A lot of people say “the hardest programming language is your first,” yeah, that can be true for the first few days, but there are some that can remain the toughest programming language for a long time.
Ranking programming languages by their learning difficulty can be subjective, as it often depends on the learner’s background, familiarity with programming concepts, and the specific challenges they find most daunting. However, based on a general consensus regarding syntax complexity and conceptual difficulty, here’s an attempt to rank the list of 30 programming languages from easy to hard to learn:
Beginner-Friendly: Easiest to Learn
The easy to learn languages listed here are considered the most accessible for beginners, offering a gentle introduction to the concepts of programming without overwhelming newcomers with complexity.
HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) are the backbone of the web. HTML is used to structure content on the web, allowing you to define elements such as headings, paragraphs, and links. CSS, on the other hand, is used to style these elements, controlling layout, colors, and fonts. Together, they form the foundation of web development, making them essential for anyone looking to create websites. They are not programming languages in the traditional sense, as they don’t contain logic or algorithms, but they are crucial for understanding web development.
Python is one of the most in-demand and easiest programming languages to learn right now. It is celebrated for its straightforward syntax that resembles natural language, making it an excellent choice for beginners. It’s a versatile language used in web development, data analysis, artificial intelligence, scientific computing, and more. Python’s syntax is designed to be readable and clean, which helps beginners focus on learning programming concepts rather than getting bogged down by complex syntax rules.
Ruby is known for its elegant syntax that prioritizes simplicity and productivity. It’s the language behind the powerful Ruby on Rails framework, which simplifies web development by making it faster and more enjoyable. Ruby’s philosophy of “Convention over Configuration” means that it automates many tasks, allowing beginners to build web applications without getting overwhelmed by the details.
PHP is a server-side scripting language that’s embedded in HTML to add functionality to web pages. It’s widely used for developing dynamic web content and is the language behind popular content management systems like WordPress. PHP’s syntax is straightforward, and it offers extensive documentation and a supportive community, making it a friendly option for newcomers.
6. Go (Golang)
Developed by Google, Go is known for its simplicity and efficiency, designed to handle modern computing challenges such as multicore processing and networked systems. Go’s syntax is clean and accessible, and it incorporates features like garbage collection and concurrent programming models, which are usually advanced topics, in a way that’s approachable for beginners.
Swift is Apple’s programming language for iOS and macOS application development. It’s designed to be both powerful and easy to learn, with a syntax that’s concise yet expressive. Swift eliminates many of the security vulnerabilities associated with its predecessor, Objective-C, making it a safer and more reliable option for beginners interested in developing apps for Apple devices.
Kotlin is a rising modern programming language that runs on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM), making it fully interoperable with Java. Developed by JetBrains, it’s officially supported by Google for Android app development. Kotlin’s syntax is more concise than Java’s, reducing the amount of boilerplate code developers have to write. Its safety features, such as nullability checks, make it a great choice for beginners looking to develop Android apps without the complexity of Java.
Dart is a client-optimized language developed by Google for fast apps on any platform. It’s the programming language behind Flutter, Google’s UI toolkit for building natively compiled applications for mobile, web, and desktop from a single codebase. Dart is designed to offer a smooth learning curve with features like hot reload, which allows developers to see the immediate effect of changes in their code, making the development process more intuitive and enjoyable for beginners.
Intermediate: Moderate Difficulty
These languages, while not as straightforward as those designed with beginners in mind, provide a rich set of features that cater to a wide range of applications. Let’s delve into the intermediate tier, where the learning curve starts to steepen yet remains approachable for those with a foundational understanding of programming concepts.
Java is a stalwart in the world of programming, renowned for its “Write Once, Run Anywhere” (WORA) capability. This object-oriented language has been a bedrock for enterprise-level applications, Android app development, and large systems. Java’s strength lies in its robust standard libraries and the JVM (Java Virtual Machine), which ensures Java applications can run on any device that supports Java. While its syntax and concepts, such as classes, inheritance, and interfaces, require a bit more effort to master, the payoff is significant in terms of career opportunities and application versatility.
C#, pronounced as “C Sharp,” is a modern, object-oriented language developed by Microsoft. It forms a cornerstone of the .NET framework, making it the go-to language for developing Windows applications, web services, and even games with Unity. C# offers a blend of power and productivity, with features like LINQ (Language Integrated Query) and async/await for asynchronous programming. Its similarity to Java in terms of syntax and concepts makes it accessible to those familiar with Java, though learning its unique features and the .NET ecosystem can present a moderate challenge.
