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14 Popular Programming Languages and Their Uses Explained

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updated Oct 3, 2022

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When you start learning coding and web development, the number of different programming languages can easily feel daunting and overwhelming.

In this post you will learn about different programming languages and their uses to help you find the right programming language to learn.

We’ll go through 14 popular programming languages and see what they’re used for.

By the end this article, you’ll have a better idea about which language you should learn to achieve your coding goals.

Here’s what we’ll cover in this post:

  • What programming languages are there?
  • What is each programming language good for?
  • Which programming language to learn?
  • What is the best programming language for beginners?

Even if you’re just thinking about learning programming, you’re in the right place.

Check out my Free Coding Guide for Beginners to start with the basics, learn about what coding is, and how the Internet works.

Here are a few helpful articles you may want to read, too:

Different programming languages and their uses explained

Here’s an overview of the different programming languages we’ll cover in this guide:

  1. C
  2. C#
  3. C++
  4. CSS
  5. HTML
  6. Java
  7. JavaScript
  8. Objective-C
  9. PHP
  10. Perl
  11. Python
  12. Ruby
  13. SQL
  14. Swift
Popular programming languages and their uses explained - MikkeGoes 02

1. C

The great-grandmother and lingua franca of all programming languages, C was first released in 1972. (Yes, that’s 50 years ago!)

During the past decades, C has become one of the most widely used programming languages ever to exist.

C is used for creating a variety of programs for computers, such as operating systems, for example.

If you are interested in learning C, you need to know that it’s not going to be the easiest programming language to learn.

The syntax is somewhat complex and cryptic, and it takes some time to get familiar with.

But once you get past that, learning the language is rather straightforward.

Also, what’s great about learning C is that when you master it, it’s much easier to learn your next programming language.

Because C has been around forever, it’s had a strong influence on some other programming languages, too.

You can find similarities in C# and C++, Java, JavaScript, PHP, and Python, for instance.

What C is used for:

  • Operating systems and system tools
  • Game development
  • Advanced computation and graphics
  • Compilers
  • Enterprise software

“Hello World!” in C:

#include <stdio.h>

int main(void) {
  printf("Hello World!");
}

Should you learn C?

C isn’t the most popular or trendy programming language to learn.

However, it’s still an in-demand skill with a longer history than most programming languages have.

Learning C will give you a good overview of the evolution of programming during the past 50 years.

You’ll find plenty of developers who used C even before the Internet came to exist.

One major downside of C is that it’s somewhat difficult to learn for beginners.

Thus, if you’re looking for the easiest first programming language to learn, I recommend a more high-level language like Python

High-level programming languages are easier to “read”. That means you can focus on learning the fundamentals of programming instead of spending too much time understanding how a single programming language works.

Where can you start learning the C programming language?

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2. C#

Originally developed by Microsoft to run on their .NET framework, C# (pronounced “C-sharp”) is based on C and C++

C# was originally designed to be easy to learn and use.

C# a high-level language, meaning that it reads a bit like English.

On top of that, it abstracts away a lot of those complex tasks needed to make sure the computer can read and process your code.

However, C# is not as high-level as Python, for example. Thus, Python is even easier for beginners than C#.

What C# is used for:

  • Game development (Unity)
  • Desktop applications (Microsoft, Windows)
  • Web services
  • Web applications

“Hello World!” in C#:

using System;
class App
{
  static void Main()
  {
    Console.WriteLine("Hello World!");
  }
}

Should you learn C#?

C# is the main programming language for developing software and programs for Microsoft.

If you’re interested in building applications for the Microsoft platform, C# is the perfect choice for you.

Another popular application for C# is game development. If you want to work in the gaming industry, C# is an excellent choice.

It’s the recommended language for building games on the Unity game engine, for example.

Where can you start learning the C# programming language?

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3. C++

C++ is based on C, the indisputable dinosaur of programming languages still in use.

C++ a powerful, high-performance language, but it’s rather lower-level.

Low-level programming languages use a lower degree of abstraction, so they are more difficult to “read” than high-level languages.

Learning a low-level language means you will spend more on understanding how the language works per se.

