14 Programming Languages Explained for Beginner Developers

Laptop on table

If you’re thinking about starting to learn how to code, you’re facing one question we’ve all had to find an answer for: which programming language should I learn first? This post is all about helping you out with 14 different programming languages explained briefly and clearly. You’ll have a short introduction to all 14 languages, their uses, and what they’re good for! This post will focus on the following points:

  • Different programming languages and their uses
  • What each programming language is good for

If you are not familiar with coding yet, this list of different programming languages and their uses should be quite helpful. You should get a basic understanding of what each one of them is used for. Generally speaking, programming is basically telling a computer what to do. However, different programming languages are used to solve problems and create programs in different ways. If you are interested in learning programming, this post should help you choose one that suits your interests.

Not sure where you should start learning? No worries, have a look at this post about the best free online courses for beginners!

Not yet quite familiar with different programming language paradigms? In that case check out this post about the different programming language paradigms!

Need an intro to computer science basics? Then you might find this post about learning computer science basics interesting, too.

Happy reading!


Programming languages explained: Table of contents

  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

1. C

The great-grandmother and lingua franca of all programming languages, C was first released in 1972 – that’s a whopping 45 years ago! During the past decades, it has become one of the most widely used programming languages ever to exist. It’s used for creating a variety of programs for computers, such as operating systems, for instance.

Learning C is definitely not a stroll in the park, being somewhat cryptic in its syntax. But once you get past that, it’s considered rather straightforward. More importantly, what’s great about it is that it gives you an excellent starting point for learning and understanding other programming languages later on.

Being such a strong and resilient player in the industry, C has had a strong influence on several other programming languages. These include C# and C++, Java, JavaScript, PHP, and Python, for instance.

However, C is not well suited for mobile devices like some of the other languages are. This will definitely be an ever-growing disadvantage with mobile solutions conquering more and more ground in the digital world.

back to top

Get free stuff and updates to your inbox!

Subscribe to my blog and get cool free stuff and updates about WordPress and coding to your email inbox!
I take your privacy seriously. No spam, ever.

2. C#

Originally developed by Microsoft to run on their .NET framework, C# (pronounced C-sharp) is based on C and C++. Clearly, it’s main use these days is building Microsoft software.

C# was originally designed to be easy to learn and use. Obviously that makes it a rather simple language to start with. It’s 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 is able to deal with your code – contrary to C++, for instance.

However, it’s still not as high-level as Python, for example – and therefore not quite as easy for a beginner to learn.

Who should learn it?

Anyone wishing to build applications for the Microsoft platform. So if you’re interested in sitting at a desk at a Microsoft office in the future, go for C#! It’s also usually the recommended language for creating games via the Unity game engine.

back to top

Laptop on a table


3. C++

C++ is also based on C, the indisputable dinosaur of programming languages still commonly used.

It’s a powerful, high-performance language, but rather lower-level. That means that you will need to understand more complex and fundamental aspects of programming, such a memory management. On the other hand, having all this control makes C++ very scalable. Apps that are very resource-intensive are often built with C++, such as some of the most beautiful 3D games out there.

Additionally, you will need to write a lot of code with C++ to get an app on its feet if you’re coding it from scratch. That makes the code difficult to maintain, unless you’re working with an entire team of developers.

Once you get things going, the applications of C++ are pretty diverse in nature. You can create computer software, mobile apps, game engines and games, or web applications with it.

Who should learn it? 

C++ is a very complex language to learn – make sure you have a mentor to support you along the journey! If you’re aiming at taking on big projects where you wish to have a lot of control of how the programs execute, C++ is most likely a good choice. Even more so if you already know C – that’ll be somewhat of a prerequisite for learning C++ anyways. Once you master C++, learning other programming languages will be much easier!

back to top


4. CSS

CSS or Cascading Style Sheets is the language used for making websites look pretty. Whereas HTML defines what the nature of each element on a website is of, such as a heading or a paragraph, CSS takes those elements and tells how they should look.

Since the visual aspect of any website is crucial to get right these days, learning CSS is a must for anyone interested in web development.

What’s great about CSS is that this web development language is relatively easy to pick up and learn the basics! On the other hand, it can take years to master the more advanced tricks with confidence.

