins. This opens up a new, larger layer of questions that need to be answered.

    Conclusions

    — Harvard has a famous Computer Science course. Students even study Scratch on the platform. Scratch is a programming language that is often used to teach children; it is a language in which you can click on some algorithm with the mouse. But Scratch is hardly a tool that you would use to write industrial software. In general, the Harvard course covers various languages superficially. This approach has merit when you are a beginner — you can try several languages, and then work with the one that you like and that is most convenient for you. Choosing a language to study this way means that your decision is made on the basis of personal practical experience, and not articles on the Internet or the advice of friends.

    If you want to learn programming solely for the purpose of earning money, you need to explore the job market in your region of residence. You can love Python very much, but if there are no relevant vacancies in your city or country, you run the risk of being left without a job or needing to enter the global market and /or relocate.

    To analyze the popularity of programming languages, people often turn to the Tiobe index, which ranks them on this basis. At the moment, the top 7 look like this:

  • Python;
  • C;
  • Java;
  • C++;
  • C#;
  • Visual Basic; and
  • JavaScript.
  • As I mentioned above, C, although ranked in second place on the Tiobe index, is one of the languages that is harder to work with, plus now there are not many vacancies for it in the industry. Also, I would not recommend learning Visual Basic at the start; this is a very specific language. As you can see, it is not safe to trust your future to indexes.

    You can also check out the developer survey on stackoverflow.co. This site offers different kinds of ratings. It identifies, for example, the most loved and hated programming languages.

    I’ll repeat again that beginners should choose the language they like, and see what vacancies are open in their region. It is important to remember that knowing one language can always help you learn another.

    With a strong desire and proper motivation, anyone who can read, write, and work with a keyboard can learn programming. It's a simple matter of timing and motivation. Today, there are tons of materials for learning programming languages, available ​​in almost any language in the world, in both free and paid access forms. There are very high-quality paid programming courses, and paying for them can give your motivation and attention a boost. Do whatever works best for you. Good luck!

    We also invite you to review available vacancies on our Work page.

    You can ask questions about programming languages ​​in the Anywhere Club chats in the Discord channel.

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