Lately, I've seen many times young developers asking which programming languages are worth learning. Obviously I've seen a lot of superficial answers, mainly because people tend to suggest things they like. Programming has many levels of complexity, so, before providing an answer, it's better to understand why you want to learn a new language.

What Is Your Goal?

If you want to find the best paid job, you should focus on languages that are old but with a large base of existing legacy code (such as ADA or COBOL or Fortran) or vice versa, on brand new ones (Go, Rust). Both choices have a couple of drawbacks. There are few workplaces in the world (this is why they are well paid) and you cannot know if your job will still be required in five years.

But maybe you just want to get a job quickly an not too far from home. In this case JavaScript is your choice. You can use it client-side, server-side, and even in mobile app development. Pretty cool, isn't it? Unfortunately for you, the world is full of good JS developers, so you'd better become a damn good one if you want to stay over the average and be noticed by some company.

Do you want to explore the Object Oriented paradigm? You have multiple choices: C++ (you'll need just some years to master it), Java (if security issues won't kill its virtual machine before) or Python (when you'll understand its concept of reference).

If you want to understand better how things works at a lower level, C is still a choice, especially in embedded systems but you have to be ready to deal with raw data management, dirty pointers, and memory leaks.

If you are an Apple fan, try with Objective C and Swift. If you love MicroSoft, C# and Visual Basic are for you. But be conscious that you are tighten to a single company that tomorrow can decide to completely change the language and make you throw away your old code (who said VB 6?).


I can go on with many others (Lua, Scala, PHP, Ruby, Perl...) but I think you have understood: the perfect language does not exist. In any case, having a good experience of a couple of widely used programming languages and knowing the basis of some of the newcomers is probably the best choice you can make.

Suggested complementary read: Every Language Sucks

Cover image taken from Wikimedia Commons (public domain).