Now, one could point out that CSS is just a style sheet language and not a “proper” programming language. But since it’s a cool language and a very important one for web development, it’s got a spot on my list.

— See also: Learning CSS Basics

Who should learn it?

All you eager web developers out there – CSS is a fundamental building block for front-end development skills together with HTML and JavaScript. Because you get to see the output from your code instantly, CSS is one of the most motivating languages for a beginner to learn.

back to top

CSS code


5. HTML

HyperText Markup Language or HTML is used to creating structured content for all websites out there. Rather a markup language than a “proper” programming language, HTML defines the different elements on a web page. It tells which parts are headers, which ones are links, text paragraphs, or images, for instance. In other words, HTML is the mother of all web development languages!

In short, everything you see on a specific website gets its fundamental characteristics from the HTML code written by a web developer.

— See also: Getting Started With HTML

Who should learn it?

Anyone interested in creating websites. Be prepared to make friends with CSS and JavaScript, too, as these three languages form the holy trinity of web development.

back to top

Get free stuff and updates to your inbox!

Subscribe to my blog and get cool free stuff and updates about WordPress and coding to your email inbox!
I take your privacy seriously. No spam, ever.

6. Java

Java is definitely one of the most popular programming languages in the world. It’s used for a variety of different purposes, ranging from Android smartphone apps to complete computer applications.

Currently Java is in fact holding the first place in the TIOBE Index that ranks programming languages based on how often people search for them on the most common search engines.

The fundamentals of Java actually stem from C++, taking them a bit further and making the language easier to use. C++ is already an extremely powerful programming language itself, but the developers of Java felt is was somewhat too complex and it didn’t suit all of their needs.

For instance, one big goal for its developers was to have a language that would allow for their code to run on two devices that were nothing alike. That’s where the slogan of Java comes from: write once, run anywhere.

In other words, Java is very popular across all platforms, operating systems, and devices due to its versatility and flexibility. That also makes it one of the most in demand and highest paying programming languages you can learn.

Who should learn it? 

If you’re not quite sure yet what it is that you want to accomplish with coding, Java could be a good option thanks to its versatility. That being said, though, there are other very versatile languages out there that are more beginner-friendly and require less code to create an entire application. Nevertheless, already its popularity alone makes it a good choice.

back to top

Coffee and laptop


7. JavaScript

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.

These days almost every web page you use daily employs some elements of JavaScript. That being said, it’s one of the most popular web development languages and among the most powerful programming languages out there – therefore being an excellent skill to possess in the job market.

— See also: What Is JavaScript?

Different frameworks and libraries – such as AngularJS and jQuery or React, respectively – 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 new 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.

Who should learn it?

Anyone and everyone interested in web development! JavaScript forms the base of front-end development together with HTML and CSS.

Furthermore, it’s definitely one of the hottest programming languages currently thanks to the fresh, cool solutions allowing for it to be utilised in server-side development, too.

back to top

Get free stuff and updates to your inbox!

Subscribe to my blog and get cool free stuff and updates about WordPress and coding to your email inbox!
I take your privacy seriously. No spam, ever.

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, it gained popularity along the iOS.

It’s a very powerful and flexible language, based on the C language.  However, it’s received some criticism for being somewhat difficult to learn for beginners.

Despite Objective-C’s solid foundation in the realm of Apple, the general development with apps for Apple’s devices going in the direction of Swift. Hence it remains to be seen what happens to Objective-C in the future. These two buddies will be the power couple for iOS development for a long, long time!

Who should learn it?

Anyone who’s interested in developing applications for Apple devices. Objective-C has been the de facto language for iOS development for quite a while now, making it a solid skill to have in that field. If you start with Objective-C, you should pair it with Swift for an even more powerful combo!

back to top

Working on laptop


9. Perl

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.

It was originally developed for text processing and manipulation, but has since found further applications ranging from web development to system administration.

Perl has evolved throughout the years into a powerful tool that can be used on practically every operating system on the planet. It’s sometimes referred to as the “Swiss army knife” of computer languages!

Perl takes its best features from other programming languages such as C, for instance. It could be compared to PHP or Python to a certain extent. 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.

Perl does have its intimidating features like any other 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.

Who should learn it? 