Therefore, you can dedicate less time to learning how computer programming works and what it’s all about.

If you’re coding an application from scratch with C++, you need to write a lot of code.

That said, C++ projects are often more difficult to maintain and manage.

On the other hand, C++ is very scalable and efficient. Heaps of resource-intensive programs often use C++, like some of the most stunning 3D games out there.

What C++ is used for:

  • Desktop applications and software
  • Mobile apps
  • Game engines and games
  • Web applications

“Hello World!” in C++:

#include <iostream>

int main() 
{
  std::cout << "Hello World!" << std::endl;
}

Should you learn C++?

If you’re interested in learning C++, remember that it’s a very complex language to learn.

Try to find an experienced mentor to guide and support you along the way.

If you want to take on big projects and have a lot of control of how the programs execute, C++ is most likely a good choice.

Learning the basics of C helps you pick up C++ faster. That’s somewhat of a prerequisite for learning C++ anyways.

Once you master C++, learning other programming languages will be much easier.

Where can you start learning the C++ programming language?

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4. CSS

CSS - Cascading Style Sheets

CSS or Cascading Style Sheets is the language web designers and web developers use to create the look and design of a website.

Whereas HTML creates the structure and contents for a website, like paragraphs, headings, and images, CSS takes those elements and makes them look pretty.

If you’re interested in building websites, you must learn CSS at some point. Luckily, CSS is easy and quick to learn. It’s also one of the most motivational languages for beginners, because you see the output from your code instantly.

However, even though you can learn the basics of CSS in just a few days, it can take years to master the more advanced tricks with confidence.

Of course, CSS is just a style sheet language and not a “proper” programming language.

But since every website out there uses CSS, it has earned a spot on this list.

Here are a couple of helpful CSS guides for you:

What CSS is used for:

  • Styling web page structure, layout, and content (by selecting HTML elements and applying style rules to them)

Should you learn CSS?

If you want to build websites, you must learn CSS.

Together with HTML and JavaScript, CSS is one of the most fundamental front-end skills you must master as a web developer or web designer.

Also, if you want to make money already while you learn coding, the fastest and easiest way to get your first mini jobs is to learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

You can start earning money in a matter of weeks with small gigs on freelancing websites like Upwork.

At the same time, you can gradually build yourself a nice web developer portfolio to get bigger jobs step-by-step.

Once you feel confident enough, you can start applying for your first entry-level front-end developer jobs.

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5. HTML

HyperText Markup Language or HTML is used to creating structured content for all websites on the WWW.

Instead of a programming language, HTML is a markup language.

You can use HTML to create the structure and the content for a web page, such as:

  • Navigation menus
  • Sidebars
  • Footer areas
  • Headings and paragraphs
  • Lists
  • Embedded images and other media
  • and more

Everything you see on a website is thanks to HTML. The text you are reading right now is an HTML paragraph element.

For a kick-start into learning HTML, make sure to grab your free HTML cheat sheet below:

What HTML is used for:

  • Building the structure web page: sections, rows, columns
  • Creating individual content elements: paragraphs, headings, lists, embedded images, etc.

Should you learn HTML?

Yes!

HTML is very easy to learn, and it’s the foundation of every website and web app you’ve ever used.

You can learn the basics of HTML over a weekend and start practising your web development skills right away.

For the best resources for learning HTML, head over to my recommended online courses for learning HTML for beginners.

If you’re like me and you prefer learning from a book, check out my book review on HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites by Jon Duckett.

Also, when you start learning HTML, be prepared to learn CSS and JavaScript, too. These three languages form the basic building blocks of the Web.

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6. Java

Java - The best programming languages to learn first for beginners

Java is one of the most popular and widely-used programming languages in the world. 

You can use Java for a variety of different projects, from coding Android smartphone apps to building complex desktop applications.

At the time of updating this article, Java holds the 3rd place in the TIOBE Index that ranks programming languages based on how often people search for them on the most common search engines.

TIOBE Index September 2022
Source: TIOBE Index

The fundamentals of Java actually stem from C++, but Java is a bit easier to learn and use, especially for beginners.

