5 Programming Languages Every Programmer Should Learn

I have read somewhere that programmer should learn a new programming language every year ( I think it's code complete, not sure, though), but if you cannot do so, I suggest to at least learn following five programming language to do well in your career. Everybody loves polyglot programmer and an all rounder who is versatile enough to write a quick script and can also write complex Java programs. In fact, it's almost mandatory for a senior developer to learn more than one language. Interviewers are giving more attention to a programmer who has good experience with multiple languages e.g. C++ and Java goes quite well, so is Python and Java. I personally like programmers who have strong experience on either C++ or Java and can write scripts in groovy, Perl or Python.

Many times a small script is quick and good enough for the ad-hoc task and I don't want my programmer spending a full day in Java to write a program to read CSV files or to grab a message from a TCP/UDP port.

Why I chose these five programming languages? My reasons are simple and practical. I have chosen languages based on their usage, paradigm, and popularity.  For example, you cannot ignore Java if you want to do application development and looking for a Job. So is JavaScript, which is almost everywhere in the web.

C is the one language I strongly believe programmer should learn at the very start of their career because it will help them to get closer to the system and understand key programming concept which is often hidden behind JVM or CLR.

Python is my choice of scripting language though you can also substitute with Perl or Groovy. Though when it comes online support, Python is great. There are lots of python modules available which can do your job in a couple of minutes.

Similarly learning an object oriented and one functional programming language like Haskell or Scala will widen your thinking and programming sense. You will find more reasons to learn these top 5 programming languages in this article.

You cannot be a programmer without knowing C or C++.  This is a very strong statement but I am saying this from my experience. Programmers who know C are simply better than programmers who doesn't know C and it cannot be just plain coincident.

It's one of that language which you must know. I learned C during my academics and learned many key programming concepts along the way e.g. structure, array, pointers, memory management etc. C is still the most preferred language for system programming and it has given Java a solid competition at the top of the table from last two years. It is also one of the oldest mainstream languages, survived for more than 4 decades now.

5 must learn programming language

Java is one of the most popular languages from last two decade and rules the world of server-side application development. It also holds sizable market share in mobile games and application development using Android and enterprise web development world.

Java was started with a simple thought of WORA, "write once run anywhere",  but over the period, Java actually ran everywhere.

You should learn Java to build robust, scalable server side application. You can build projects of any complexity in Java, it has tools, technology, and community to help with. Why should you learn Java? You will learn how to focus on application design and code structuring without worrying about system-specific details and memory management. JVM will take care of it.

Java is used in some of the biggest organizations e.g. banks, insurance companies and you can reach masses by writing Android apps. If you are still not convinced, I suggest you check out these 10 reasons to learn Java.

5 good to learn programming language

Python is one of the most taught languages in school and colleges across the world. In the USA, Python has replaced Java from many academic course as a preferred language to start with. What will you gain by learning Python? A lot. Python is one of that language which can be used as scripting language as well as proper object-oriented language for a large project.

Many popular websites including Reddit are built upon Python framework. In recent times, many large organizations are switching to Python based framework as well.

I personally use Python for writing scripts though and it is very useful for doing something quickly e.g. you can write a UDP message listener in 5 minutes in Python as opposed to 20 minutes in Java, forget about compiling, packaging and then using. Just write a python scripts for ad-hoc tasks.

If you are confused between Java and Python to start with, take a look at this infographic, which compares Java with Python.

Best programming language to learn

You can replace Java to C++  and Python to Ruby in this list but honestly, there is no replacement of JavaScript in today's world. In last 5 years, JavaScript has totally dominated the world. It is no more the client side scripting language, with framework and libraries like node.js, Angular.js, and React.js you can use JavaScript on Server side as well for user interface development.

Some part of JavaScript's this overwhelming success goes to jQuery, which truly changed the way you use JavaScript at the client side. As a Java programmer, working on JSP and Servlet based application I have had numerous opportunity to use both jQuery and JavaScript.

Knowledge of this language has helped us to decide which feature should be implemented server side and which can be handled at client side e.g. many validations we used to do on the server side was migrated to the client side.

Good programming language to learn

Scala is the language which is created based upon best practices of last 20 years. It is also a functional programming language so it offer a different paradigm than object oriented programming, which will improve your thinking and code sense.

Though there are many functional programming languages available e.g. Haskell, I have chosen Scala because as a Java developer, I found learning Scala is easy than learning Haskell. Someone can take that as a challenge and learn Haskell as well but for the practical purpose, I think learning Scala is more relevant for Java developers.

For C++ programmers, Haskell makes more sense to me. To be honest, you can choose any functional programming language but chose one which has commercial demand. As a professional developer, I prefer to invest my time on something which can be used in my career.

Top 5 programming language to learn

Btw, no matter how many programming language you learn, you must follow the coding and design principles given in Clean Code by heart to become a professional coder. It's those skill which helps you most in your programming career.