Rust is a language that prioritizes safety, speed, and concurrency without requiring a garbage collector. It’s designed to provide memory safety by using a system of ownership with zero-cost abstractions. Rust’s learning curve comes from its unique approach to managing resources, where the compiler enforces rules to ensure safety at compile time. This results in a steeper learning curve but offers rewards in the form of efficient and reliable software that’s less prone to common bugs like memory leaks.
Lua is a lightweight, high-level scripting language known for its speed, simplicity, and embeddability. It’s widely used in game development, web servers, and as a scripting language within applications. Lua’s syntax is straightforward, making it accessible to those with basic programming knowledge. However, its primary use case as an embedded language means learners will often need to understand the host application’s API and how Lua interacts with it, adding a layer of complexity.
Perl was once a dominant force in scripting, text processing, and web development, celebrated for its flexibility and the motto “There’s more than one way to do it.” Its strength lies in text manipulation capabilities and CPAN (Comprehensive Perl Archive Network), a vast repository of modules. The learning curve in Perl comes from its syntax and “TMTOWTDI” philosophy, which, while offering flexibility, can lead to complex and hard-to-read code. Mastering Perl requires understanding its nuances and how to use its flexibility wisely.
Groovy is a dynamic language for the Java platform that integrates seamlessly with Java itself. It enhances the Java ecosystem with features like scripting capabilities, Domain-Specific Language (DSL) support, and a concise syntax. Groovy’s learning curve is moderate for those already familiar with Java, as it builds on Java’s strengths while offering additional simplifications and capabilities. Learning Groovy involves understanding its dynamic features and how it can be used to write more expressive and concise code compared to Java.
R is a specialized language designed for statistical computing and graphics. It’s the go-to language for statisticians, data analysts, and researchers for data analysis, visualization, and statistical modeling. R’s syntax and data structures, such as vectors, lists, and data frames, are tailored for data manipulation and analysis tasks. The moderate difficulty in learning R stems from its unique programming paradigm focused on data analysis and the need to become proficient in specific packages for data visualization and statistical modeling.
Advanced: Challenging to Master
These hard to learn languages often require a solid understanding of programming concepts and a readiness to tackle more complex or abstract ideas.
C++ is a language that builds on the foundation laid by C, introducing object-oriented features that enable more complex and organized code structures. It’s renowned for its use in developing high-performance applications, from game engines to desktop apps and even operating systems. The challenge in learning C++ lies in its intricate syntax, the necessity to manage memory manually, and understanding the nuances of object-oriented and template programming. Despite these hurdles, mastering C++ opens up a world of possibilities in software development, offering both speed and flexibility.
C is the progenitor of many modern programming languages and serves as the backbone of operating systems like Unix and Windows. It’s a low-level language that offers direct manipulation of hardware, efficient execution, and a minimal runtime. Learning C requires grappling with pointers, memory allocation, and manual resource management, which can be daunting for beginners. However, the payoff is a deep understanding of how software interacts with hardware, a knowledge invaluable for system-level programming and embedded systems development.
Scala is a modern programming language that seamlessly integrates features of object-oriented and functional programming paradigms. It runs on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and is compatible with Java libraries, offering a bridge to a vast ecosystem. Scala’s challenge lies in its sophisticated type of system and is required to fully leverage its functional programming aspects. For developers looking to write concise, robust, and scalable code, Scala provides a rich set of tools and abstractions that encourage a more mathematical approach to coding.
F# is a functional-first programming language that also supports imperative and object-oriented programming. It’s part of the .NET framework, making it a powerful choice for developing everything from enterprise applications to data analysis tools. F# introduces concepts like immutability, first-class functions, and type inference, which can be unfamiliar to those used to imperative languages. The beauty of F# lies in its ability to express complex ideas succinctly and its strong support for parallel programming, making it a go-to for tasks requiring high performance and reliability.
OCaml is a functional programming language that offers a great mix of expressiveness, performance, and practicality. It supports imperative and object-oriented programming, but its functional nature is where it truly shines, encouraging a style of programming that minimizes side effects. Learning OCaml can be challenging due to its type system and the functional programming paradigm, which may require a significant shift in thinking for those accustomed to more traditional languages. However, its power in algorithm development, data analysis, and the creation of reliable, efficient code makes it a valuable addition to a programmer’s toolkit.
Clojure is a modern dialect of Lisp, designed for concurrency and functional programming. It runs on the JVM, allowing seamless integration with Java libraries, and offers a dynamic and interactive development experience. Clojure’s syntax and programming model, centered around immutable data structures and a rich set of functional programming constructs, can be a hurdle for newcomers. Yet, its approach to state management and emphasis on simplicity and expressiveness make it an excellent tool for tackling complex problems, particularly in the domain of web development and data processing.