For instance, one of the fundamental ideas the developers of Java had was to create a programming language that would allow their code to run on two devices that were nothing alike. That’s where the slogan of Java comes from: “write once, run anywhere“.

That said, Java is popular across all platforms, operating systems, and devices. This versatility and flexibility make Java one of the most in-demand and highest paying programming languages worldwide.

Read next: What Is the Java Programming Language (And How to Learn It Fast)

What Java is used for:

  • Mobile development (Android)
  • Desktop software (cross-platform)
  • Game development
  • Big data technology

“Hello World!” in Java:

class Main {
 public static void main(String[] args) {
    System.out.println("Hello World!");
  }
}

Should you learn Java?

If you’re not sure yet what it is that you want to accomplish with coding, Java could be a good option thanks to its versatility.

All in all, Java is a great asset to have when you start applying for your first developer jobs.

However, you can also find other programming languages that are more beginner-friendly and require less code to create an entire app from scratch. You could try Python or Ruby, for example.

Java is also the most useful programming language for Android mobile development.

If you wish to become a full-time Android developer, check out these top mobile development courses for Android on Udemy.

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7. JavaScript

JavaScript and jQuery - Top computer coding languages for beginners

Not to be confused with Java, JavaScript is the programming language of the Web.

It breathes life into websites, making them more interactive, interesting to use, and user-friendly.

Almost every website on the WWW uses JavaScript.

JavaScript is one of the most popular web development languages and among the most powerful programming languages out there.

Therefore, the JavaScript programming language is a sought-after skill on the job market.

Different frameworks and libraries, such as AngularJS and jQuery or React, make using JavaScript for front-end development even more efficient and interesting.

JavaScript is a client-side language itself, meaning that the code is executed on the user’s browser.

However, with technologies such as Node.js, it can also be used as a server-side language. This makes JavaScript even more powerful through the additional versatility, ultimately making it a full-stack language.

If you are new to coding, check out the best way to learn JavaScript (with no experience).

What JavaScript is used for:

  • Front-end web development
  • Back-end web development (Node.js)
  • Mobile apps with React Native

“Hello World!” in JavaScript:

console.log("Hello World!");

Should you learn JavaScript?

If you want to become a front-end web developer, you have to learn JavaScript at some point. You simply can’t build a full-scale website without it.

Pair JavaScript with HTML and CSS and you’ve got a complete portfolio of skills to get your first front-end developer job.

Also, JavaScript is one of the most popular and best programming languages for web development at the moment.

Hence, you won’t have any trouble finding a job once you master JavaScript. Its popularity just seems to grow with new front-end frameworks appearing out of thin air on a regular basis.

If you’re not sure where to start learning, check out these top JavaScript courses on Udemy.

Once you feel comfortable with the syntax, you can start building your first Javascript projects for your portfolio website.

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8. Objective-C

Objecive-C is the primary language by Apple for developing programs for Mac OS X and iOS.

First developed in the ’80s, Objective-C has since gained momentum along with the growing popularity of iOS.

Objective-C is a powerful and flexible programming language based on the C language. However, it’s not the easiest programming language to learn for beginners.

Even though Objective-C is the most useful programming language for Apple devices, the general trend in app development for Apple’s devices is going in the direction of Swift.

We’ll see what happens with Objective-C in the future, but for now its still a valuable and necessary programming language to learn for iOS development.

What Objective-C is used for:

  • Mobile development (iOS)

“Hello World!” in Objective-C:

#import <Foundation/Foundation.h>

int main(int argc, const char * argv[]) {
    @mylak {
        NSLog(@"Hello World!");
    }
    return 0;
}

Should you learn Objective-C?

If you want to create apps for the App Store, Objective-C is a necessary skill you need to learn.

When you start learning Objective-C, be prepared to learn Swift, too. The combination of these two programming languages will give you solid skill set for iOS development for a long time.

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9. Perl

Perl programming language

Perl is a high-level scripting language that first appeared in 1987 and has since developed into a small family of two separate languages, Perl 5 and Perl 6.

What Perl was originally meant for was text processing and manipulation, but it has since found further applications ranging from web development to system administration.

