The easiest programming languages are:
Coding can be challenging, and many benefit from starting out with one of the easier languages. This guide is all about the easiest programming languages to learn. While it might not be best to attempt to master these languages on your own, you can build a solid foundation in each before attending a coding bootcamp.
When you’re first starting out learning to program and choosing a programming language to start working in as a code newbie, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. There are so many different programming languages and each has its own purpose, from creating simple web pages to complex computer programs. Even experts have to spend time carefully evaluating which to use for a particular task, so don’t feel like you’re alone!
With that said, if you’re interested in learning more about the 17 easiest coding languages, you’re in the right place!
What are the Easiest Programming Languages to Learn?
Let’s take a look at the easiest coding languages to learn in 2020:
Ok, so HTML isn’t actually a programming language, but learning how to create an HTML page is often a person’s first step on their path to learning how to program.
You might recognize “HTML” as sometimes appearing as a part of a link to a website or in your browser’s address bar. It stands for Hypertext Markup Language. HTML was originally designed to help people format their text documents so they can be presented to readers in a cleaner way.
With HTML you build documents with building blocks named elements; for example, the element that contains the main content of an HTML page is named the “body” element, while inside the body element you often will see multiple “paragraph” elements represented by a “<p>” that indicate to the browser where each paragraph resides.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are most commonly used to define how a webpage should look when viewed by a browser; for example, you can set the text color or background color of certain elements with CSS.
However, you can also define animations and when they should be shown to the user, decide when to hide or show certain content, and precisely control the positioning of the elements of the page. Used properly, CSS can really improve the look, readability, and functionality of a website.
This functionality includes actions like showing more details when a user clicks on a certain button or enhancing a text field to show the user if her password satisfies certain security requirements.
Python is an easy, general-purpose coding language designed with readability in mind. As one of the easiest programming languages, it’s often used as an introductory language for college students beginning their Computer Science study.
Typical uses of Python include implementing back end functionality for websites through libraries like Django, analyzing data, and as a scripting language as a part of a larger program. Still, its popularity and longevity mean Python has been used for just about everything.
Ruby is often compared with Python, as the two languages have common use cases, with Ruby similarly being a capable scripting language and able to be used for analyzing data. However, there’s increasingly a focus of Ruby being used more for web development.
Still, you can reasonably choose Ruby as your first programming language, as it has a friendly community with tons of great, free resources for the beginning programmer, including many excellent books on Ruby programming.
Learn to Program is an online book that uses Ruby to teach you the basics of writing a program. For a more whimsical, illustrated experience of learning the same concepts, you can instead read Why’s (Poignant) Guide to Ruby.
Java is many developers’ first exposure to the principles of Object-Oriented design. As one of the easiest coding languages to learn, it’s commonly used to teach college students the basics of design patterns and software engineering.
Another general-purpose programming language, Java is one of the most popular for enterprise development, perhaps due to its straightforward nature, stability, and large community of developers.
As an example, one important project that makes use of Java is the Android Software Developer Kit (SDK), which allows developers to create applications that function on devices that use the Android Operating System. Additionally, we can point to Netflix as another example of Java’s power, as the language was used to build the foundation of Netflix’s streaming service.
For someone just starting out with programming, it might feel a little overwhelming because, compared to Python, Java is a bit more involved, while still requiring you to set up your own development environment. Still, once you get started working in Java, you shouldn’t run into too many surprises.
PHP stands for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor and is another general-purpose programming language. However, its actual use is largely to provide the back end server functionality essential to many important websites today.
PHP’s popularity might be attributed to how it makes it easy for developers to retrieve and store data in databases while also processing and replying to users’ requests. It’s also considered one of the easiest programming languages due to how seamlessly its responses can be presented to a user’s browser through HTML.
Some notable projects and services that use PHP include Facebook, Tumblr, and WordPress. With these in mind, it’s easy to see how important and influential PHP has remained even with many newer programming languages trying to dislodge it from its place in back end web development.
As creating your first PHP program is as easy as embedding PHP code into an HTML page and uploading the file to a server that can process PHP, it’s very easy to get started with this language.
Laracast’s “The PHP Practitioner” video series is a fantastic free resource for people just starting with PHP to build a fundamental understanding of web development and basic programming concepts.
C and C++ are both very important lower-level programming languages that are especially useful in the context of creating systems that require a high level of performance.
C++ can be thought of as an extension to the C programming language, adding features like object-oriented programming. Still, there are many similarities between C and C++, especially for someone looking for an easy programming language to learn.
These languages are often referred to as low-level languages because they leave a lot of memory management to the programmer, as well as allowing you to make use of pointers to work with data structures to manipulate the information involved with your task.
