Top 10 Programming Languages you must learn in 2021

Programming Languages are formal languages comprising of a set of instructions that are used in computer programming to implement algorithms that produce various kinds of outputs. Each programming language is designed for a specific purpose and has its relative pros and cons and if you were to ask us the most useful programming language to learn today, well the answer to that question is subjective and it depends in your familiarity with coding and what you want to implement that is server-side, back-end, front-end, mobile-app or web-app development but nonetheless, we’ve managed to put up a list of ten programming languages that we think are kind of beginner friendly to learn and they are by far the most influential in the field of programming.

1.  JavaScript;

JavaScript often abbreviated as ‘JS’ is a high-level, multi-paradigm programming language that was developed in 1995 by an American software technologist Brendan Eich and other contributors. JavaScript is one of the core technologies of the World Wide Web alongside HTML and CSS, it enables interactive web pages and it’s an essential part of web applications.

Here is a minimalist Hello, World! program in JavaScript;

The vast majority of websites use JS for client-side page behavior and all major web browsers have a dedicated JavaScript engine to execute it.

JavaScript is mainly used for web-based applications and web browsers but it’s also used beyond the web in software, servers and embedded systems and some of the applications of JS include;

  • Creating web and mobile apps;- developers use various JS front-end frameworks such as React.js, Reactive Native, Angular and Vue.js to develop and build web and mobile apps.
  • Building web servers and develop server apps;- developers can also use JS to build simple web servers and develop the back-end infrastructure using Node.js Many companies such as PayPal, LinkedIn, Netflix and Uber use Node.js, an open-source, cross-platform, back-end runtime environment to execute code outside a web browser.
  • Browser game development;- beginners developers can also use JavaScript to create browser games as a way to practice their JavaScript programming skills.

 

2.  Python;

Python is an interpreted, high-level, multi-paradigm, object-oriented and general-purpose programming language created by a Dutch Programmer Guido Van Rossum of the Python Software Foundation, a non-profit organization that manages and directs resources for python and CPython developments.

Python was developed in the late 1980s and was first released in 1991 as a successor to the ABC programming language.

Here is a minimalist example of a Hello, World! program in Python;

Large organizations that use python include; Dropbox, NASA, Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Wikipedia, Amazon, Instagram, Spotify and the social new networking site Reddit that is entirely written in Python.

The Raspberry Pi single-board computer project adopted python as its main user-programming language and it’s also commonly used in artificial intelligence projects and machine learning projects with the help of libraries.

Python can also serve as a scripting language for web applications with web frameworks such as Django, Pyramid, Tornado, Twisted, etc…

Python’s design and philosophy has influenced many other programming languages such as Go or Golang from Google, Ruby, Cobra, and Apple’s Swift most of which have some python-inspired syntax.

 

3.  Java;

Java is an object-oriented, class-based, general-purpose programming language that was originally developed by a Canadian Computer Scientist James Gosling in 1995 when it was first released at Sun Microsystems which was later acquired by Oracle Corporation in 2010.

Here is a simple Hello, World! program in Java;

Java was intended to let application developers write once, run anywhere (WORA), which means that compiled java code can run on all platforms that support java without the need for recompilation.

As of 2019, java was reported to be one of the most popular programming languages in use according to GitHub, particularly for client-server web-based applications with a reported 9 million developers.

Java software is used and run by over a billion tech-devices from data centers, game consoles, smart-phones to scientific supercomputers.

The Java language is a key pillar in Android, an open-source mobile operating system that powers most smartphones and it’s owned by Google. Although Android was built on the Linux kernel, and was written largely in C, the Android SDK uses the Java Language as the basis for Android applications but does not use any of its standards GUI, SE, ME or other established java standards.

 

4.  Php;

PHP is a general-purpose scripting language especially suited for web development originally developed by a Danish-Canadian programmer Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994. PHP evolved organically as more people found out how useful it was and it originally stood for “Personal Home Page” but now it’s a recursive acronym that stands for “Hypertext Preprocessor”.

