Many beginners worry that learning a programming language is too difficult. However, most can master coding with time, determination, and the right resources.
Many factors shape how hard learners find coding. Some languages prioritize straightforward commands, while others use dense syntax. And some languages come with many more learning resources than others. A little research before choosing a first programming language can help set beginners up for success.
What makes certain programming languages hard? And what are the best beginner programming languages? We'll walk through everything you need to know before learning to code.
How hard is it to learn coding?
Is coding hard? For many learners, it's easy to start coding but hard to master a programming language. That's because many learners hit a wall at some point in their studies.
Coding is easy to start
It's easier than ever before for beginners to start learning coding. In fact, many coding programs teach basic coding skills to elementary school children. Gaining foundational coding knowledge early makes it easier to master programming languages later.
Beginner programming languages help all ages start learning coding. Straightforward languages like HTML and CSS strengthen basic coding skills. This prepares learners for more advanced languages.
Beginners also benefit from diverse learning resources. Free guided tutorials, gamified learning platforms, and e-learning bundles train beginners. So do coding bootcamps and college programs.
With so many options, learners can find a style that works for them.
Coding mastery is harder
Learning a programming language is like learning a foreign language.
As a beginner, looking at a long line of code can feel overwhelming, like picking up a book written in another language. But starting small and setting realistic goals helps beginners learn programming languages. The same outlook also helps intermediate coders build advanced skills.
Why is coding so hard? Well, many learners struggle with the transition from following tutorials to creating their own code. The learning curve can feel steep. You need the ability to find troubleshooting resources and choose the right skill for the challenge.
Debugging also makes coding challenging. When speaking a foreign language, listeners can often understand you even with a few grammar errors. Computers are less forgiving. Identifying errors and correcting them takes patience and practice. Many beginners find themselves frustrated with the trial-and-error of testing fixes.
Finally, some programming languages rely on unintuitive concepts. Object-oriented programming languages, for example, define objects very differently from our common understanding.
What makes a programming language "hard"?
Is coding hard to learn? It depends. Every programming language can pose challenges for learners, and some programmers find certain languages more intuitive.
Still, certain factors make it easier or harder to learn a programming language. An obscure language with few resources and complicated syntax can challenge even experienced programmers.
Availability of resources
More popular programming languages often come with extensive learning resources.
Beginners and experienced programmers might post questions on forums, share strategies, and support each other. Popular languages also come with free online tutorials, YouTube videos, and classes dedicated to learning to code.
On the other hand, resources for some programming languages are sparse. Very old or very new programming languages often offer less support. Extremely specialized languages also tend to lack resources.
High-level vs. low-level
Programming languages fall into two categories: high-level or low-level. A low-level language operates closer to the computer hardware and machine code. That can make it harder for programmers to interpret.
In contrast, a high-level language prioritizes clearer language for the user versus the computer.
Which is harder? Some programmers find it faster to program in low-level languages. But many beginners find low-level languages more difficult to master.
A high-level language, like Python, uses English-language commands that make it easier for people to write or interpret code. The C languages are often classified as low-level.
Programmers use syntax to tell computers how to interpret code. And different programming languages use different syntax.
Some prioritize straightforward syntax that uses predictable commands. Others require much more complex syntax.
Take Python vs. C++, for example. Many programmers classify Python as an easy language and C++ as a hard language. That's in part because of their syntax. To tell the computer to output the phrase "Hello, world!" in Python, programmers use the following code:
print "Hello, world!"
In C++, that same command looks like this:
std::cout << "Hello, world!
Syntax matters a great deal. Computers cannot run programs with incorrect syntax -- or even a typo in a command. During the debugging process, programmers must identify and correct syntax errors.
Robustness goes hand-in-hand with syntax. Programs written in a robust language can run with some user errors. They also interpret what the programmer wants. Less robust languages require every step spelled out. PHP, for example, can keep running even with a bug or two, while other languages require intensive debugging.
Similarly, many high-level languages have automatic memory management, while others require programmers to manually allocate memory. Beginners often find robust programming languages easier to learn.
Easier programming languages
So, is computer programming hard? It can be, but starting with the right programming language makes the process easier.
Rather than jumping into a difficult programming language, starting with one of the most straightforward, easiest coding languages makes the process smoother for beginners.
HyperText Markup Language (HTML)
Every website uses HTML, making it a versatile language for front-end web developers, web designers, and bloggers. And learners can pick up the basics of HTML in a matter of days.
Not a formal programming language, HTML acts as a markup language. Programmers use HTML to shape text on websites, often hand-in-hand with CSS.
PHP developer ranks among the fastest growing entry-level tech jobs. And PHP, a server-side code that runs popular websites like WordPress and Wikipedia, brings a flexible syntax that beginners can master.
As a well-established language, PHP also has a wealth of learning resources.
A versatile language with a reputation for beginner-friendliness, Python also ranks among the most used programming languages. Programmers turn to Python for data analytics, back-end development, and app development.
Its straightforward syntax makes Python easier to learn, particularly for current programmers. Learners also benefit from many free and paid Python courses.
Harder programming languages
Some programming languages have a reputation as challenging. But many of the most challenging programming languages pay off in their diverse applications.
Everything from video games to self-driving cars rely on C++. But it also ranks among the hardest programming languages to learn.
C++ is a powerful, complex language that can take years to master. Programmers need to write more code to accomplish tasks that other languages automate. Still, thanks to its applications, the popularity of C++ continues to grow.
COW (and other esoteric languages)
COW, a language with only 12 commands, falls into the category of esoteric languages. Also called esolangs, these programming languages are deliberately impractical. Programmers develop these languages to challenge themselves or as a joke.
Understanding esolangs requires a strong foundation in programming, so some programmers see them as art or use them to show off their skills.
Developed in the 1950s as one of the first programming languages, LISP is still in use. Today, programmers rely on LISP for artificial intelligence research.
The language's syntax looks different from many of the more recent languages, which can make it harder to pick up. LISP has many dialects, including Scheme, Clojure, and Racket.
You can teach yourself coding with online tutorials, classes, and free resources. Learners also study coding through bootcamps and degree-granting programs.
Before learning coding, you might wonder "Is programming hard?" or "How hard is it to learn coding?" The answers depend on the programming language, your technical aptitude, and the teaching format.
It's easy to feel frustrated or wonder why coding is so hard if you're teaching yourself to code. Some learners find self-taught coding lessons difficult and prefer the structure of classes or bootcamps.