I think you’ll agree with me on this: it’s REALLY hard to choose your first programming language.
But, it turns out, you can reduce the time you spend on finding the perfect language to learn with a few simple steps. You don’t have to waster you valuable time on pondering over your first programming language. I mean, you have better things to do, right?
In today’s post, I’m going to walk you through 4 simple steps that will help you make the right choice. You can take advantage of these tips right away and find your first programming language more easily.
Here are a few related articles you may want to read, too:
- Best Websites to Learn Programming and Web Development in 2019
- Why Learn Coding? 12 Benefits from Learning Programming
- 8 Things to Know Before Learning Programming
Let’s get started!
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.
Here’s the deal: 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 games?
- How about data analysis and machine learning?
Depending on which are you wish to focus on, you need to learn the appropriate programming languages for it.
4 Steps to choose your first programming language
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 a bigger picture, right?
So, even though I was in love with learning coding, it was hard to stay motivated without a clear goal and target. I was having so much fun with it, but my 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. 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:
First off, 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’ll 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
2: Find the field you want to focus on
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…
3: 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”
- Front-end development – What a website looks and feels like
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:
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 in back-end development, the most popular choices are:
- 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.
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?
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.
Next up: 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.
For even more options, check out this post with 14 different programming languages and their uses explained for more details on each language.
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: Find the right 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!
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!
I’ll see you in the next post! Happy coding!