Knowing which computer language to learn doesn’t have a simple answer, and it’s probably better asked as ‘which computer language should I learn first’, as you’ll inevitably have to learn more than one if you want a role in computer science.
How to know which coding language to learn
The first step to knowing which language to start with is thinking about the end goal: What do you want to do with your new skill?
Is it so you can make lots of money? Perhaps you want to learn coding in your spare time as a hobby so you can make websites? Have you always had a passion for video games and want to be able to understand their inner workings? Do you want to get your foot in the door with an AI company for a futureproof career?
Understanding what it is you’d like to do or make with your programming language will help you make the right decision about which you should learn first.
Do I need to know multiple programming languages?
If you don’t want to pigeonhole your options, you should absolutely take the time to learn more than one programming language. Those who are looking for a career in software engineering will automatically be expected by employers to learn different languages once you’ve secured a job.
Thankfully, like most things in life, it’s easier to learn a secondary programming language after you’ve learned the first. You’ll already have a better understanding of computer algorithms and syntax, so learning a second should be no issue.
Rather than choosing which languages to start with, it’s best to work in terms of your short-term and long-term goals.
How many computer programming languages are there?
Below are some of the top computer languages. You’ve probably heard of some, while others may be completely new. There’s also a brief summary of what each coding language does and what type of jobs you can get in the field.
HTML & CSS
Starting from the basics, HTML is a markup language, while CSS is a style sheet language. The two are most commonly used together.
HTML is pretty easy to learn. If you ever had a Myspace page or created your own site, you’ll know simple tags like <b> makes things bold and <br> creates a new line.
Coding courses typically start with these two, as they’re seen as easy to learn and pretty useful. With HTML, you’ll be able to create text boxes, insert images, and format text on websites. This is also useful for creating headers and enhancing a site’s rich text structure for SEO.
CSS can then be used to decide how different elements on the website look. If you create a header with HTML, CSS will determine what size, font and color it is. CSS can also be used to create small animations.
In terms of career prospects, HTML and CSS work well for anyone that’s interested in taking the first steps to becoming a front-end developer. You can start your journey by using Bootstrap, where you’ll be able to test and trial different coding elements. Once you’ve mastered these beginner codes, you can then learn a programming language like Flexbox or Grid to help make your websites responsive, as this will be a key skill employers will be looking for.
Less known but incredibly powerful, Python can be used for a number of different things. Computer science degrees and Master’s courses will ensure your Python knowledge is up to the industry level so that you can create anything from websites to video games and apps.
If you’re just interested in learning more about coding or have big plans to work in data science, Python is definitely the language you should prioritize.
Python makes it easy to work with large amounts of data all at once. It allows you to organize and analyze documentation.
Finally, there’s Ruby, which is another back-end language that is becoming increasingly popular. With gentle syntax and no need for semicolons after each line, the language is fun to learn and use. Similar to Python; however, it’s unforgiving of even the slightest of error. Ruby isn’t for the faint-hearted, and you’ll need the patience for debugging.
It’s a high-level language that can do quite a lot, even with just a small amount of coding. It was designed to make programming a little more fun for developers, so isn’t always taught by computer science programs.
While these are just a few coding languages to get your teeth into, there are plenty of others, such as:
- SQL (for data science
- Swift (for iOS developers)
- Java (for Android apps)
- C# (for game developers)
- PHP (powers 80% of the web)
It’s best to start with the above-mentioned languages and build your way up. Alternatively, find a course that covers all of them!