I think you’ll agree with me on this: it’s REALLY hard to choose your first programming language.
To say it can feel overwhelming to know where to start is an understatement.
So how can you know what is the best language for you to learn first?
Regardless of how well you know the different programming languages and their uses, you can find the perfect language to learn with a few simple steps.
You don’t have to waste you valuable time on pondering over your first programming language when you are new to tech. Instead, you can use an easy step-by-step method for finding the perfect language and start learning it today.
In today’s post, I’m going to walk you through a handful of quick steps that will help you make the right choice.
Once you finish reading this guide, you will know exactly which programming language you should start learning. You won’t need to second-guess your choice, so you can dedicate your full attention to making real progress instead of jumping back and forth between different languages.
Let’s get started!
Here are a few related articles you may want to read, too:
- 25 Best Websites to Learn Programming (With No Experience)
- Why Should You Learn To Code? 12 Benefits from Learning Programming
- 8 Things You Must Know Before Learning Programming
Please note: This post contains affiliate links to products I use and recommend. I may receive a small commission if you purchase through one of my links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!
Getting started: Which programming language to learn first?
In my previous post I discussed how you can get started with programming with just four easy steps. The next big step for you is to think of how to choose your first programming language.
The hard part is:
You can choose between dozens of programming languages. Needless to say, the choice can often feel overwhelming and even scary.
But you can use a few simple tips to narrow down your options.
Because the truth is:
Each programming language has its own characteristics, features, and applications.
Therefore, your choice depends on what you want to build and create with coding in the future.
- Would you like to create web applications?
- Or perhaps develop iPhone or Android apps?
- Maybe you are interested in building video games?
- How about data analysis and machine learning?
Depending on which are you want to focus on, you need to learn the appropriate programming language for it.
In other words, if you want to become a web app developer, you shouldn’t learn a language that allows you to develop mobile apps. That would only be a waste of your precious time.
So instead of choosing your first language based on what others are telling you, my approach helps you start with the end in mind.
You will start by figuring out what you want to create, and then learn the right tools to achieve that goal.
Recommended: What Programming Language Should I Learn? Beginner’s Guide
4 steps to choose your first programming language
By now, you probably have a few ideas about what you want to build with coding in the future. Good job!
To get you started with learning the right tools, here are four easy steps to help you choose your first programming language to learn:
- Define a clear goal
- Find the field you want to focus on
- Decide between back-end and front-end development
- Know how you want to make money with coding
Let’s jump right in!
Step #1: Define a clear goal
When I first started learning web development, I honestly didn’t know what I was doing. Although I was super motivated and driven, I didn’t know where I was going with it.
You know when you learn something new but you’re not sure what you’ll need it for in the future? Somehow it doesn’t fit into the bigger picture, right?
So, even though I was in love with learning to code, it was hard to stay motivated without a clear goal and target. I was having so much fun with it, but my my learning plan was just all over the place.
Then, one day, I decided to sit down and figure out a solid plan for my learning. I set myself a goal that I could achieve by learning specific tools step by step.
And you know what? That instantly amped up my learning curve.
I was able to track my progress and see how far I’d come already.
Plus, my motivation jumped to a whole new level as I saw how much work I still had cut out for me.
What you should do next:
Before you start learning any programming language, figure out what you wish to achieve by learning how to program.
Start by asking yourself a few questions:
- What do you find interesting with coding and web development?
- What would you like to build in the future?
- Where would you like to work?
- What kind of problems would you like to solve with programming?
What it all boils down to is your “why”.
Why do you want to learn coding and web development in the first place?
When you know what your goal is, you’ll know exactly what to do to achieve it.
You will save hundreds of hours of work by maintaining your focus and increasing your motivation. No headaches, no frustration. Just a solid plan that tells you what you need to do next.
Here’s a related post you may find helpful: How to Start Learning Coding? 6 Tips for Beginners
Step #2: Choose the field you want to work in
When you start learning coding, you can save time by learning just the tools you will actually need.
So, now that you know your “why”, you can find a specific area to focus on with coding and web development. You see, each area uses its own programming languages and technologies.
Thus, when you find a field you like, you can narrow down your options for your first programming language to just a few choices.
