What Language Should I Learn First?

This is a question I often see asked online – what language should I learn first?

The answer – don’t worry about it – just pick one!

At school I was taught COMAL, which is similar to BASIC. At University, Java and Visual Basic. I then learned PHP in my spare time, which I initially used when I landed my first job, before eventually switching to C# and ASP.NET.

I now program exclusively in C#, yet that isn’t where I started out.

Your choice of language is a very personal thing – C# just happened to appeal the most to me. The syntax made a lot more sense than any other. Some others love python and swear by that, others love Java. Some even like Visual Basic (Weirdos!). Whatever you start with, probably won’t be what you end up using.

You’re Not Learning a Language, You’re Learning Programming

The one thing I learned in my career is that programming itself is a skill, and that’s what you need to master, not a particular language. You need to learn to think logically, in a way that the computer will understand. You need to understand structure, in terms of objects and classes, and also loops and functions.

None of this is language dependent.

Once you master programming, you realise that the rest is just syntax – it’s like when you were young you first needed to master the skill of speaking, writing and reading. Once you had mastered that in one language, learning a second language is straightforward.

I do C# now, but if I wanted to switch to Java or Python, I could do so in no time at all.

So what language should you learn? Don’t worry about it – just pick one and start learning, you can always switch later – and you almost certainly will.