While all programming languages require you to be exact with what you’re telling the computer to do, this is especially apparent in C or C++, where if you’re not careful you can accidentally access an incorrect portion of memory, causing unexpected behavior.
Some important projects that make use of these languages include the Linux Kernel, which is written in C, and Adobe’s Photoshop software, which is in C++.
Someone skilled in these languages will be in high demand and invaluable to an organization that creates programs in which performance is very important.
For a person just starting out, languages like C and C++ can be intimidating because of the added complexity of the way you manage and interact with the memory used by your program. But at the same time, beginning your journey with one of these lower-level languages can really prepare you for understanding more nuanced topics.
C# is a general-purpose language developed by Microsoft and is especially suited for building programs for Windows environments and creating web applications in combination with the .NET Framework.
While C# offers support for many programming styles, it’s often used in an object-oriented way like Java. Its syntax has many similarities with Java’s as well, so a programmer skilled in either of these languages shouldn’t have much difficulty transitioning between them.
I’d rate C# as having an “average” learning difficulty among the easiest programming languages here. While you do have to set up and run a compiler to build your programs, you likely won’t find any issues with reading and understanding the syntax for the typical program.
And given how large the C# community is, you should be able to easily find answers to any questions you have either by using a search engine or reviewing tutorials about the type of problem you are working on.
Perhaps one of the most recognizable projects making use of C# is the Unity game engine, which allows game developers to build a game that’s compatible with multiple platforms at once. If you’re especially interested in a game development career, you might want to consider starting with a Unity tutorial to both become familiar with C#’s syntax and pick up the essential concepts of making your own game.
R is a programming language focused on data analysis and data visualization. With that in mind, it might not be the best language to start with if you’re looking to acquire skills and knowledge that are more generally applicable to the problems you’ll be solving as a programmer.
R, like Python, is a coding language that is commonly used to perform statistical analysis of data, while still being popular to build web applications or write scripts to accomplish various tasks. Especially if you’re just starting out with programming, becoming familiar with a general-purpose language like Python instead of R may result in more tangible benefits in the long run.
Still, if you’re considering becoming a data scientist or simply love working with statistics, you’ll certainly want to at least take a look at R at some point. Jobs in the bioinformatics sector especially will commonly require knowledge of the R programming language, so if R sounds like the perfect language for your goals, you’ll want to look at our list of best resources to learn R for free.
Go is a general-purpose programming language developed by Google around 2007 with syntax and use-cases similar to C and C++. Its goals were to simplify the syntax and general complexity of these and other languages to make it one of the easiest programming languages to learn.
Go is often used to implement components of larger projects where execution speed is important; for example, in 2014 Dropbox used Go to improve the performance of its back end systems, especially with regard to accessing their database.
If Go sounds like the language for you, there’s a great, free book by Caleb Doxsey that will guide you through setting up your Go programming environment, show you how to compile your first Go program, and teach you essential programming concepts: An Introduction to Programming in Go.
Rust is another general-purpose programming language based on C and C++ built by Mozilla, the developers of the popular web browser Firefox, which first appeared around 2010.
Compared to Go, which tries to make things as simple as possible, Rust is very strict on how you interact with memory in order to minimize the possibility of bugs or vulnerabilities in programs, while maintaining a high level of performance.
As a result, Rust is an increasingly popular choice for building systems where safety and security is an essential characteristic. For example, developers planning an Operating System or an HTTP server will greatly benefit from these restrictions ensuring that the different processes that are executed only have access to the data and memory they’re supposed to.
One great demonstration of how Rust is used can be found in the Firefox browser itself. It was used to improve the efficiency of the CSS engine while simultaneously reducing the number of potential security vulnerabilities.
Even though Rust is especially appropriate for dealing with this kind of system-level programming, it’s not unheard of for people to start their programming journey with Rust. If the security focus of Rust sounds intriguing, you’ll want to either start with “A Gentle Introduction to Rust” or The Rust Programming Language.
If you’re interested in building programs or mobile apps for these environments, you’ll certainly want to look into learning this language at some point.
It’s worth mentioning that if you have an iPad, Apple created a free application that will guide you with your first steps into programming with Swift named Swift Playgrounds. Even if you have zero programming experience, with Swift Playgrounds you’ll quickly be able to see and learn coding fundamentals and become confident in your ability to learn more complex concepts.
So if you’d prefer a little more directed guidance with your first foray into programming, Swift Playgrounds will be an especially useful resource that will leave you with skills applicable to any programming field.
Erlang is a functional, general-purpose programming language that made its first appearance in 1986. It focuses on concurrent programming. This means its features and restrictions are ideal for building systems where multiple, distinct processes need to run simultaneously while still being able to easily communicate with each other.
