There are numerous programming languages and each one seems to be used for something cool. So, how can you select the best programming language to learn? Well, there is no-one size-fits-all language and that’s what makes the programming world so much fun! However, an easy place to start can be by thinking about your end goal, such as the field that you are trying to make a career in, your existing programming knowledge, popularity of a language, and any specific companies that you want to work for. Keeping these factors in mind, we have created a list of top programming languages to learn in 2021.
According to a TIOBE survey, Python has gained the most popularity since four consecutive years in comparison to other languages. Another survey by StackOverflow revealed that Python was the top programming language that most developers wanted to learn.
Python is a beginner’s favourite because of its easy syntax that resembles the English language. This makes it easy for newbies to read and code in Python. It also uses fewer lines of code compared to other languages such as Java. Despite the simplicity, Python can be used to perform the most complex tasks efficiently. It is most commonly used in machine learning and data science. Other fields include web development, computer vision, IoT, cybersecurity, and even game development!
Besides syntax, Python has numerous libraries and frameworks, which is basically reusable code that saves a lot of time during the development stage.
Google was one of the earliest users of Python and continues to do so. Guido van Rossum, who is the founder of Python also worked at Google between 2005 and 2012. Other companies that use Python include Spotify, Instagram, and Netflix.
C was developed in 1972 but continues to charm developers even today. Some programmers even call it the lingua franca of the programming world because of its widespread use.
C was originally developed to build UNIX, the operating system. Over the years, it has been used to create other operating systems such as Microsoft Windows and Apple iOS, desktop applications such as Photoshop, databases like MySQL and Oracle, and to program appliances like fridges, Smart TV, etc. This is majorly because C is close to machine code, which means it has the fastest execution time if the code is optimised. It is also portable across various processors.
Learning C can be a bit challenging for beginners, especially in comparison to Python. However, it can be worth the investment because other languages such as C++, Java, and Go are based on it.
C++, also referred to as ‘C with Classes’, is an extension of C. It is as omnipresent in the programming world as C. Chances are that you are reading this post because of C++ as many popular browsers such as Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have been written in it. C++ is also the language of choice for IoT applications and gaming, which will ensure that it continues to grow in the coming years.
Like C, beginners can find it difficult to learn C++ because of its complex syntax and low-language features such as manual memory allocation, pointers, etc. An upside of all this tussle can be that you will build a very strong programming foundation that will teach you how to write optimised code.
This is one of the oldest languages in this list, which continues to be relevant in the programming world.
Java is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades and is used for creating desktop applications, web applications like Gmail, Android apps, web servers, games, and scientific applications such as NASA Wind. It works on the principle of ‘Write once, run anywhere’ and nearly 3 billion devices run on Java.
Java is an evergreen programming language, which is here to stay. Due to its simple syntax and a high demand for Java developers, it is also one of the top programming languages for beginners.
Go, also known as golang, is an open-source language that was developed at Google in 2007. It is one of the fastest growing languages and has been ranked 3rd in the most wanted languages in the Stack Overflow survey. Although it includes many features of the C language, Go is easier to learn.
Go is a compiled language which makes the runtime faster than other languages such as Java and Python. It also uses less memory and is easily scalable. This makes it an efficient language for many use cases such as back-end development. For example, if a company is still in its growing phase where there is a high influx of new users, Go can help with scaling the back-end services. However, as a new language, it still has some shortcomings like the amount of time it takes to write the code and the lack of libraries.
Besides Google, companies using Golang include Dropbox, Uber, Twitch, and Salesforce.
Swift is a language that was developed by Apple and is primarily used for creating macOS, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS applications. Most of the apps in the Apple store are developed using Swift because of its simple syntax that is fast as opposed to Objective-C. Although it is currently at a nascent stage, Apple will continue developing the language. So, iOS developers need to have it as part of their skillset.
Swift was the 10th most popular programming language in 2020. Twitter, Coursera, and LinkedIn are some of the companies that are using it.
R is an open-source, statistical language that is basically used for data analysis. It is gaining currency in the field of data science wherein it helps with data wrangling and visualisation. Simply put, R helps in cleaning the data and seeing the trends/research in the form of cool graphics such as a heatmap, piecharct, etc.
R has become increasingly popular in the past year and has gone from rank 18 to 9 in TIOBE’s index. While it is not the easiest programming language for a beginner, the investment can pay off as it is used in various fields such as banking, finance, medicine, marketing, and academia.
To learn more about R, read What is R: A short guide for beginners.
Kotlin burst onto the programming scene with Google’s announcement of using Kotlin as the official Android development language in 2019.
Kotlin is a general-purpose programming language, which was developed by JetBrains to overcome the shortcomings that Java presented during Android app development. Android app developers can now do more with less code and take care of the notorious NullPointerException, which reduces the frequency of app crashes. It can also interoperate with Java which means that you can use both Java and Kotlin in your projects.
Besides Google, Android is used by Coursera, Pinterest, Uber, and Kickstarter in their apps. So, if you want to venture into Android app development, Kotlin should be your go-to language.
C sharp is another language that was developed by Microsoft in 2000. It uses the features of C, C++, and Java and helps in creating web applications and games.
Today, C# is one of the most popular languages among full-stack developers. It is highly scalable, easy to debug, and offers a good library. Besides technical advantages, it is also an easy language to learn and there is a lot of documentation available.
PHP is a server-side scripting language that is used in web development. Despite being developed in 1994, it remains relevant in today’s market and is used by 79.1% of websites including Facebook, WordPress, and Yahoo! So, if you want to become a developer for the web, PHP is certainly a language that you should learn, which should be easy-peasy because PHP doesn’t have a steep learning curve.
Ruby is a general-purpose language which is used for a variety of projects such as creating web applications, GUI applications, database servers, prototyping, etc. It has also been used to create Ruby on Rails, a widely used web-application framework.
With its focus on “simplicity and productivity”, it has a syntax which is readable and easy to write. The ease of coding combined with the friendly online community makes it one of the easiest programming languages to learn.
Some companies that use Ruby include Airbnb, Fiverr, and GitHub.
These were the best programming languages in a nutshell. If you still don’t have an answer to – ‘which language should I learn?, then fret not! You could start with any language as the basic concepts across languages are the same. During your career as a developer, you will be learning different programming languages, so the main thing to do is to get started with coding if you haven’t already!
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