The most common areas you can focus on are:
- Making websites
- Creating video games
- Building mobile apps
- Making OS X or Windows applications
- Analysing and visualising data
- Focusing on Machine Learning and AI
- Creating 3D graphics
All of them require you to learn specific programming languages – one or more.
Which areas do you find interesting?
When you’ve found a couple of areas you like, it’s time to move on to our next point…
Step #3: Pick your focus: back-end or front-end development?
If you want to become a web developer, you have two broad fields to choose from:
- Back-end development = How a website works “under the hood”, i.e. the “logic”
- Front-end development = What a website looks and feels like, i.e. the “looks”
You guessed it: both areas use different programming languages.
Since web development is a great way to make money from coding, let’s take a closer look at both.
Front-end development languages
Front-end developers work on the client (or end-user) side of programming. They use programming languages to create the design, look, and feel for a web project.
As a front-end developer, you would take care of typography, colors, and layouts. Your main task would be to make sure users don’t get lost or confused.
If you want to become a front-end developer, you’ll need to learn three different languages:
- HTML or HyperText Markup Language – Creates the actual content and structure, like text, images, lists, or tables.
- CSS or Cascading Style Sheets – Styles the HTML content and creates a beautifully designed interface.
Three languages, yikes!
Don’t worry, these three front-end languages are pretty easy to learn.
How to learn front-end languages:
Here’s where you can find the best beginner-level resources to get started:
If you want to make money from coding as quickly as possible, I suggest you learn these three front-end languages.
Just remember to practice a LOT. Build your own projects and start a portfolio website to showcase your skills to potential employers. Create your portfolio website with WordPress to get it on its feet quickly.
If you’ve never launched a website before, don’t worry.
The easiest way to start a WordPress portfolio website is to use Bluehost. You’ll only need 10 minutes to set up your domain and hosting account. Head over to my full step-by-step tutorial for starting a WordPress website on Bluehost on my other blog. I’ll see you there!
And I’ve even negotiated a special deal for my readers: you get access to an exclusive hosting package starting at just $2.95 per month. That’s less than a coffee at Starbucks.
The best part is: When you use WordPress for your portfolio website, you’ll learn how WordPress works at the same time.
Why should I mention this?
Because WordPress is one of the most in-demand skills in web development right now. Trust me, I’ve built my entire web design business based on WordPress. And I’ve never been short of work.
Back-end development languages
Whereas front-end developers work on what’s visible to website users, back-end developers work on the server-side of each project.
They make sure the website works the way it’s supposed to. They link the front-end to the more technical functionalities and features running under the hood.
As for the programming languages used on the back-end, here are a few of the most popular and best languages for web development:
- PHP – Recommended PHP Courses for Beginners
- Python – Recommended Python Courses
- Ruby – Best Ruby Courses on Udemy
- Java – Top Java Courses on Udemy
In short: Front-end is what you see; back-end is how it works.
Just like in a restaurant: the dining area is the front-end, while the kitchen is the back-end.
Of course, you could learn both back-end and front-end languages. That would make you a full-stack developer. For more details, check out my post about back-end development vs front-end development.
Step #4: Know how you want to make money from coding
If you’re just getting started with coding and web development, this question may feel overwhelming. I was you not too long ago, so I know how confusing it is.
I mean, if you haven’t even started learning your first programming language yet, how could you know how you’ll make money from coding in the future?
Recommended: Web Developer Salary: How Much Do Web Developers Make?
But don’t worry, we won’t go into too much detail here. What I want you to do is just go through a few options in your mind. They’ll help you guide your thoughts towards your coding goals when you start learning the basics.
You can choose between a few options to make money from coding in the future:
- Become a full-time developer
- Start your own company as an entrepreneur
- Become a web developer freelancer
- Build your own mobile apps to sell
Start with some research online and see what jobs are available in your area. Also, find out more about the biggest employers and read a few job descriptions. What programming languages and technologies do they mention?
If you’re not sure about what to do, I would recommend starting with freelancing. You can find freelance jobs online and work for clients worldwide. In short: freelancing is the best way to make money from coding as quickly as possible.
Here’s a helpful article you may want to read, too: How to Make Money Coding? 4 Ways to Make Money as a Developer.
What’s next: Choose your first programming language
Congrats for making it this far!
