I want to start this article by saying that choosing to learn or not learn any language due to its difficulty level is a bad start towards a career as a programmer. You’re eventually going to have to learn another language that may be harder than the “easy” language. That said, there is a solid argument for choosing a language with the most shallow learning curve. That language may make it easier for you to grasp paradigms like Object Oriented Programming, which is the bedrock of modern programming.
So, let’s define what makes a programming language easy before picking one out of a hat. These are just some parameters I came up with because at one point I wanted to learn how to program. I found that these parameters contributed towards my comprehension of programming.
What Makes A Language Easy To Learn?
An easy to learn language comes with many built-in methods. This is a bit like the batteries included deal you get with toys. As someone new to programming in general, you’d want the language to have the function required to complete a certain task rather than having to install a package or come up with a function of your own.
An easy to learn language isn’t mangled by rules and syntactic nuances. What scares many people off is seeing strings of curly braces and semicolons and thinking, well, how am I ever going to be able to read that, more or less write it?
An easy to learn language doesn’t have amorphous functions. At the end of the day, functions are the bread and butter of programming languages. The name says it all. Apps won’t function without them. So, being able to grasp functions early is crucial. Some languages make learning functions simple because the way in which you write these functions rarely changes. Other programming languages have circus functions that differ according to context.
An easy to learn language has a powerful framework. At some point during your learning process, you’re going to want to make either a web app to test your skills or some basic software. That language should have a framework with documentation that will allow you to transfer your fledgling skills to said framework. At the same time, you don’t want to be drowned by frameworks. You want to be able to choose one and go without a second thought. This process is supposed to be easy, right?
What Is The Easiest Language To Learn?
Ruby is arguably the easiest language to learn. If we combine all the factors that make a language easy to learn, you’ll realize that Ruby has one of the best communities out there. RubyGems is an excellent package manager. Unlike npm, it’s not bloated. You only have to specify the gems you want to use in a .Gemfile and install the corresponding “gems.”
The Ruby community is unique in that its origin was humble prior to the explosion of Ruby on Rails. David A. Black, the author of The Well Grounded Rubyists, said in regards to the early Ruby community, “The Pickaxe was the first English-language book on Ruby (there were already many books in Japanese), and the Ruby community outside of Japan was small enough that it was possible to get to know people easily through the English-language mailing lists and forums — on which, I should add, many Japanese Rubyists, including Matz, participated regularly.”
If you’re wondering who Matz(Yukihiro Matsumoto) is, he’s the chief designer of Ruby. Black went on to say in the interview when responding to what his favorite feature of Ruby was, “It sounds corny but my favorite “feature” is the community. I’m less entwined in it than I used to be, but over the years it has been a great source of support, friendship, and inspiration.”
That community extends to the extensive and well-organized Ruby docs. Anything you need to know about a particular method or function is there in the docs. Because Ruby has so many built in methods, you don’t need to install too many gems to perform tasks. Solving a particular problem is simply easier in Ruby because you don’t need to search for a clever workaround.
Syntactically, Ruby is one of the easiest to read languages. Compare it to a language like C++ and Ruby looks like some type of pseudocode. Function are called methods in Ruby and simply need the def keyword prepended to the name you want to give to your method. No curly braces required.
Finally, Ruby on Rails is a renowned framework. Not many other languages got propelled to fame like Ruby did because of a framework. Actually, you can’t go very long talking about Ruby without having Rails mentioned. The reason for this is that Rails turns you into a wizard, figuratively speaking; you can set up a functioning blog site with a few commands.
This is made possible due to the fact that the Ruby language allows its more skilled developers to create domain specific languages(DSLs) using the Ruby programming language. What this does for beginners is that a language that was already easy to understand becomes even easier to use because you have new abstractions that don’t require you to dig deeper.
This isn’t necessarily a good thing, but you can see how it’s much easier to feel competent with Ruby. While others might have to learn a bit of SQL to query a database, you simply need to learn Ruby’s much easier plug-and-play version called Active Record.
In The End
Choose whatever language gets you to accomplish your goal. If you just want to learn a language to show off your skills to friends and family, then choosing the easiest language to learn may be the way to go. Like the “bad” programming language question, the easiest programming language to learn boils down to what you want to do with the language in the first place.
Do you want to be a systems programmer?
Then, perhaps, Go might be the easiest language to learn just because the pool for systems programming languages is vastly different. It will be interesting to hear what others think the easiest programming language to learn is since “programming language” means different things to different people. I asked this question in an open forum and got, Brainf***, Scratch, SQL, and Java(?).