The best programming languages to learn in 2020

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These are the best programming languages to learn to land a great developer job and to earn more money. Also, find out developers’ favorite tools, free resources for coders, GitHub guides, and more.

Freelance programmer or developer working at home and typing source code with laptop

Image: iStockphoto/comzeal

While not every programmer may follow the oft-repeated advice to learn at least one new programming language each year, most developers will continue to build their skills throughout their career. Many programmers find their job requires them to periodically brush up on new programming languages and their dialects, software frameworks, and tools. Knowing what to learn and when can be difficult, particularly when new software frameworks and tools are created every day.

For an existing programmer, the trigger for learning a new language might be a particular problem that needs solving, the requirement to take over someone else’s code, or just curiosity about a new programming language generating buzz. For beginner programmers, the priorities will be subtly different, with the steepness of the learning curve having a notable effect on whether they stick with a programming language.

Renowned programmer John Carmack, cofounder of id Software and CTO of Oculus VR, says there’s no problem starting with a higher-level programming language that abstracts away much of the complexity of how computers work, but advises learners delve into the workings of that language. “You should try and ‘find the excitement’ in even the most simple data processing tasks. There are layers and layers of things going on in just compiling and running the simplest program that are worth investigating,” according to an early blog post.

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Cofounder of Stack Overflow Joel Spolsky goes further and recommends programmers learn a lower-level language, such as C. “Coding in C gives programmers a better idea of what the computer is actually doing, in that it is a low-level language whose instructions more closely resemble those being executed by the computer’s CPU than those of a high-level language,” he told TechRepublic.

“A lot of programmers these days will end up learning a higher level language–such as Python, Ruby, or Java–and then not even really have a good grasp on anything that is causing that code in the language to execute and therefore not appreciating why things are slow or weird.

“The idea is to have a really good comprehension of what happens at the level of abstraction below the level where you work, of what the CPU is actually doing.”

Of course, knowing which programming language is best suited to help you as a developer requires you to understand what each language is capable of and why they are typically used.

The following resources will give you an overview of how different programming languages are used, their strengths and weaknesses, and which programming languages are the most popular and why. Use them to teach yourself about the programming languages available and, more importantly for new learners, use coding to do something you enjoy.

As the other Stack Overflow cofounder Jeff Atwood wrote: “I didn’t become a programmer because someone told me learning to code was important; I became a programmer because I wanted to change the rules of the video games I was playing, and learning to code was the only way to do that. Along the way, I too fell in love.” — Nick Heath

SEE: Python is eating the world: How one developer’s side project became the hottest programming language on the planet (cover story PDF) (TechRepublic)    

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