A Beginner’s Guide to Software Coding Languages
So you’ve decided to become a software engineer. Welcome to the club!
You’re probably wondering where exactly to begin. There are a LOT of different programming languages out there. One of the most common questions we hear from prospective students is, “Which software programming language should I learn first?”
What’s interesting is that just like spoken languages, all coding languages are derived from only a few sources. In the same way that English and German are derived from Germanic roots and French, Spanish, and Italian are derived from Latin, all programming languages fall under one of 3 overarching paradigms.
There are 3 classifications of programming languages most commonly used today.
Read on for an overview of each programming paradigm to help you decide which coding language to learn first.
Understanding the Three Programming Paradigms
First, it’s important to understand the purpose of coding languages. Coding languages aren’t for computers—they’re for developers. If we wanted to speak with a computer fluently, we’d just use 1s and 0s.
But that type of language is insufficient for developers. Sure, we use programming languages to provide the computer with instructions, but the instructions have to make sense to other developers and the future version of you when you reacquaint yourself with the code 6 months from now!
Coding languages aren’t for computers—they’re for developers. If we wanted to speak with a computer fluently, we’d just use 1s and 0s.
Here are the three paradigms that encompass all software development languages:
Object-oriented languages are the most pervasive in modern coding—and with good reason. Object-oriented systems allow developers to easily inventory, compartmentalize, and organize programs. They’re remarkably similar to our concept of spoken language.
These programming languages simplify complex computer functionality by allowing users to model real-world situations inside programs using metaphors. The whole system operates by building a dictionary of nouns, adjectives, and verbs to describe the state and behavior of an application. The nouns and adjectives (objects and properties) define the object’s state, while the verbs (methods and functions) define its behavior.
Popular object-oriented languages include:
Functional programming languages don’t operate under the concept of metaphor, state, and behavior. Instead, they prioritize functions without any assumption of prerequisites or preconditions.
Each function receives an input value and returns an output value without altering the program. Functions are single operations, and they can complete complex operations if they are composed in sequence.
Popular functional languages include:
Coding languages that employ the procedural paradigm use a linear approach to programming, in which procedures and subroutines perform computations.
Unlike object-oriented and functional paradigms that constantly produce new languages, procedural paradigms are more common in legacy systems and less frequently used.
Even so, there’s still high demand for procedural programmers, especially in fields like banking, finance, and government solutions where such legacy systems must be maintained.
Popular procedural languages include:
While object-oriented, functional, and procedural are the main programming paradigms, there are some popular (and equally useful) languages that don’t neatly fall under those categories, including C++, PHP, and Go.
Which Language Should I Learn First?
Now that you know the three programming paradigms, you may still be wondering where to start. Here’s what the software engineering experts at Launch Academy recommend:
We’ve found that object-oriented languages are easiest to start with since they operate more intuitively based on English grammar. Plus, there’s a wealth of information online and a large community to support aspiring object-oriented programmers.
Once you’ve mastered the object-oriented paradigm, you’ll be better prepared for functional programming, and maybe even procedural depending on the industry you see yourself working in.
Think about your future
Certain professional roles require knowledge of specific languages. If you already have a career path in mind, determine what language you’ll need to know for the job you eventually want to have. Learning that language will position you as a desirable candidate and help you get your foot in the door to the careers you’re most interested in.
Consider your interests
Consider what you enjoy most about software development. You may not know for certain until you’ve made it partway through a coding bootcamp or training program. But begin thinking about where your interests lie:
- If you want to be involved in both front-end and back-end work, consider becoming a full-stack engineer. Node.js for back-end coupled with ReactJS for front-end is a great combination that will make you appear highly adaptable and versatile.
Launch Academy offers an immersive bootcamp experience for learning to code. We offer courses that teach the combinations of either NodeJS and ReactJS or Ruby on Rails and ReactJS.
Download our coding bootcamp syllabus to learn more about the programming languages you can learn with Launch Academy!