By now, you should know your goals and how you want to make money with coding. Your options for your first programming language are narrow enough to make a choice.
You could start with any programming language we discussed above. If you want to learn web development, you can’t go wrong with front-end languages, trust me.
Here are a few more tips to help you choose the right first language:
- Find more information, answers, and inspiration online
- Read more about coding and web development in my Free Coding Guide for Beginners
- Browse though these free online coding courses for more inspiration
- Visit your local bookstore and find a beginner-level coding book (that’s how I started learning Python)
In case you are interested in what new career opportunities coding could bring along, there are plenty of great resources online to help you out. For instance, check out this helpful post about what types of job roles and career prospects each language can bring with it.
Here are a couple of related posts you may find helpful, too:
- How to Become a Web Developer? FAQ on Careers, Salaries, and Skills
- Learning to Code? This is What I Learned in 6 Months
Bonus tips: How to find your first programming language faster
I know this article is a lot to take in. But don’t worry. You’ll find your first programming language soon enough.
When I was trying to find the right language to learn first, I made a few critical mistakes. So, to help you avoid wasting time and money in the process, here are a few final tips for you:
- Try to choose your first programming language fast:
Don’t ponder over two similar languages for too long. You’ll only feel more confused and hesitant. Two languages that solve similar problems in similar projects often have a similar logic, too. If you decide to switch to another language later, learning it will be easy.
- Start with the basics and make sure you understand what you learn:
Don’t move on to a new topic before you fully understand the previous one. Regardless of what your first programming language is, the topics build on top of each other.
- There’s no such thing as a wrong first programming language!
Whatever language you choose to learn first, it will teach you invaluable lessons about programming and web development. If you switch to another language later on, you’ll already know the basics.
How does that sound? Just drop me a line in the comments below and share your thoughts!
For even more helpful tips, check out my article with the top learning strategies to learn coding faster.
Related: How Computer Science Basics Can Help You Learn Programming Faster
Final thoughts: How to choose your first programming language
Finding your first programming language doesn’t have to be difficult.
Before you start your first coding course or purchase a book, take a few moments to do some research. Let’s recap the 4 steps we learned in this article:
- Find out your “why” and set a clear goal for yourself.
- Choose a field you want to specialize in.
- Choose either front-end or back-end development
- Know how you want to make money with coding
These simple steps will help you narrow down your choices. It all boils down to what you want to achieve with coding in the long run.
When you’re ready to start, here are a few related posts you will find helpful:
- Coding 101 for Beginners: What is Coding?
- Introduction to Programming Languages
- 10 Common Misconceptions About Coding You Should Ignore
If you enjoyed this post on choosing your first programming language, drop me a line in the comments below!
P.S. I’d appreciate if you shared this post with others so that they can discover it, too! Thanks for your support!
this post confirmed what I have begun to suspect regarding the shortest path to my first paid gig. Which is to switch my focus from Python to HTML, CSS and Java. Major time saver!
Not that I won’t pick Python back up first thing after I get comfortable with front end development, but this clears up my plan of attack.
Is it possible to get good at front end w/out thoroughly learning basic computer science, or should I add that to my roster?
Thank you for the informative guidance. Since I started trying to learn code I’ve found myself reading your blog at least twice a day.
I am so happy to hear you’ve found helpful tips and guides on the blog! When it comes to choosing your first programming language to learn, you are absolutely on the right track. If you are looking to land your first paid freelance gigs quickly, HTML and CSS are the best languages to learn, yes.
As for computer science, it’s always a good idea to learn and understand the basics. It simply helps you grasp what programming is all about, how hardware and the Internet work, and how to write better code and programs. Also, if computer science feels interesting, that curiosity is a good sign!
Hey Mikke! I have to say that your blog is so much fun to read to the point that it gets addictive. It’s so addictive that even the time to get out of one post and look for the next one feels like eternity.
Hint: could you please add two buttons at the end of each post – one directing the reader to the next post and one to the previous?
Other than that, I’ll keep on reading hungrily and hope to start my own rpogramming adventure soon! *Thank you*
Thanks so much for your message! Happy to hear you’re liking the posts, feel free to get addicted 😉
I’ve added next/prev post links to the bottom of each post, thanks for pointing that out!
Let me know when you get started with coding yourself and how it all goes 🙂