Let’s be real: there are tons of programming languages out there and choosing just one to learn (at first, at least!) can be quite the challenge. And while there aren’t any wrong choices when it comes to learning, we think that you can get a whole lot more bang for your buck if you choose one of these ten programming languages. But before we dive into each of them and what they offer, let’s first go over the basics of programming languages.
What is a Programming Language?
Procedural programming languages: these follow a series of commands or statements to reach a desired output and include C and C++, Java, Pascal, and BASIC.
Functional programming languages: instead of working with a series of statements, functional programming languages use mathematical functions to achieve the desired result and include Scala, F#, and Haskell.
Object-oriented programming languages: these programming languages work with attributes and methods to create groups of objects that can be reused, making it valuable for complex programs and include Java, Python, Ruby, and PHP.
Scripting programming languages: used to automate repetitive tasks, scripting programming languages include PHP, Ruby, Node.js, and Python.
Logic programming languages: these languages create a series of facts and rules that teach the computer how to make decisions and includes Prolog and Alma-0.
Front-end vs. Back-end Programming Languages
You might have already picked out your dream programming language to learn, but not so fast: do you know what your dream role is? Do you prefer to work on the front or back end? Or combine both and become a full-stack developer? Before you decide which programming language you want to learn, make sure it lines up with your focus:
Front-end programming languages: these tend to focus on the user aspect of the software, meaning everything with which the user interacts: colors, images, text, and more.
Back-end programming languages: back-end developers will work with the behind-the-scenes aspects of software, such as the data architecture, scripting, and database communication.
If both sound like great options, your future may lie with full-stack web development. But there are a lot of other things to keep in mind, such as the differences between high-level and low-level programming languages and interpreted and compiled programming languages. We could go on and on about these, but let’s get back to the topic at hand: the ten best programming languages to learn.
The 10 Best Programming Languages to Learn
Now that you have a better idea of your focus, let’s dive into why we’re here: figuring out the programming language that will fit in perfectly with your career goals. And while we could write a separate blog post on each and every one of these ten programming languages (and more!), we’re going to cover the following points: what it is, their characteristics, and what role uses it the most.
What is Java?
Java is one of the most common programming languages for coding web applications; it’s multi-platform, object-oriented, and network-centric and is used for coding all sorts of projects, from apps and websites to big data applications and server-side technologies.
What are the characteristics of Java?
Known for being simple, platform independent, secure, and well-performing, Java is easy-to-use and benefits from creating flexible and reusable code. However, it runs slower than similar programming languages like C or C++ and isn’t UI-optimized; it also lacks a backup facility and requires lots of memory space.
Who is Java for?
Java is used by back-end developers, dealing with the functional and logical aspects of web development.
Let’s take a look at another very common programming language: Python.
What is Python?
Used in web development, data science, data visualization, and automation environments, Python is a generally-used, object-oriented programming language. It’s incredibly versatile and can be used for many purposes and here’s the key: it’s not just proficient in each area, it provides expert-level performance for a wide range of tasks.
What are the characteristics of Python?
As an interpreted language, Python doesn’t need compilation and is object-oriented, easy to learn, high-level, open source, and portable. Its gentle learning curve makes it easy for those coming from other programming languages to learn and boasts lots of available third-party libraries and an extensive user community. However, Python isn’t as fast as other programming languages, is memory intensive, isn’t optimized for database access, and is prone to overuse or misuse.
Who is Python for?
Although both front and back end web developers can use Python, it’s more frequently used by back-end web developers.
Maybe you’ve checked out our blog post on Ruby; maybe not. But just in case, here’s what you need to know.
What is Ruby?
This open-source programming language increases productivity while boasting simplicity. Mainly used for web development, Ruby is also useful for automation, static site generation, DevOps, web scraping, and command-line tools.
What are the characteristics of Ruby?
Ruby is an open-source, freely available license, used for general purposes. This interpreted programming language is object-oriented and is a server-side scripting language. It offers plenty of unique features for web developers, giving them creative freedom. Its lack of flexibility, on the other hand, means it's primarily limited to web development and is difficult to debug.
Who is Ruby for?
Ruby is mainly used by back-end developers.
The Google-born programming language, Go, offers users an efficient programming experience.
What is Go?
Although it may not be as common as the aforementioned programming languages, Go is gaining popularity quickly, known for its simplicity, concurrency, and high performance. It was created to fill in the gaps that software engineers were experiencing and improve productivity. Although it’s similar to C, it’s quite fast and is widely used at Google and in other companies.
