User Anton Trukhanov
Anton Trukhanov
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Can’t Decide? 5 Key Tips on Choosing First Programming Language for Beginners

Published in the Random group
It isn’t uncommon for coding beginners who want to become professional software developers in the future to stress out about choosing a programming language to master first. We at CodeGym have noticed this over the years communicating with our students and supporting them in their desire to learn Java as a foundation of their skill set in software development. Beginners, especially young people looking at programming as their future career, are prone to doubts and uncertainty about what coding language they should go with as there are so many views and speculations about it online. The fact that newbies tend to have a somewhat tentative understanding of the applications of different programming languages when it comes to real work and projects, makes this choice even more difficult. Can’t Decide? 5 Key Tips on Choosing First Programming Language for Beginners - 1

Can’t decide which programming language to learn?

Not so long ago we already touched on this topic, talking about the most popular programming languages for beginners. And as we noted, picking a programming language to learn first is not about making the right choice. It's about making a choice and making it right. Meaning that the software industry will probably always have a large selection of technology stacks and programming languages for a potential beginner to choose from, and you shouldn’t allow this fact to slow you down. There are object-oriented programming (OOP) and functional programming languages, ones meant for back-end and front-end development, as well as multiple other ways to differentiate available technologies from one another. And this is not going to change anywhere in the near future. We already have quite a lot of information available at CodeGym focused on broadening the knowledge our students have on the similarities and differences between programming languages, their applicability in the modern-day software development market, and potential for future career development. Check out, for example, the article comparing Java and JavaScript as two of the leading first choices for coding beginners around the globe. Today, however, we would like to address this issue from a more fundamental perspective and give you a few tips and recommendations on how to stop stressing about which programming language you should learn, finally make this choice, and what’s even more important, not to let this problem push you off the track again.

5 key tips on how to stop stressing about which programming language to learn

1. Accept the need to make a choice and stick to it

A good recommendation to begin with would be to accept that you need to take the responsibility of making this choice and sticking to it in order to achieve proficient results. There are no right or wrong answers in choosing the programming language to master as knowing any of them, in one way or the other, can be beneficial. Hesitation, inability to decide and constant focus-switching are the real mistakes that will hold you off, not picking a “wrong” technology stack.

2. Pick a criterion you want to apply to choose a programming language

What’s making this choice increasingly difficult the more you are diving into the subject is the abundance of criteria you can base your decision on. For example:
  • Community and ecosystem size (Java, Python and JavaScript would be the leading trio here),
  • Availability of learning materials and quality of documentation (Java or Python),
  • Programming paradigm (OOP or functional),
  • Typical side of programming work (back-end or front-end),
  • Popularity among businesses and the number of jobs available,
  • Ease of learning,
  • Programmer productivity and team velocity requirements,
  • Suitability for specific domains of software development work.
And these are only the most common and obvious ways you can base your choice upon. What you need is to focus on the most relevant criteria only, without overloading yourself with too many potential points of view.

3. Let the project pick the language

Or you can just pick one ultimate criterion as a foundation for this decision. Arguably, a good idea would be just to look at already existing projects that you like and would be interested to work on in the future. This would help you to realize which programming language is the most appropriate. For example, many CodeGym students have chosen to learn Java because it is widely used across a number of the most exciting and trending technology niches today, such as artificial intelligence (AI), IoT (Internet of things), blockchain, Big data, etc. As CodeGym’s course is focused on helping students to acquire knowledge of Java Core and practical skills of coding in Java, soon after completion of the course many of them are able to join software development teams and start working on projects the likes of which had inspired them to get into this profession in the first place.

4. Pick the approach to learning, not the language

Another major piece of advice that, in our opinion, could help those who have a hard time making the choice but anxious to start learning and achieve some progress already, is to pick an approach to learning programming instead of a specific language. After all, any knowledge can make itself useful at some point down in your career. What can really waste your time, however, is not being able to find an approach to learning that is easy to adopt and doesn’t take too much effort to stick to. This is actually one of the main reasons CodeGym students choose our course to learn Java online. As CodeGym combines its signature practice-first approach with an easy to digest and fun gamified learning process, many people literally end up choosing to learn Java because they want to learn on CodeGym, not the other way around. In fact, according to our recent survey, for a big chunk of students CodeGym was literally the first-ever contact with a programming-related knowledge source, meaning that they never had any contact with the programming world prior to registering on CodeGym and our course inspired them to start learning.

5. Stop listening to other opinions once you made the choice

Once the choice is made, whatever criteria you decide to base it on, we recommend you to stop listening to other opinions on the matter at least for a while, focusing instead on achieving some progress in your learning process. Of course, it is healthy to stay open-minded and reevaluate your decisions every once in a while, and learning how to code is not an exception, but this could also considerably delay your progress if done too often.

Expert advice

To augment our own advice, here are several informative quotes on this topic from software developers with years and decades of professional experience. “I take a look into a language when I expect it to be interesting. If that assumption is confirmed I try to dive deeper. Sometimes my initial assumption is confirmed, sometimes not. I learned languages which feel very valuable and I learned a language I honestly don't really want to use again even though I thought they were great at the beginning. One question remains. What gives me the initial feeling, that highly depends. Sometimes I just read about some new language and the description piques my interest. Sometimes I am forced to learn something new due to my job,” Bernhard Støcker, a programmer from Germany able to code in a handful of languages, said. “I just pick up programming languages when I hear about them. Some do not interest me at all, because at the time I don’t have the problem they said they would solve. Don’t expect to learn just one language and that is it, that is not how things work. When you learn more languages, the next one becomes easier. It is never a waste of time, and you have to do it,” Trausti Thor Johannsson, another experienced software developer, recommends. “My advice is not to get bogged down in worrying about what tools you are using. Learn how to learn new technologies quickly, fight the urge to become a specialist and instead become a generalist. Whatever you do, don't stop learning new stuff. We call those people employable,” Scott Gartner, an experienced coder from the U.S., added.

Summary

Summing it up, we can only double down on what these experienced software developers are saying: the approach to learning and proper attitude towards the process is what actually matters if you want to be successful in this field. Picking specific tools, technologies and programming languages, on the other hand, is not unimportant but certainly plays a secondary role. As the top most popular programming languages in the world have been pretty much the same over the last 10-15 years, you will have plenty of time to get more comfortable in picking the most relevant technologies along the way, as long as you are able to learn and accumulate new knowledge. Being able to accumulate relevant skills is one of the keys to success as a software developer, and CodeGym, being an online Java course, is focused on teaching students to approach the learning itself and building a strong foundation for a long career in software development.
What else to read:
Can’t Decide? 5 Key Tips on Choosing First Programming Language for Beginners - 2
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