Perl evolved throughout the years into a powerful tool that can be used on pretty much any operating system on the planet. Therefore, it’s sometimes referred to as the “Swiss army knife” of computer languages, too.

Perl takes its best features from other programming languages such as C, for instance. It’s comparable to PHP or Python to a certain extent, too.

However, in contrast to Python, Perl usually offers multiple solutions to a single problem. In this way it’s similar to Ruby, where there’s no one single best way to solve a specific problem.

If you’re a beginner programmer, keep in mind that Perl comes with a few somewhat daunting features like any other programming language.

For example, it’s famous for the overflowing use of confusing symbols in its syntax. So, the code might look a bit overwhelming for a beginner at first glance.

What Perl is used for:

  • Network programming
  • GUI development
  • Web development

“Hello World!” in Perl:

print "Hello World!\n";

Should you learn Perl?

Perl is a powerful and versatile programming language. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not that difficult to learn.

However, if you want to get a developer job in the future, make sure your potential employers actually use Perl.

Since it’s not the most popular programming language out there, you could run into problems trying to find a company you’d like to work for as a Perl developer.

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10. PHP

PHP programming language

PHP is a scripting language running on the server side to create web pages written in HTML.

It’s a relatively easy language to use for new developers, making it one of the most popular programming languages out there. In fact, 80% of the top 10 million websites currently use PHP.

Interestingly enough, PHP was never really intended to become a programming language. It was originally created to be a toolset to help its creator, Rasmus Lerdorf, maintain his Personal Home Page (PHP).

That aside, PHP has since become one of the most popular scripting languages on the Web.

Being a server-side language just like Python or Perl are, PHP can do things such as creating login pages, photo galleries, discussion forums, and much more.

Websites employing PHP include some lovely treats we all are familiar with, like WordPress, Facebook, and Tumblr.

Read also: Recommended PHP Courses for Beginners

What PHP is used for:

  • Back-end web development
  • WordPress development

“Hello World!” in PHP:

<?php
echo "Hello World!";
?>

Should you learn PHP?

Since PHP is easy to get started with, it’s a great choice for a beginner programmer.

Additionally, PHP is the most useful programming language for WordPress development.

If you’re planning to become a freelance web developer, PHP is a safe choice: WordPress and other content management systems often use PHP.

If you’re looking for the best beginner-level PHP course to start learning, check out these top PHP Courses on Udemy.

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11. Python

Python - Top coding languages for beginners

Python is one of the most beginner-friendly programming languages out there.

First developed by Guido van Rossum in the 1990s, Python has become one of the most popular programming languages worldwide.

If you are new to coding, Python is the perfect for learning the fundamentals of programming.

It reads a lot like English, so it’s relatively intuitive to learn and easy to pick up.

This means you can dedicate more time to learning what programming is all about and learn the basics of coding in general.

Read also: 5 Reasons Why Python Is a Great First Programming Language

Python is also a versatile programming language that you can use for a variety of different coding projects, like:

  • Data mining and visualisation
  • Machine learning
  • Web applications
  • Game development etc.

Python offers a vast collection of libraries, packages, and frameworks that help you finish your Python projects faster.

What Python is used for:

  • Data visualization
  • Data analysis
  • Machine learning
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Back-end web development (with frameworks like Django and Flask)
  • Game development

“Hello World!” in Python

print("Hello World!")

Should you learn Python?

If you want to see results quickly and build meaningful projects from the beginning, Python is a great choice. You will have no problem finding helpful resources for learning Python online.

Also, you don’t have to worry about feeling left alone at any point. The strong and supportive community around Python will take care of their kin.

So whenever the road gets rocky, you can rely on receiving help from Q&A sites like StackOverFlow.

I know learning programming can feel a bit overwhelming and it’s difficult to know what you want to do in the future.

Python lets you create so many different projects from data mining to game development that you can start learning it and see what you like the most as you progress.

For a kick-start into learning Python, have a look at my full review of Python Crash Course. It was my very first coding book and it taught me everything I needed to know to start pursuing web development as a full-time job.

Where can you start learning Python?

