There’s a common misconception that programming languages are all different variations on the same basic principles. While there are certain qualities that are the same for every language, they all do very different things. Some are only suited to one very specific kind of task; some look very similar to English text; some take lines and lines of code to make a single piece of a program and some are so radically different from all of the above that only master programmers can understand them. So it can be difficult for a beginner coder to know where to start.
Our best advice would be to remember that programming languages are like tools. You may think you can figure out how to use a hammer pretty easily, but you wouldn’t try to use one to change a light bulb, would you? Start by figuring out what it is you want to build/create/develop, and then select the programming language that best fits your needs.
It’s also important to realise that every programming language has a different learning curve. Some start off super easy but then get much more challenging once you’ve picked up the basics. Others require a lot of hard work for things to click into place, but it’s plain sailing once they do. Despite all of the above however, there are some languages out there that are simply perfect for beginners. They teach you the necessary programming principles; can be used for a variety of different projects; make good stepping-stones towards more complex languages and most importantly; they’re fun!
Here are four such languages we recommend for complete beginners.
Python is always at the top of every ‘easy programming languages’ list. It’s not for no reason that it’s the first language taught on an increasing number of university-level computing courses. The reason why is not because it’s a simple language, but because it doesn’t place too much emphasis on syntax. That means if you forget a parentheses here and there, your entire program won’t get messed up. Python is actually very high-level and very powerful – and it’s rare to get such a versatile language that’s so easy to pick up.
Companies such as Google, Yahoo and NASA use Python and its web application framework (Django) powers such sites as Instagram, Pinterest and the New York Times. It’s an object-oriented language so it makes a good stepping stone for moving onto Java, C# or Visual Basic. And best of all, it’s completely free and open source.
Ruby is well known for having a very large and very helpful developer community, meaning there are endless resources out there for the beginner Ruby programmer. Like Python it’s another simple, readable, easy to use and easy to learn language. It’s also used by many companies such as Twitter, Groupon and GitHub for a start.
Ruby makes it very easy to build websites or mobile apps from scratch and get them up and running with minimum time and effort – especially if used in conjunction with the web framework, Ruby on Rails (again, they are not the same thing). The Ruby language is becoming increasingly popular and in-demand, despite being one of the youngest widely used languages around. As well as object-oriented programming, it can tackle procedural, functional and imperative types too making it very flexible. Better yet, you can learn it all in 20 minutes thanks to Ruby’s Quick Start Guide.
For absolute beginners who aren’t even sure what coding is, or for those who are struggling with the above languages, HTML makes a good starting point. It’s not a programming language in the same sense as the others on the list and is much, but it does take you right back to square one to learn the basic principles that apply to any and every programming language. If you want to create simple websites in minutes it’s also pretty handy to know too.
Still having trouble deciding which language is for you? Try our Getting Started guide.