Unlike many of the other programming languages mentioned on this list that have support for multiple programming styles, you can only program Erlang in a functional manner. Functional programming emphasizes the use of mathematical functions to accomplish tasks, which usually ends up reducing the reliance on an external state or data and a program that is ultimately easier to debug and more likely to be executed safely alongside other processes.
This can be difficult to wrap your mind around if you’re still picking up the basics of programming, as it’s more common to start learning in an imperative style. In comparison, a program in an imperative style makes it easy to access and modify external information that is shared throughout the program’s execution.
Elixir is a language that is an extension of Erlang, adding its own syntax and tooling that has especially been used to build scalable web services.
Discord is one of the most recognizable projects and uses Elixir to support more than five million concurrent users while processing millions of events per second. Pinterest used Elixir to improve the performance of its API service.
With all that said, it could make sense to start with Erlang or Elixir as a first language if you’re very interested in designing systems that provide services where scaling to heavy demand is important and are also willing to put in effort into understanding functional programming concepts.
A great resource for the first-time programmer who is interested in starting with Elixir is Joy of Elixir; it makes few assumptions about what you’re already familiar with and has a playful tone to help you work through the book.
Scala is a language that builds on a foundation provided by Java, bringing a focus on functional programming and concise, flexible syntax.
Its additions can make it easier for expert developers to solve problems in a more efficient way, but these same features and flexibility can make it unclear for newcomers of the correct way to go about accomplishing a given task.
Common uses of Scala involve it being used to implement back end functionality. Perhaps one of the largest users of Scala is the social media platform Twitter, who first picked up the language for performance reasons in 2009.
Most online learning resources for Scala assume you already have at least some experience in programming. However, there is “Introduction to Programming and Problem Solving Using Scala” , a series of video lectures created by Mark Lewis you can access for free on YouTube. Particularly self-motivated individuals who also have a strong math background might find some success using these videos to work through the textbook with the same name.
Twitter has also put together a resource for established programmers who want to quickly learn Scala with their “Scala School,” a collection of pages that walk you through what makes Scala special.
Clojure is a modern functional programming language from 2007 based on Lisp, a language that first appeared in 1958 with a unique parenthetical syntax.
Clojure added to Lisp features like immutable data structures that make it easier to write concurrent systems. An immutable data structure is one that cannot be directly modified after it’s created. While this might sound restrictive, having a guarantee like this means a function or program working with one of these structures doesn’t have to worry about the information they’re using changing unexpectedly.
Considering Clojure’s focus on being useful for concurrency, it’s not surprising that it’s often used for building services where this is important. Companies as large as Walmart use Clojure for back end services to build systems that can easily handle large volumes of activity.
With Clojure being a functional programming language, starting with it as your first programming language carries the same caveats of possibly being difficult to understand for those not already familiar with the Computer Science concepts associated with writing and thinking in this way, especially with Clojure’s unique syntax.
However, if you already have some technical experience and are comfortable with working on the command line, Clojure for the Brave and True is a delightful book you can read for free to begin your journey of learning this language!
So, What’s the Easiest Programming Language?
What About the Rest of the “Easiest Programming Languages”?
In terms of overall complexity for someone just starting out with programming, you could argue for a ranking like the following, with 1 being the easiest:
- HTML and CSS, as they aren’t really programming languages but will get you comfortable with using a text editor and building documents according to well-defined rules.
- Python, Ruby, Go, R, and Swift, as they’re straightforward, designed to be easy to learn, and have a simple syntax.
- Java and C#, as they’re of a medium complexity while also being well-established with many resources to answer any questions you’ll have.
- C and C++, as they’re at a low enough level where you’ll have to eventually be aware of how you manage your memory–in addition to learning basic programming concepts.
- Rust, Scala, Clojure, Erlang, and Elixir, as they’re either functional-focused, which can be difficult to wrap your mind around, or complex enough to possibly be frustrating for beginners.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that the ease-of-use isn’t the only thing you should consider. The easiest code to learn might not be the best one for you. If you have specific goals of what kind of problems you want to solve or what kind of systems you want to build, you’ll want to review each programming language mentioned above and see which seems most appropriate.
A motivated person with some technical knowledge who knows they’re interested in building an Operating System could reasonably begin with Rust; it wouldn’t be an easy journey, but it wouldn’t be impossible, either.
In fact, the most important element for choosing a language is determining which provides you the most motivation to start learning and building your own creations, as that’s honestly the most difficult part. Everything else will eventually follow–as long as you keep working, creating your own projects, and learning all that you can about programming.