Perl is quite well suited for beginners, since it’s not that difficult to learn. Furthermore, it’s a very powerful and versatile language! Due to its flexibility, it also leaves some room for your creativity when you’re solving problems.

back to top


10. PHP

PHP is a scripting language running on the server side used 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.

Who should learn it?

Since PHP is easy to get started with, it’s a great choice for a beginner programmer. Additionally, it’s an excellent choice if you’re planning to work as a freelancer web developer: WordPress and other content management systems often employ PHP.

back to top

Laptop on sofa


11. Python

Python is definitely one of the most versatile programming language with its diverse applications. Thus, it offers the tools for a plethora of different purposes. Python can be used for data mining and visualisation, web applications, or game development, for example.

There are lots of useful libraries created for Python facilitating its use in the academic and educational fields, such as matplotlib, pandas, and pyGal. That being said, it’s a very powerful language applied for the most diverse projects you can imagine.

However, don’t let Python’s power and potential intimidate you if you’re a beginner and just getting into coding. Thanks to its simple and easily readable syntax, Python is one of the best suited programming languages for beginners! In fact, reading Python is almost like reading English – that’s what makes it so great for anyone just getting started with coding.

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

Moreover, 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.

Who should learn it? 

You should learn Python if you appreciate seeing quick results from learning and wish to leave your options somewhat open regarding what you want to achieve with programming. Speaking from experience, Python is an excellent first programming language to learn! It is a very versatile tool for projects ranging from web development to data mining. Also, Python is easy to learn if you’re new to coding.

For a kick-start into learning Python, have a look at my post about learning Python with Python Crash Course!

back to top

Get free stuff and updates to your inbox!

Subscribe to my blog and get cool free stuff and updates about WordPress and coding to your email inbox!
I take your privacy seriously. No spam, ever.

12. Ruby

Ruby is a very high-level, multi-purpose programming language first released in 1995.  It’s definitely one of the most fun languages to work with and in fact, that was one of the initial goals when the language was developed.

Contrary to some other languages, Ruby is flexible when it comes to solving a specific problem. There will usually be more than one “best” way for finding a good solution for it.

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. This has made Ruby a popular language among smaller companies, startups, and coding newbies.

Who should learn it? 

If you’re interested in quick progress and creating an entire application from scratch before Easter gets here, Ruby and the Rails framework are surely a good way to go! Ruby is very popular among small tech companies, so if you’re headed that way career-wise, consider learning Ruby as your first programming language.

back to top


13. SQL

SQL or Structured Query Language is used for working with data stored in relational database management systems (RDBMS).

It goes without saying that in the modern digital age, managing data is becoming more and more important. There are incredible amounts of data out there stored in diverse databases. Sifting through it can help people and companies to better understand different dynamics and factors around successful strategies for marketing and other areas of business.

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.

Who should learn it?

Anyone interested in data analysis should learn SQL. If you enjoy sifting through large amounts of data for generating intelligence for whatever purpose, SQL is the way to go!

back to top


14. Swift

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 was no surprise that Swift quickly became very popular. It scales nicely and it’s fast. Furthermore, Swift is heavily influenced by Ruby and Python, hence 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.

Who should learn it? 

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 it 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.

back to top

Woman with notebook


Different programming languages explained: summing it all up

So it’s pretty clear that there’s plenty to choose from for anyone wishing to start learning programming!

With all the resources freely available online these days, learning any of these languages is definitely in your reach, too. I hope having these different programming languages explained in this post will help you on your way. You should now have a basic understanding of what each programming language is good for.

The bottom line here is that it doesn’t really matter which programming language you start with. Whether it’s a web development language or something for programming desktop software, all that matters is that you start – simple as that!

In order to understand the fundamentals of the world of coding, you need to know at least a couple of languages anyways. Start with one and see how it goes. It’ll never be too late to pick up a new one! With this list of different programming languages and their uses explained, I hope you will find your first language more easily.

So what are you waiting for? You might as well start learning right now!

Have fun!

Which programming language did you learn as your first one? Was it a good choice looking back now? Please share your thoughts in the comments below! 

Toodles!

Get free stuff and updates to your inbox!

Subscribe to my blog and get cool free stuff and updates about WordPress and coding to your email inbox!
I take your privacy seriously. No spam, ever.

<< Previous Post   Next Post >>