PHP is a server side scripting language that is embedded in HTML, integrated in a number of databases such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, Microsoft SQL server and it’s also used to manage dynamic content, session tracking also used to build entire e-commerce websites.

Here is the simplest version of the Hello, World!  program written in PHP;

Here is another version of the Hello, World!  program written in PHP code embedded in HTML ;

PHP has been found to be simple, efficient, secure, flexible and easy to learn by beginner programmers and it can be used to perform system functions (i.e create, open, read, write and close), handle data (i.e gather data, save it, and send via email), encrypt data, restrict users to access some web pages, it also allows you to add, delete, modify elements within your databases.

If you are computer student or software engineer and you want to build your own content management system (CMS) like Wordpess, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, etc from the ground up, then by all means, you have to learn PHP.

 

5.  C++;

C++ is a middle-level, cross-platform programming language that was developed by a Danish Computer Scientist Bjarne Stroustrup while working at Bell Labs in 1979 as an enhancement to the C language and it was originally named C with classes but later it was renamed C++ in 1983.

C++ is cross-platform which means it can run on a variety of platforms such as Windows, Mac OS, and the various versions of UNIX and it’s considered to be a middle-level language because it comprises a combination of both low-level and high-level language features.

C++ is a superset of C programming language with additional implementation of object-oriented concepts ie (Encapsulation, Data hiding, Inheritance and Polymorphism). It also supports procedural and generic programming.

Here is a simple version of the Hello, World!  program written in C++ that uses the C++ Standard Library stream to write a message to standard output;

If you are a computer student, hobbyist or tech enthusiast and you want to become a hard core programmer or a professional embedded systems software developer or engineer, then C++ is a must for you.

There are quite a number of reasons as to why you should learn C++ but I will just list a few of them here;

  • C++ is one of the most widely used programming languages in application and system programming which means as a developer, you can choose your prefered area of interest in software development.
  • C++ is prefered and loved by millions of developers worldwide which means if you are a great C++ programmer, chances are, you’re most likely to be paid highly.
  • C++ is very close to hardware, this means you get a chance to work at a low level and this gives you a lot of control in terms of memory management and overall better performance.
  • C++ gives you a clear understanding about the concepts of object oriented programming.
  • C++ has a wide range of applications as regards to software and hardware development from embedded systems design, games development, computation programming, programming languages development such as C#, perl, php, python, java, etc to application software development, ie it has been used in developing almost all operating systems (Windows, Mac OS, Linux, etc).

 

6.  C# (C-Sharp);

C# (C-Sharp) is a simple, modern, general-purpose, object-oriented, multi-paradigm programming language designed and developed around the year 2000 by a Danish software engineer Anders Hejlsberg and his team while working at Microsoft during the development of its .NET framework initiative which was later approved by the European Computer Manufacturers Association (ECMA) and International Standards Organization (ISO).

C# is intended to be suitable for writing .NET software applications for both hosted and embedded systems ranging from the very large applications that use sophisticated operating systems down to the very small having dedicated functions.

Here is a simple classic Hello, World! example program in C# that outputs “Hello, World!” to the console;

C# is designed for Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) which consists of the executable code and runtime environment that allows use of various high-level languages on different computer platforms and architectures.

C# is intended for use in developing software components suitable for development in distributed environments.

Although the .NET framework runs on the Windows operating system, there are some alternative versions that work on other operating systems such as “MONO”, an open-source version of the .NET framework which includes a C# compiler and runs on several operating systems such as Linux, MacOS, Android, iOSSolaris and UNIX.

The .NET framework is a revolutionary platform that helps you to write the following types of applications such as; Windows applications, web applications and web services and it was also designed in such a way that it can be used from any of the following programming languages; i.e C#, C++, Visual BasicCOBOL, etc and all these languages can access the framework as well as communicate with each other.