100 Days of Code – The Complete Python Pro Bootcamp on Udemy
100 Days of Code: The Complete Python Pro Bootcamp on Udemy

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12. Ruby

Ruby and Ruby on Rails - Best programming languages for beginners

Ruby is a very high-level, multi-purpose programming language first released in 1995.

It’s one of the most fun and creative programming languages to work with, because you will most often find several ways to solve a specific problem.

Learning Ruby will definitely reward you with a steep learning curve and seeing results fairly quickly. For instance, you can build a web application from scratch surprisingly fast using the Ruby on Rails framework.

Therefore, Ruby is the most useful programming language for launching web apps as quickly as possible among startups and small businesses.

What Ruby is used for:

  • Back-end web development

“Hello World!” in Ruby:

puts"Hello World!"

Should you learn Ruby?

If you’re interested in quick progress and creating an entire application from scratch (even just by yourself), Ruby is the most useful programming language to see results quickly.

Pair it with the Rails framework and you can build a web app faster than you expected.

Above all, Ruby is popular among small tech companies. So, if that’s the segment you want to work in at some point, Ruby could be a safe choice as your first programming language.

To be sure about the demand in the job market, just do some research online and find out which programming languages your potential future employers use.

If you’re looking for a beginner-friendly course to learn Ruby and Rails, I’d recommend The Complete Ruby on Rails Developer Course on Udemy. It’s the first Ruby course I took and I loved it. Highly recommended – the over 50,000 students can’t be wrong!

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13. SQL

SQL or Structured Query Language is the most common language used for managing data stored in relational database management systems (RDBMS).

You can’t imagine how much data companies store in their databases these days. Knowing how to use SQL to manage and analyze the massive amounts of data is a valuable skill in the job market.

Businesses need people who can sift through the databases and help them draw conclusions from them.

For example, data analysts at Amazon create demand forecasts before Christmas to prepare and pre-pack millions of items for customers who are likely to order them before the holidays.

In a similar way, airlines sift through their past bookings for forecast demand for flights in the future. That’s how they know how many tickets they can sell at a higher price for each individual flight.

Yep, that’s why you’re paying a fortune for flights during holidays.

That said, understanding how data can be used in a sensible way to gain insight into customer behaviour, for instance, is a skill in high demand in the job market these days!

Even if you are not aiming at becoming a data analyst yourself, basic SQL skills will be an advantage in terms of being aware of the possibilities data mining offers.

What SQL is used for:

  • Database management

Should you learn SQL?

If you enjoy analyzing data and using it for drawing valuable conclusions from it, SQL is the most useful programming language to learn.

For example, if you enjoy statistics and math in general, data analysis could be something you’ll do a great job at.

Once you master SQL and database management, you can work in pretty much any industry around the world.

And more importantly, you will have no trouble finding a job!

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14. Swift

Swift programming language

Back in 2014, Apple developed their own programming language now known as Swift.

Before that, the de facto language for iOS development was Objective-C.

Hence, Swift is aimed at iOS and OS X developers, giving them the perfect tools for creating the next big thing on the app market.

Considering the huge demand in the mobile app market, it’s no surprise that Swift quickly became very popular. It scales nicely and it’s fast.

Furthermore, Swift is heavily influenced by Ruby and Python, so it’s very beginner-friendly and easy to use.

However, since it’s somewhat of a freshman compared to other languages, the support community for Swift might be a bit smaller than for the more established languages in the bunch. But like with any other language, it’s just a matter of time.

What Swift is used for:

  • Mobile app development (for iOS devices)

“Hello World!” in Swift:

print("Hello World!")

Should you learn Swift?

Swift is your weapon of choice if you’re looking to develop native apps for Mac OS or iOS.

Since the future of Apple seems quite promising at the moment, Swift can be a good investment if your long-term goals relate to iOS development.

Pairing Swift with Objective-C is probably the best way to go in that case, since understanding Objective-C code will definitely be required from a serious iOS developer.

If you’re looking for the best online course for iOS mobile development, check out these Top iOS Development Courses on Udemy.

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FAQ: Programming languages and their uses

What are the uses of each programming language?

