What Is The First Programming Language To Learn In 2024?

What Is The First Programming Language To Learn? For aspiring developers looking to break into coding, the myriad programming language options can be daunting. What is the best first language to start with?

The choice of your initial language fundamentally impacts your journey ahead. It determines:

  • How quickly you can start building real programs
  • Which concepts and paradigms you’re exposed to first
  • How transferable your skills are to other languages
  • Which career paths will be most accessible

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll compare the top languages for beginners and offer my experienced perspective on the best option for getting started in 2024.

Let’s examine how criteria like these should influence your choice:

  • Ease of use for beginners
  • Wide availability of learning resources/communities
  • Real-world applicability of the language
  • High demand and career prospects
  • Fundamental concepts taught
  • Scalability from hobby to pro usage

By evaluating languages against these factors, we can determine which provide the ideal on-ramp for aspiring developers.

Why Python is the Best First Programming Language

For a bold yet accessible intro to coding in 2024, Python stands as the clear top choice.

Here’s why it’s perfectly suited for beginner programmers:

Extremely Readable Syntax

With clear, almost conversational syntax using easy-to-grasp keywords, Python removes the steep early learning curve of cryptic syntax and symbols beginners face in languages like C++ and Java.

Huge Community of Beginners

Python’s popularity among new coders creates an unparalleled support ecosystem of tutorials, Q&A forums and guides tailored to overcoming initial hurdles.

Teaches Concise and Logical Thinking

Python’s emphasis on writing short, sequential, logically broken down blocks of code trains strong programmatic thinking skills from the start.

Powerful Out-of-the-Box

Ready-to-use data structures, rich libraries and versatile interpreter give beginners the ability to build useful programs faster than with most other languages.

Applicable to Tons of Domains

Web apps, data science, machine learning, system scripts, finance, gaming, and more. Python is highly versatile, exposing coders to different possibilities.

Easy Transition to Other Languages

Concepts learned with Python provide a solid foundation to pick up languages like Java, C#, JavaScript and others based on your special interests.

For these reasons and more, Python delivers the ideal on-ramp into programming for aspiring coders of all backgrounds.

Next let’s examine other top options and how they compare.

JavaScript as a First Language

The wildly popular language of the web and beyond, JavaScript has definite appeal thanks to:

  • Instant ability to make visually interactive web pages
  • Huge and active community constantly creating resources
  • Increasing usage beyond the frontend for backends, mobile, IoT, games

However, JavaScript has a few drawbacks as a true beginner language:

  • Many paradigms like event-based programming and callbacks add complexity
  • Quirky syntax and type coercion rules trip up many newcomers
  • Less versatile than Python for general programming education

JavaScript may be tempting as a first language given its ubiquity in web development. But Python forms a stronger pure coding foundation before specializing.

Considerations for C/C++

As foundational languages powering major operating systems, C and C++ have been staples for teaching low-level programming for decades. Their advantages include:

  • Gaining memory management skills
  • Understanding hardware constraints
  • Seeing how higher level languages are built

However, for coding beginners C/C++ present big hurdles:

  • Manual memory allocation is highly unintuitive
  • Steep learning curves around pointers, headers, and Makefiles
  • Archaic syntactical holdovers require strict formatting
  • Lack of visibility into executing programs
  • Fewer beginner-oriented resources available

While C and C++ may provide the deepest dive into systems, a friendlier starting point allows building skills more enjoyably.

The Case for Java

Java remains a popular introductory language at colleges given attributes like:

  • Object oriented structure teaches good design principles
  • Strong typing makes code behaviors more explicit
  • Maintains C-style syntax useful for transitioning
  • Widely adopted so skills transfer easily

The biggest drawbacks of Java for new programmers are:

  • Verbose syntax with lots of boilerplate code
  • Static typing adds complexity compared to Python’s dynamism
  • GUI programming involves clumsy outdated APIs
  • Lack of REPL and scripting usage
  • More cerebral than experiential

For a faster on-ramp to building cool projects, Java entails more upfront concepts to master first.

Why Ruby is Not Ideal

Ruby has been proposed as an easy alternative for learner programmers given features like:

  • Simple syntax with resemblance to natural language
  • Dynamically typed so no variable type declarations
  • Interpreted like Python with interactive REPL environment

However, Ruby has downsides making it less than ideal as a first language:

  • Smaller community and learning resources compared to counterparts
  • Designed for web development, less versatile general purpose usage
  • Unique syntax deviations reduce transferability to other languages
  • Perceived as less professional and adopted outside web context
  • Limited C integration compared to Python and JavaScript

While often easy for beginners to pick up, Ruby does not provide the career-launching potential that Python priorities.

Should Beginners Learn R or MATLAB?

When exploring options, new programmers may encounter domain-specific languages like R for statistics or MATLAB for engineering and wonder if they make for accessible starting points.

While they require less software intricacies than general purpose languages, R and MATLAB have limitations for foundational programming education:

  • Domain-constrained usefulness limits career applicability
  • Can engrain thinking in narrow ways tailored to specialty
  • Large paradigmatic leaps to transition to languages like Python later
  • Reduced flexibility and control over code behavior
  • Tend to encourage functional usage without deeper understanding

For most aspiring developers, a multipurpose language like Python will provide superior preparation for long-term growth.

Takeaway Advice for New Coders

Based on over a decade of experience teaching programming to thousands of students from diverse backgrounds, my advice on selecting your first language boils down to:

  • Prefer general purpose over niche languages – This fosters broadly transferable knowledge
  • Don’t start with your end goal language – Focus on fundamental concepts first before specializing
  • Choose readability over syntactic terseness – Favor languages optimized for human comprehension
  • Prefer dynamism over static paradigms initially – This allows more experimentation
  • Embrace interactivity – Look for REPLs, notebooks, visual debugging to accelerate learning
  • Let project appeal drive persistence – Ability to build cool things keeps motivation high

Evaluated against these criteria, Python stands tall as the ideal first programming language for the vast majority of aspiring developers in 2024.

Of course your end goal may dictate starting with JavaScript for web development, C# for Windows apps, or Swift for iOS.

But for a flexibly empowering introduction to coding, no language ticks as many boxes for beginners as Python. Its balance of simplicity, versatility and scale makes it the premier on-ramp to programming.

Whatever language you choose, the most important thing is to start actively building projects. With consistent practice, you’ll be on your way to developing proficiency as a programmer!

Leave a Comment