Haskell is a purely functional programming language known for its strong static type system and lazy evaluation. It encourages a different way of thinking about programs, focusing on functions and their composition. Haskell’s learning curve is steep, primarily due to concepts like monads, functors, and typeclasses, which can be abstract and challenging to grasp at first. However, mastering Haskell offers profound insights into functional programming, making it easier to write bug-free, maintainable, and elegant code.
Expert: Most Difficult to Learn
Here lie the languages that demand not just familiarity with coding concepts but a deep understanding of the principles that govern computing itself. These languages are the hardest to learn, while challenging, unlock unparalleled precision, efficiency, and control over the digital landscape.
25. Assembly Language
Assembly language stands close to the heart of the machine. It’s the raw, powerful language of the computer’s processor, where every command corresponds directly to a machine instruction. Learning Assembly means speaking directly to the hardware, without the abstractions and comforts of higher-level languages. It offers unmatched control over system resources, allowing for highly efficient and optimized programming. However, this power comes with complexity, as programmers must manage every detail of the computer’s operations, from memory management to processor instructions. It’s a language that harks back to the dawn of computing, essential for understanding how software interacts with hardware at the most fundamental level.
Erlang is a shining example of concurrency and fault tolerance. Born in the telecoms industry, it was designed to keep systems running ceaselessly, even in the face of errors and failures. Erlang’s syntax and conventions can be unconventional to those accustomed to more mainstream languages, but its model of lightweight processes and message passing makes it incredibly powerful for building distributed systems and applications where uptime is critical. Learning Erlang opens the door to thinking about software in terms of parallel processes and robustness, a mindset shift for many developers but invaluable for certain domains.
Prolog offers a different perspective on programming, one that is declarative rather than imperative. Instead of telling the computer how to do things step by step, in Prolog, you describe what you want to achieve, and the language figures out how to get there. It’s a language grounded in formal logic, used primarily in fields like artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and knowledge representation. The leap to thinking in Prolog’s terms, to frame problems as sets of logical relations, can be substantial, making it a challenging language to master. Yet, for those who do, it unlocks powerful ways to express complex ideas succinctly and elegantly.
Elm is a modern take on front-end web development, promising no runtime errors in its applications. It’s a functional language that compels developers to think differently about building web interfaces, emphasizing purity, immutability, and a strong type system. Elm’s architecture and syntax can be a hurdle for those used to imperative and object-oriented languages, but it introduces a structured approach to web development that can significantly reduce bugs and improve the quality of web applications. Learning Elm not only challenges but also changes how developers approach front-end programming.
Julia is a high-level, high-performance language designed for technical computing. It bridges the gap between the ease of use found in scripting languages and the power of compiled languages. Julia is particularly suited for numerical analysis, computational science, and data processing, offering syntax that is accessible yet capable of performing complex mathematical operations and algorithms efficiently. The challenge in learning Julia lies in its sophisticated features designed for advanced computing tasks, making it a language that requires a solid foundation in both programming and mathematical concepts. However, for scientists, engineers, and data analysts, Julia can be a powerful tool, combining speed with usability in a way few other languages do.
MATLAB is a high-level language and interactive environment used by engineers and scientists for numerical computing, visualization, and programming. It stands out for its ability to express matrix and array mathematics directly, making it invaluable for applications in engineering, science, and mathematics. Learning MATLAB involves understanding its unique programming environment and syntax, which is designed to work seamlessly with its extensive library of built-in functions for solving technical computing problems. While it may not be a traditional programming language in the sense of building software applications, MATLAB’s specialized focus on numerical and scientific computing presents a unique set of challenges and rewards.
What makes a programming language easy or hard to learn?
This ranking of programming languages from beginner to pro is a broad generalization and might vary based on individual experiences and the specific contexts in which a language is being learned or used. Each language has its unique set of challenges and rewards, and what might be difficult for one learner could be more intuitive for another, especially depending on their prior knowledge and the projects they undertake.
There are a few complicated programming languages that are not meant for everyone. Any programming language can be easy or hard, depending on your educational background and also your limits. It mainly depends on the logic that you use in your coding to get the output and also the time you spend coding; obviously, you need the practice.
As we have already noted, the list mentioned above about programming languages’ difficulty ranking is entirely on our basis. It can be different for other people, and it ultimately depends on your mindset if you think, “Man!! This is hard” for every language. All of these languages can become your enemy. So, change this mindset and work hard. Happy coding.