8 Programmers On The First Language They Learned — & Why

8 Programmers On The First Language They Learned — & Why

01/04/2023
4 minutes

Choosing a programming language to learn can feel like a loaded decision that will determine the fate of your coding career. And while selecting that first language is a memorable step, you always have the option to “take a mulligan,” or a do-over, and try another language.

In fact, you really can’t choose the wrong programming language to learn when you’re first starting out. Most programmers dabble in several programming languages as they advance in their careers, and since many languages share concepts and principles, you’ll be picking up valuable foundational skills regardless.

If you’re still feeling stumped, our free course Choosing a Programming Language will help guide you to a decision. We’ll introduce you to the most popular starter languages, explain the key factors to consider when you’re picking a language, and set you up with beginner-friendly courses and tutorials.

Learn something new for free

To prove that there’s no singular path to becoming a programmer, we asked members of the Codecademy team to share the very first language they learned and why they selected it. As you’ll see, everyone has to start somewhere — and no matter which language you land on, there’s always an opportunity to learn more.

HTML/CSS and JavaScript

“I learned HTML/CSS and JavaScript for my first languages because my mom needed help making a website.” – Nik Dolan-Stern, Curriculum Developer

PHP

“I learned PHP and MySQL at around the same time. I chose these because I wanted to create a website with content generated from a database; and to be totally honest, at the time PHP and MySQL was simply the most widespread/popular language combo for this.” – Ada Morse, Curriculum Developer, Data Science

Pascal

“I learned to program in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s using a program on my Macintosh Plus called HyperCard. The language used was called AppleTalk. It resembled any procedural language like C and Pascal, both of which I learned shortly after. Pascal was the language used for my AP Computer Science course in high school. Macs did not support a lot of compilers at that time. I had to use friends’ PCs to do my AP CS work, and I carried a copy of the Pascal compiler on a 3.5″ floppy disc in my backpack.” – Jace Van Auken, Curriculum Developer

Java

“The first language I learned was Java because I wanted to build learning apps for Android phones.” – Sylvana Santos, Software Engineer

“The first programming language I learned was Java. It was the language used in my introductory programming class at university, so I didn’t have a choice. After university, I took a few Codecademy courses on HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to try them out. The first programming language that I committed to in earnest was Lua, because an engineer friend suggested it to me. There is a game framework called LOVE2D that uses Lua, and he thought I might have fun building a game.” – Nick Duckwiler, Software Engineer

Python

“My first programming language was Python, and I got introduced to it at my Intro to Programming course in college. I’d never done programming before college, and enrolled in the course with a vague interest in the concept of programming. It was really eye-opening to learn programming concepts in Python, which is why I eventually majored in Computer Science

Python is a great choice for a first language into programming because it allows you to learn key concepts without having to worry too much about complex syntax, like you’d have to know about if you were learning it via Java or C. But I have also taught programming concepts using JavaScript and p5.js, which is a visual programming library. p5.js allows you to demonstrate concepts visually, which I know is effective for more complex concepts, like objects and classes.” – Jiwon Shin, Curriculum Developer, Web Development

“I first started to code using Python; it was recommended to me for the simplicity and ease of understanding of the language and relative ubiquity. But I’d say the first language I really learned was Ruby, mostly thanks to the Ruby on Rails community and this book. I’d recommend anyone starting out learn either Python, Ruby, or JavaScript, because they’re all a bit more approachable.” – Connor Baker, Software Engineer

jQuery

“I was obsessed with both Pokémon and the Wild West internet of the ‘90s, so I learned HTML and CSS to make a Pokémon website to share my fanart and Pokémon Pinball high scores. For something that’s a programming language and not a markup language — the first language I learned was probably Python, but nothing came of it besides collecting Linux distributions. For my first web dev job out of college, I picked up the jQuery library. To get something out fast, it was easier for me to learn jQuery than vanilla JavaScript.” – Jasmine English, Software Engineer

Hopefully it’s reassuring to hear how experienced programmers navigated the early days of their coding careers. You have so many options to choose from depending on your goals, and there are unique benefits to learning each language. Be sure to check out the free Codecademy course Choosing a Programming Language — it’ll help you feel confident that you’re choosing the right language for you. And remember: If you change your mind and decide to learn something new, Codecademy has the courses and skill paths you need to get started.

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