January 23, 2014, 7:00 AM —
Image credit: flickr/Ian Brown
I looked at the answers offered in a dozen articles, such as the comments on Matthew’s posts, and the responses to the questions on such forums as Quora and Stack Exchange. The full list of sources I used is at the end of this post. For each one, I only considered answers that suggested a single language (ignoring the “it depends” answers, or ones that offer multiple languages). I then totaled up the number of times a language was suggested as the best one to learn first, also adding up votes that answer received from readers (all of the sources I used allowed people to vote answers up or down). In the end, those dozen sources gave me a little under 500 votes.
Based on the votes I counted, these were the three clear top choices for best programming language to learn first:
It was also cited as a good choice because of its forgiving syntax.
At the other end of the spectrum, many voted for C, despite some of the difficulties in using it, because of the solid foundation it will provide and that it will make learning other languages easier.
“If you want to build a solid foundation from the beginning, go for C.... Introduction to the concepts of pointers and raw memory management will be invaluable later in your career.” MM01
“Its basis of a lot of other languages. The computer equivalent of Latin. Once, you learn C the other languages are easier to pick up.” Alan Cohen
“I feel like learning C is like learning to drive on a manual transmission -- once you get the hang of it it really isn't that hard, and once you're good at it you'll be confident in your ability to drive any car any time.” John Biesnecker
Many also felt that trying to learn C was a good way to find out right from the start whether you’re cut out to be a programmer.
“If people get scared of programming with C, then they are not meant to be programmers.” luis.espinal
Based on these data, though, Python was the clear top choice for the best programming language to learn first. The low barrier to entry and ease of use was the biggest factor, with many feeling that it will help keep people engaged and excited as they begin to learn programming.
“I would recommend to start with a "dynamic language" such as Python for your first language. You can get started easily and immediately build something that is actually usable. This is the crucial factor in learning to program. If you see immediate results and progress, you will be motivated to continue.” Sridatta Thatipamala
“Python, because you do not need a compiler and it's very VERY easy to run your programs and test.” timgray
“From my experience I feel that Python is an invaluable tool for beginning programmers, as its relatively simple syntax allows the novice to focus on programming concepts rather than fretting over semicolons and braces before her Hello World program will even run.” Frank Harvey
“I know python is very different, but it avoids having you to learn stuff which is specific to a language in particular, like compilation, includes, headers, compilers, IDEs, etc.” jokoon
“... I think Python is better for newcomers because of its emphasis on consistency and readability.“ Christopher Lin
Finally, Python was also credited with teaching good programming fundamentals.
“Python teaches essential indentation habits to newbies, which is great. I think any language with mandatory indentation is good for new programmers.“ Thomas Eding
Beyond these top three choices, the rest of the top ten were: 4. Pascal, 5. C#, 6. Scheme, 7. Visual Basic, 8. C++, 9. Assembly and 10. Scratch. However, the vote totals after the top three languages were too small, in my opinion, to put too much stock in them.
There you have it. Python seems to be the way to go if you’re starting to learn how to code. Anybody disagree? I’m guessing, yes...
First language to learn (Stack Exchange)
Good First Programming Language (Stack Overflow)
Which Language Should You Learn First? (O’Reilly Programming)
Which Programming Language Should I Learn First? (Lifehacker)
Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.