What Programming Language to Learn First in 2021

What Programming Language to Learn First in 2021

As you probably notice, there are plenty of programming languages, and perhaps it’s harder than ever to choose anything because there is so much noise. Everyone is recommending the programming language they know as the silver bullet, and the ideal way to start in IT.

But this is terrible advice, because if you learn something that you don’t need in the long run, and you won’t be using it daily soon, you will forget it, and your time and money investment will be wasted. Nobody wants that.

So what programming language to learn first?

How we used to learn programming

Let me tell you how it used to work in the past.

If you would start learning programming between 2000-2010 (and earlier), people will tell you, learn Pascal first because it’s the easiest programming language to learn, later it would be much easier to learn anything.

There were plenty of books with code examples, written in Pascal.

The problem with Pascal was you can’t build anything serious, with it, anything that has a market value. The only value in this language was that the semantic was very simple, so it was a helpful tool to understand basic programming concepts and algorithms.

If you are in language learning, not only programming but language used for communications, maybe you heard about Esperanto. Esperanto by itself, it’s fully-fledged communication language, but it’s an artificial language, none of the countries use it as it’s native. It was created solely to break the communication gap between European nations.

Why this language is interesting is that there is a common belief that if you invest only one year learning Esperanto, it would be much easier for you to learn European languages like French, or Italian, later.

It’s exactly the same story as with Pascal.

Today, almost any programming language can be used for the purpose of learning the basic concepts. From there, you can move to learn other things.

If you want to follow the path “learn any language, and my is the best, let me show you what I have got”, keep in mind that you will probably land up nowhere building skills that you don’t need and eventually forget everything soon after.

How we learn programming these days

What you can do instead, and what I found most successful programmers do, is to narrow down your interest to a specific market niche, to just one technology, and learn it. Explore the niche further and then go and see what’s outside if you feel that you need it too.

What I mean by that is, depending on your goals and motivation, you should decide if you want to do mobile apps development, web development, frontend, backend, full-stack development, or maybe DevOps.

You should choose a specialization and then choose one of the programming languages that is used in this specific niche and start creating.

If you don’t know which path to choose, write the comment below, so I will try to help.

So what’s the best for mobile apps development?

So, for example, if you want to build mobile apps, you should narrow your interest to one platform, let say iOS. But it can also be Android if you prefer. From there, the best choice these days is to learn native platform languages.

I wrote a verbose post about it What Programming Language To Learn For App Development In 2021. If you are after the mobile app development, don’t forget to check it out.

I want to be a web developer

If you’re going to become a web developer, things are a bit more complicated. Not only because there are at least a couple of technologies you have to use to build any website but also because you build websites for many different browsers, and especially Microsoft Internet Explorer made it very hard for programmers.

This niche also has plenty of smaller niches, so it can look very overwhelming. But the good news is you can also find essentials here, that you can focus on. If you go after building websites, you have to know how to structure websites using HTML5 and do at least basics of styling by using CSS.

When you learn how to build websites by using only these two, then you should go after Javascript. But you don’t need Javascript to build websites. Javascript is only for making websites more interactive. You can create your portfolio by only using HTML5 and CSS if you want to be a web developer.

I want to be frontend developer (aka backend hater)

If you want to be a frontend developer, you have to know the essentials of web development mentioned above, plus master at least one of Javascript frameworks like React, Angular, or Vue. Even if the frontend can also mean user interface for desktop or mobile application, frontend development most often relates to web applications.

In this position, Javascript, ES6, and Typescript are mandatory, so you really should focus on learning these languages as soon as you know HTML5 and CSS3.

I want to be a backend developer (aka frontend hater)

If you want to be a backend developer, the learning curve is pretty steep.

First and foremost, you have to learn the Linux command line (which is not only shell programming language but also command-line tools) and at least one of the scripting languages, in which the most widely used one is Python.

They are some other tools that you have to learn before you could land your first backend job, but the Linux command line and Python are your best bet. Double-check that, if you are targeting a specific niche, you may be learning C++ or other languages instead. Track the requirements in the offers you wish to apply for.

I want to be a full-stack developer (aka I love them all)

If you are after full-stack development, this is the land mine most of the people stumble upon without knowing. Full-stack development is when you put a lot of frontend and a lot of backend development together.

Why do I say “a lot” instead “all in”? That’s because if you are a full-stack developer nobody demands that you are the master of frontend and backend. You just have to know how to code and connect them.

But still, it’s a lot of stuff to learn to be able to do it. It’s almost impossible for newbies to jump into full-stack development and succeed.

I know they are courses and books that will teach you how to do that by teaching you frontend first and backend the second. But please don’t get confused by the promises made by frameworks like Ruby on Rails, Django, Laravel, etc. that they will make things simple. Yes, they help, but you have to know all the basics already; otherwise, you will probably fail like most of the people.


As you can see, there is no simple answer to the question “what programming language should learn first in 2021”. It all depends on what you want to specialize in.

If you narrow your interest down to a specific niche, choose only one programming language that you will be using daily, and learn basic concepts as mentioned above, you have much bigger chances to succeed.

If you have any questions related to learning programming languages, leave the comment below.

If you found this post helpful, consider sharing it, so I will be motivated to publish more posts that will help you get the IT career you want.

Stay focused!

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