Which Programming Language Should I Learn First?

By McDonald. T |  July 29th 2018
If you are thinking of learning how to code, the number of different types of programming languages can be a little daunting.  Putting it another way, there are languages such as PHP, HTML, CSS, Java, Python, C++ and many more, so where do you start?  Almost every day I hear someone asks the question, 'Which is the best coding language to learn first?'  This is not a straightforward question to answer because it depends on what you wish to achieve.  In other words, different purposes call for different languages.  Subsequently, it is not enough just to learn how to code; a programmer needs to know what language to use and for what purpose.  To learn about programming languages start with a visual language to understand the basics of algorithms then look at HTML and CSS to get started with web technologies.

Start with a visual language to learn the basics of algorithms.  By a visual language, I mean a language where the programmer uses visual blocks of code instead of typing the code in.  One such programming language is Scratch developed by MIT Media Lab.  For lessons with Scratch click here.  The visual blocks give the user a visual representation of how statements can nest within another statement.   Additionally, Scratch has a great step through feature that allows the user to see which line of code is running, which is very useful when learning about code for the first time.  Lists, variables and algorithms are all important ideas to learn in programming and Scratch will make visualising the process easier than starting with Java or Python.  At this point, it is important to remember that this type of programming is not necessarily how to code for the web although as you advance you will see its importance.  You may have heard of the term 'blocks of code' and as you progress in your learning you will learn about methods, method headers and much more, but for now it is important to learn the fundamentals such as iteration, sequence and selection.  Scratch gives the user a great idea of the basics of programming by using visual representation of the code and makes visualising algorithms and code so much easier.  Using a visual language will really help you understand the fundamentals of coding, so be sure to try it!

To get started with web technologies learn HTML, CSS and subscribe to this blog.  Although HTML is not a programming language, it is needed to write a webpage.  HTML stands for Hyper Text Mark-up Language.  HTML is used to create a basic webpage, a sophisticated frame, if you will, and uses tags to indicate what is to be displayed and how.  For example, the tag for a heading is <h1> and will display the text as first level header while <h2> will display a second level header.  After creating a webpage, it will need dressing up.   Although HTML has a lot of styling ability, it is best to use CSS to style the webpage.  It is important to note that PHP usually wraps the HTML, but you will learn about that as you progress.  For now, stick to HTML and style the page with CSS.  Incidentally, CSS stands for Cascade Styling Sheet.  If you want to get started quickly with making a webpage without installing any software, Trinket is a fantastic web app that will let you code and see what is happening at the same time.  If you want to install an editor and have some lessons, read Build A Test Website In 3 Easy Steps.  As you can see, coding the web is not as simple as just using one coding language, but rather a group of languages that form a part of what we call web technologies.  HTML and CSS are fairly easy to learn and are the sensible starting place if you want to learn about web app design.

In conclusion, Scratch is great to learn about the basics of programming and algorithms while HTML and CSS are great languages to learn if you want to code the web.  Starting with these languages will give you the foundation you need to become a programmer.  If you are keen to get coding, you will begin to look for lessons in Scratch, HTML and CSS.  Happy coding!

I hope that you enjoyed this blog.  Please leave a comment below and do not be afraid to ask questions and remember no question is silly.  Subscribe to my blog for more posts on computer science and programming.


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