What are the characteristics of Go?
This open-source, static typed programming language offers a powerful standard library and tool set, testing capabilities, garbage collection, and much more; it’s also easy to use, boasts cross-platform development opportunities, faster compilation and execution, and time-saving techniques. However, as it’s relatively new, it’s still being developed and is quite simple, unable to handle complex requests.
Who is Go for?
Back-end developers at Google are the main users of Go.
Popular with data scientists that need to run heavy data analysis, Rust is highly proficient at processing large amounts of data.
What is Rust?
Rust is ideal for machine learning, data analysis, and computational biology, among others, because it’s able to process large amounts of data incredibly fast. It runs on embedded devices, integrates easily with other languages, and can power performance-critical services.
What are the characteristics of Rust?
As an integrated package manager with great documentation and useful error messages coupled with top-notch tooling, Rust offers multi-editor support, is very fast, and memory-efficient. It’s also incredibly safe and used to guarantee high performance, safety, and memory management. On the contrary, its compile time is quite slow and only offers a single implementation and has a high learning curve.
Who is Rust for?
Back-end engineers and software developers will use Rust.
C is our first low-level language on our list and despite the fact that it can’t be used for internet programming, it’s used to create hardware devices, OS, drivers, kernels, and more.
What is C?
Although it was created in 1972, C is still widely used, largely because it works closely with the processor and most performance-critical applications are written in C; this means that newer programming languages follow C-style syntax and constructs. When performance and efficiency are critical, C is a great choice.
What are the characteristics of C?
Known for being simple and efficient, C is fast, extensible, offers function-rich libraries and dynamic memory management, and is a mid-level programming language. It’s compiler based and is low-cost and easy to bug. Keep in mind, however, it lacks a constructor and destructor and is frequently named the hardest programming language to learn.
Who is C for?
C is primarily for back-end engineers; it’s used for general programming needs and is never used for front-end reasons.
Used to build modular, scalable, and fast software, Scala is a popular choice with data engineers who need to easily and cleanly process large amounts of data.
What is Scala?
This object-oriented and functional language is a popular choice for web developers, used by professionals who need to quickly process large amounts of data or build mobile or web applications and big data systems. Websites that receive lots of traffic typically use Scala because it’s capable of managing all that information.
What are the characteristics of Scala?
Scala is a statically typed language, meaning it’s easy to find and rectify errors during compilation, saving time later on and increasing efficiency. It has built-in support for pattern matching, allowing developers to write elegant code. It does have some drawbacks though: it is quite hard to learn and offers limited tools and is not always compatible with other systems and libraries.
Who is Scala for?
Scala can be used for front-end, back-end, and full stack projects, but is generally adopted by back-end teams.
The purely functional programming language Haskell is used specifically for back-end job scheduling and brand matching.
What is Haskell?
Haskell works quite simply: it gives the computer a series of tasks to execute. Marketed as being purely functional, Haskell is primarily used by back-end engineers looking to find solutions for what to solve instead of how to solve.
What are the characteristics of Haskell?
Haskell boasts functions with no general side effects and lazy evaluation, lambda expressions, pattern matching, list comprehension, and type polymorphism. It’s referred to as the most state of the art programming language and supports programming with abstract mathematical concepts. However, as it differs so greatly from other programming languages, it can be tough to learn. It can also run slow on applications that require more power.
Who is Haskell for?
Haskell is ideal for back-end developers seeking clean and reliable code.
Built on top of C and the programming language chosen to design the Venmo app, Lua is an open source programming language used for larger server systems to applications.
What is Lua?
Used for procedural programming, functional programming, and object oriented programming, Lua is frequently used for game programming or building apps. It’s similar to Python and is concise and easy to read and write, making it a popular choice for programmers.
What are the characteristics of Lua?
Lua’s unique because it’s designed to work as an extension language, embedded in other platforms or systems, and can work with practically any system to make easy changes. It’s small, flexible, and portable and a great choice for coding beginners. It only has a small user community, however, and all Lua codes aren’t readily available.
Who is Lua for?
Lua can be used for both the front and back-end, but is more frequently associated with the latter.
Whew! That was quite the list–we hope we gave you a great summary of the most popular programming languages and helped you decide which one you’ll learn next. And if you’re looking for some added assistance, check out our Web Development Bootcamp. We’re sure you’ll find what you’re looking for!