C# is widely used by professional programmers because of the following reasons; it’s easy to learn, it produces efficient programs, its component and object oriented, it’s a structured language and it can be compiled on a variety of computer platforms.

 

7.  Swift;

Swift is an open-source, general-purpose, multi-paradigm, compiled programming language with first-class functions for iOS and MacOS application development.

It was developed by an American Software Engineer Chris Lattner and his team at Apple Inc. and it was first released in 2014.

Swift was designed and developed to replace Apple’s earlier preferred programming language Objective-C as it had been largely unchanged since the early 1980s and lacked modern language features.

An example of the Hello, World!  program on Xcode Playground.

Swift took language ideas from Objective-C, Ruby, Rust, Python, C# and far too many other programming languages.

The Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) application became the first publicly released app written with Swift.

Swift won first place for the most loved programming language in the Stack Overflow Developer Survey in 2015 and second place in 2016.

Swift supports a number of platforms which include; Linux, Windows and all Apple’s operating systems (such as Darwin, iOS, iPadOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS).

Swift has undergone a number of upgrades from the time it was introduced at the Apple’s WWDC conference. It underwent a major upgrade to Ver. 1.2 during 2014 and a more major upgrade to Swift 2 at WWDC 2015 and during this time it was still proprietary software. Version 2.2 was made open-source under the Apache license and through Version 3.0 the syntax of Swift went through a significant revolution.

Swift 4.0 was then released in 2017 which introduced several changes to some built-in classes and structures. Swift 5 which is source compatible with Swift 4 was released in March 2019 which introduced a stable binary interface on Apple platforms allowing the Swift runtime to be incorporated into Apple operating systems. Swift 5.1 was officially released in September 2019 and it builds on the previous version of Swift 5.

Swift is preferred over other languages in the Apple Eco-System because of the following reasons; it provides modern programming features, provides Objective-C like syntax, provides seamless access to existing Cocoa and Cocoa Touch frameworks, provides a fantastic way to write iOS and OS X apps, it does not need a separate library import to support functionalities like input/output or string handling.

 

8.  Go (Golang);

The Go programming language or sometimes called Google’s Golang because of its domain name “golang.org” is a light-weight, open-source, statically typed, compiled programming language initially designed and developed at Google in 2007 by a Swiss Computer Scientist Robert Griesemer, a Canadian programmer Rob Pike and an American pioneer of Computer Science Kenneth Lane Thompson who are referred to as the Go-Authors and it was publicly released in November 2009 with version 1.0 released in March 2012.

It’s a robust system-level language used for programming across large-scale network servers and big distributed systems. It is influenced by C but with an emphasis on greater simplicity and safety.

Here is a simple version of the Hello, World!  program written in Go (Golang) where “fmt” is the package for formatted I/O, similar to C’s C file input/output;

Go programs are built using packages for efficient management of dependencies and its programming implementations use a traditional compile and link model to generate executable binaries.

Some of the notable features that the Go programming language has include; It’s compilation time is fast, go programs are simple, concise and safe, it supports for interfaces and type embedding, production of statically linked native binaries without external dependencies, however it does not support the following; assertions, generic programming, pointer arithmetic, circular dependencies among packages and method/operator overloading. These features were excluded intentionally by Google to keep the language simple and concise.

Go is now one of the primary languages that are used by Google to build their software system applications and some of other prominent tech companies and sites using Go (in line with other languages, not exclusively) include; Uber, Twitch, ThoughtWorks, Netflix, Dropbox, CloudFlare, etc.

 

9.  Kotlin;

Kotlin is a general-purpose, statically-typed, cross-platform programming language that was designed and developed by JetBrains, the company behind the IntelliJ IDEA and it was first unveiled to the public in July, 2011 after being under development for a year.

Dmitry Jemerov, the team leader at JetBrains stated that Kotlin was built because most languages did not have the features they were looking for with the exception of Scala to which he cited low compilation time as its only deficiency.

