Best Starter Programming Language? 8 Top Developer Picks

Programmers weigh in on why each of these popular first coding languages is the best one for beginners.

Picture of programming language books piled on the floor

Obviously, there’s no single right answer to the question “Which programming language is the best one to learn first?”, though some have tried to come up with one. Each language has its pluses and minuses and many factors come into play, such as what the student’s ultimate goal is (building mobile apps, web sites, enterprise systems, etc.). But that doesn’t stop programmers from arguing endlessly over the topic. ITworld has compiled (see what we did there?) the arguments in favor of 8 popular choices for a first programming language, based on developer comments on and in many other forums, such as Quora, Stack Overflow and Lifehacker.

Picture of a quote that says \'I think pascal is the ideal language for initially learning programming. One of the main reasons is that Pascal was designed to teach students structured programming….\'


Though not as widely used as languages like C, Java and Python these days, Pascal remains the choice of some as the best starter programming language. It was initially created as a teaching language for encouraging good programming practices, so is well suited for beginners. Also, being a procedural language, it’s cited sometimes by those who think object oriented concepts can wait until later.

“Pascal is a great language that has the power of C in a more readable form.” cameron007

“You could do C-ish things in Pascal - but the nature of Pascal forced you to organize your thoughts in ways that C didn't.” Phil_L

Picture of a quote that says \'I see JavaScript as the modern equivalent of BASIC. ...because of its simplicity, it is a great language for learning fundamental programming concepts.\'


Many programmers recommend starting with JavaScript because they feel it has low barrier to entry, is pretty simple for a beginner to learn, has a forgiving syntax and provides a good grounding in basic programming concepts. Its ubiquitousness (and power, thanks to things like Node.js) these days is also considered a plus.

“It's my number one recommended language to learn programming because it's simple, object-oriented, fault-tolerant and not crippled by ugly static type systems.” chaiguy

“Javascript is a legit full-stack language, and all you need to get started is a text editor and a web browser.” Philip Damra

“You can literally create all relevant software with javascript.... It is absolutely the one programming language to learn.” i_drift

Picture of a quote that says \'From witnessing many people learning how to program I have always found those who start with Python pick up programming skills the fastest.\'


Python is a popular choice for a first programming language. Many say it teaches good programming fundamentals, has a simple and flexible syntax and is easy enough to use that it will keep beginners engaged and interested.

“...its relatively simple syntax allows the novice to focus on programming concepts rather than fretting over semicolons and braces before her Hello World program will even run.” Frank Harvey

“... you do not need a compiler and it's very VERY easy to run your programs and test.” timgray

“Python teaches essential indentation habits to newbies....“ Thomas Eding

“It has the benefit of being a typical OOP language without the complexity of other higher level Languages. “ Eric Fredericksen

Picture of a quote that says \'... once you understand the basics of Java, you can pretty much transition easily to other languages, since the commons ones of the day are pretty similar in their construction.\'


Among the reasons programmers recommend Java as a first programming language is because it’s entirely object oriented, its strictness teaches beginners how to write clean, maintainable code and its portability. It’s also cited for its good error messaging, easy debugging, its rich selection of libraries and because it remains one of the most widely used languages.

“It is purely object oriented and hence right from the start, you will have a very good intuition of object oriented paradigm.” Ujjwal Aryan

“Its portable, works on everything. Tons of documentation, fairly high level.” Akron

“One point in Java's favor … is that its rich ecosystem readily allows exploration of more advanced topics like threading, GUI, webdev, etc.” cstaley

Picture of a quote that says \'I think C# is a good way to go if you don\'t know what you want to do with your new found programming skills. With C# and .NET you can program for just about anything with a single language.\'


Microsoft’s C# language, considered similar to Java, likewise gets a lot of programmers’ votes as the best first language to learn and for similar reasons, such as that it’s object oriented, has strong typing and will make learning other languages later easier. Others like C#’s integration with .NET.

“I believe C# will be a good choice as it allows one to build some simple applications with nice looking GUI relatively easily.” Naveen

“C# applications can run just about everywhere, from microwaves to enterprise servers and just about everything in between including Lego NXT.” DeveloperDan

“The fact that c# is a managed language and there are pointers taken care of for you really takes away from the difficulty curve.” Ifailedcalculus

Picture of a quote that says \'... if you build on a foundation of C++, you will always be on a secure footing. You might never have to choose another language at all, actually. But if you want / have to, you will find it ridiculously easy.\'


C++ is a popular choice as a first language because it’s low-level enough to provide a good foundation in programming and has been implemented on many platforms, including mobile.

“... you'll learn a lot in the process, about pointers, about stack and heap, about performance, about the compile process, about systems programming.  In short, programmers who learn C and C++ first often seem to come out more flexible and able to learn new things.” Joshua Levy

“I'd recommend C++ if you are planning to do anything on platforms other than the web. You can cover most of the platforms with it.” Tejas Deshpande

“... if you learn C++ well, learning any other language will be a snap.” Dwayne Towell

Picture of a quote that says \'ts basis of a lot of other languages. The computer equivalent of Latin. Once, you learn C the other languages are easier to pick up.\'


C is often cited as a great programming language to learn first because it provides a solid foundation in object-oriented programming and many important programming concepts, like pointers and memory management. It’s also recommended because many other languages borrow from it, making learning them easier and because it will weed out those not meant to program.

“... learning C helps you understand much more how Operating Systems work….” Ryan Draga

“... it teaches you how computers work, and basic things like pointers, data structures, and memory management. “ Ritsu Tainaka

“If people get scared of programming with C, then they are not meant to be programmers.” luis.espinal

Picture of a quote that says \'Assembly is a great first language to learn. It teaches you the basics of programming while also getting a glimpse into how computers actually work.\'


Some feel that it's best to start with a low level assembly language because it will not only teach beginners programming but also about the basics of the computer itself. After a learning a low level language, learning higher level languages should be easier.

“You do 360 assembler for a while, and chase through printed core dumps a few times, you really understand stuff like linked lists.” Valdis Kletnieks

“Not only will it help you appreciate the higher-level languages, you will also gain some knowledge of your computer's hardware.” jc364

“One thing is for sure, if the people, learning Assembly first, make it, they will be amazing programmers.” MYou

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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