That's all on this list of top 5 programming language every programmer should learn. Some of you might find the list as 5 programming language Java developer should learn, which is also right. IMHO studying languages that offer different paradigms is the best way to improve your programming skill and help you to do your day to day task effectively.

Ideally, a programmer's toolset should include one language which is close to system e.g. C or C++, one object oriented language like Java, Python or C++,  one functional programming language e.g. Scala or Haskell, one powerful scripting language like Perl, Python or Ruby, and JavaScript. Yes, there is no replacement of JavaScript :)

Happy learning ...

Recommended article for curious programmers 

  • 10 Articles Every Programmer Must Read (read here)
  • 6 Books to Learn and Master Programming (read here)
  • 10 Tips to become a better Software developer (read here)
  • 10 Object Oriented design Principle Every Programmer should know (read here)
  • 10 Multithreading and Concurrency Best Practices for Java developers (read here)

Recommended Books for Programmers

  • 10 More Books Every programmer should read ( check here)


Diego Alberto Arias Prado said...

What about Tcl?

"Tcl the misunderstood" (http://goo.gl/JQi8C)

Javin Paul said...

@Diego, Sorry but never heard of it, What is the advantage of learning Tcl?

Anonymous said...

1. Your English is rather poor for a blogger. Nothing personal, it just is. A blogger needs an in depth knowledge of grammar in order to write anything.
2. JavaScript is not a programming language, it is a script language, there's a huge difference.
3. Knowing C will in no way help you know programming, you will get the same result by learning Pascal, ie. none. Understanding basic concepts of OOP will help you learn any programming language. In those terms, knowing C++ may help you a bit, but not very much, you would absolutely get more OOP understanding by learning Java or C# as your starting points.
4. Python is useless compared to Ruby and PHP, much much slower, harder to maintain and heavily not scalable enough.


Rob G said...

Probably wise to keep your post anonymous there, as it shows a distinct lack of understanding...

1. Simply not true, many informative blogs have been authored by people whose first language is not English, but still manage to be informative and useful.

2. Simply wrong. JavaScript is Turing Complete, so definitely qualifies as a programming language. Wikipedia's first statement on JS is: "JavaScript is a high level, dynamic, untyped, and interpreted programming language." It is Turing-complete, so capable of expressing any program that may be expressed.

Now it is certainly not the best programming language, but that doesn't disqualify it alone.

3. Knowledge of C will be enormously beneficial to a programmer, as it is the de facto standard for interoperation between systems. Almost everything exposes an API that can be accessed via C. Most useful system-level programming is done in C or C++. Pascal will be a language you will never use in the real world.

4. Again, simply wrong. Python is in many ways a more elegant language than either of those you cite, and is widely used as the scripting language in products as diverse as text editors and 3D graphics (Blender). PHP is a "fractal of bad programming language design" - even worse than JS.

Anonymous said...

The new stars ( Swift, Golang) are not in the list !!
Especially Golang is really worth to learn. Golang might be the successor of Java in the long term since it is fully opensource, compiles quickly, has superior module system, better oops concepts (no inheritance but composition ).

Anonymous said...

@Javin - IMO there are two (positive) reasons a language could be notable; your list seems to be focused of the second type: useful ones. Would you agree?
1) languages that teach a programmer insights, methods or novel ways to look at programming -- whether or not useful in practical uses, and
2) languages that are powerful, flexible and practical enough to be useful for real applications; ones to know to get things accomplished, or to get a job.

Of course, some fit into both categories.

@anonymous [1-Sep-15] - Rob G is completely right on every count.

3. Re-read Javin's comment that starts with "C is the one language I..." this is very, very true. For C, even beyond inter-op, I would say (and knowledgeable hiring managers probably agree) that if you can't grok C then your versatility, depth and usefulness as a programmer is limited. Whether you apply it or not, the insights needed to be a decent/good C programmer will transfer and make you better overall.

4. Anyone who doesn't know Python is considerably less useful to me, although I agree it's not that performant. But for PHP and Ruby -- when I'm looking at a FOSS project and see that it's written in Ruby or PHP I would probably dismiss it and keep looking. My experience leads me to believe that (1) PHP is dying and (2) Ruby is the new Visual Basic - used by those with limited experience and insufficient attention to quality.

@Javin, @Diego - TCL was very useful, but I wouldn't put it on the top 10; it's kind of tedious to use. We used to use it as a testing framework for a complex C product; since TCL pretty easy to get bindings for C code and test it that way. I wish Python could link to C code more easily.

Javin Paul said...

@Anonymous, completely agree, when I chose the language their practical usefulness, importance in career and job is also a big consideration. Since its never a case that you would be working on only one language, being polyglot helps a lot in career and these 5 languages covers most of software development.

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