Here are 12 popular programming languages and their uses:
JavaScript: interactive front-end web development
Python: web development, data analysis, machine learning, artificial intelligence
Java: desktop app development, Android mobile app development
Swift/Objective-C: iOS mobile app development
PHP: web development
Ruby: web development
C/C++: operating systems, game development, desktop software
C#: application development with .NET, game development
SQL: database management
Perl: GUI development, web development

Is HTML a programming language?

HTML is a markup language and it doesn’t contain any programming logic. Thus, HTML is not a programming language. It doesn’t allow you to code conditional statements, functions, or work with data and variables.

What is the easiest programming language to learn?

If you are new to coding, Python is the best programming language to start with. It reads a lot like English and is beginner-friendly, using fewer lines than some other popular languages. Python is therefore easy to learn, read, write, and troubleshoot. Start learning with these Python online resources for beginners.

Final thoughts: Different programming languages and their uses

There ya go! These popular programming languages and their uses should help you choose one to start learning.

I hope this post was helpful for learning more about what each programming language is good for.

Just keep in mind that what matters more is that you know why you want to learn programming in the first place.

When you know what you want to create with coding in the future, you will learn any programming language much quicker.

To help you get started, I’ve put together a helpful post with 6 easy steps to get started with coding. I’ll see you there!

The bottom line is that it doesn’t really matter which programming language you start with. Whether you’re interested in web development or data analysis, all that matters is that you just start, simple as that!

What do you think? Which ones are you interested in? Drop me a line in the comments below!

Here are a couple of related posts you may find helpful, too:

If you enjoyed this post on programming languages explained, drop me a line in the comments below!

P.S. If you found this post helpful, please share it with others so that they can find it, too! Thanks!

Happy coding!
– Mikke

Popular programming languages and their uses explained - MikkeGoes 01
14 Popular Programming Languages and Their Uses Explained14 Popular Programming Languages and Their Uses Explained

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About Mikke

Hi, I’m Mikke! I’m a blogger, freelance web developer, and online business nerd. Join me here on MikkeGoes.com to learn how to code for free, build a professional portfolio website, launch a tech side hustle, and make money coding. When I’m not blogging, you will find me sipping strong coffee and biking around town in Berlin. Learn how I taught myself tech skills and became a web dev entrepreneur here. And come say hi on Twitter!

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Fredrick
3 November 2022 11:14 am

Thank you so much. I think I’ll start on SQL for data analysis and database management.

Jennifer Walker
12 September 2017 12:08 pm

WOW! Super collection. I really love that. Specially, thanks for adding Ruby.

Kingsley Cross
3 October 2018 7:19 pm

Great info on coding. This is a refresher for me for I’ve been working with PHP, with WordPress, years ago and now focusing on JavaScript. Getting back to PHP to create my blog and looking forward to implementing JavaScript within it (based on what I know thus far with DOM and Event handling).

How I found out about your website? I started working with Python and currently within Python Crash Course (Chapters on Functions and Objects). The best thing about that book is the “Try It Yourself” which helps to really dive into programming and think about what you learned as you create instructive code from the questions asked.

Mikke
10 October 2018 5:06 pm
Reply to  Kingsley Cross

Hi there! Happy to hear you found the post helpful and that you’re working through Python Crash Course, too.
Keep coding and have fun with it!

AndrewMezei
10 March 2019 3:45 am

Been having a hard time understanding the differences between language as I am new to this. I would just like to say thanks as your article put a lot into perspective for me.

Mikke
13 March 2019 1:36 pm
Reply to  AndrewMezei

Hi Andrew,

so happy to hear the article was helpful! It’s a lot to take in with so many options to choose from.

If choosing a language feels difficult, it’s usually helpful to start by thinking about what you’d like to do with coding in the future. That can help you narrow down your options and make things easier. Just something to keep in mind 🙂

Happy coding!
– Mikke

Godslove Nnaji
14 December 2020 3:25 pm

Mikke, I think I’m about to make the same mistake yhu mades. I got your mail today! I’m learning Python but I basically have interest in web development though. Do you think it’s worthwhile?

Aaron Martinez Carretero
31 January 2022 8:20 am

Thanks for the article!! I will start coding with Python soon.

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