Here is a simple version of the Hello, World!  program written in Kotlin…

 

Kotlin was designed to interoperate fully with Java and the JVM (Java Virtual Machine) version of Kotlin’s standard library depends on the Java Class Library and according to JetBrains’ Andrey Breslav, he stated that “Kotlin was designed to be an industrial-strength object-oriented language and a better language than Java, but still be fully interoperable with Java code allowing developers to make a gradual migration from Java to Kotlin”.

Kotlin offers big advantages over Java for JVM and android app development and it also plays nicely with Java in the same projects since its focused on interoperability, safety, clarity and tooling support.

In 2019, Google announced that the Kotlin programming language is now its preferred language for Android App developers and as a result many developers have so far now switched to Kotlin. This has made Kotlin to be the third language to be fully supported for Android in addition to Java and C++.

As of 2020, Kotlin is still the most widely used on Android with an estimate of 70% of the top 1000 apps on the Google play store being written in Kotlin and it has also gained traction in server-side development  with the help of Kotlin’s first framework “Ktor” for building web applications.

In 2018, Kotlin was reported to be the fastest growing language on GitHub and it’s also the fourth most loved programming language according to the 2020 Stack Overflow developer survey.

Some of the notable companies using Kotlin (in-line with other languages) include but not limited to the following; Google, JetBrains, Amazon, Square, Flux, Shazam, Barclay’s Bank (for web development), Pivotal, Rocket Travel etc.

 

10.  Scratch;

Scratch is a free block-based visual programming language and website (coding tool) that was designed and developed by the MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten Group led by Mitchel Resnick, targeted primarily at children between 8-16 years to help them learn to code. It’s a type of “block programming language that uses graphical blocks to represent program commands”.

Students can use Scratch to code their own interactive stories, animations and games and in the process they learn to think creatively, reason systematically and work collaboratively, essential skills required by every student in today’s society.

Here is an example of a script that lets the sprite say Hello, World! then stops the script in Scratch 2.0

Scratch has been translated into more than 70 languages and its used in most parts of the world as it is taught and used in after-school centers, schools, colleges as well as other public knowledge institutions such as museums, libraries and community centers with more than 67 million projects shared by over 64 million users and almost 38 million monthly website visits according to the 2021 community statistics on the language’s official website.

ScratchJr is a complete rewrite design that is heavily inspired by Scratch but its intended for younger children between the ages of 5 – 8 years old and its available as a free app for both Android and iOS. With ScratchJr, kids can program their own interactive stories and games and the process they learn to solve problems, design projects and express themselves creatively on the computer

Although Scratch is targeted for kids between 8-16 years-old school students or pupils, its used by all ages including educators and parents and this wide outreach has created many surrounding communities both physical and digital.

In some countries such as the UK and the US, Scratch is used as an introductory computer science course to students because the creation of interesting programs is relatively easy and skills learned can be applied to other programming languages such as python and Java.

 

Conclusion:

For any one to become a pro at coding or programming in the fields of software engineering and development, he/she must be well acquainted with at least two or three of the above mentioned programming languages. Truth is, you cannot be a master at all of them, but rather a pro at a few depending on your preferences and or your job requirements.

The other thing we should put into consideration is that there is a distinction between a Software Engineer and a Software Developer, If you’re interested in knowing the difference between the two, you can check out this post here: https://www.developersforhire.com/software-developer-vs-software-engineer  that explains what they do, how much they earn, and what skills are needed to become either a software developer or a software engineer.


 

 

Tum Kurtzman
Author: Tum Kurtzman

Computer Engineer, Ugandan Life Hacker, Tech Blogger, YouTuber, Founder & Lead Engineer at SONALABS.ORG... Tum completed his BSc. in Computer Engineering from Makerere University and you can reach him via e-mail at tum@sonalabs.org.

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