Best programming languages to learn on your own time

With thousands of programming languages out there, it can be daunting to find a language to start with and a good course that assumes no prior knowledge. This post highlights programming languages that are good for beginning programmers and some resources to get started.


With thousands of programming languages out there, it can be daunting to find a language to start with and a good course that assumes no prior knowledge. Especially if you are someone who is busy and wants to learn on their own time and don't have the flexibility to take an in-person class, getting started with programming can be difficult. This post highlights programming languages that are good for beginning programmers and some resources to get started.

For those with no experience

These courses have been designed for people who have little or no programming experience.


C is one of the most widely used programming languages and often used as an introduction to programming. It has influenced many languages that came after it, and knowledge of C will make learning later languages, such as Objective-C (used by Apple), easier. It influences many later languages you could want to learn, so starting with C will give you a deeper understanding of how computers work.


Java is a higher level language which is designed to be compatible with any operating system. It has similar syntax to C and C++. It's a great programming language to start with because it is widely used and practical, however it won't give you as deep of an understanding of computer operation as a lower level language like C will.


C++ bridges the gap between a language like C and Java as it has features of both low-level and high-level languages. It's another commonly used language that has a wide range of uses and compatibility. It's based off of C and adds object-oriented features. It has also influenced many other languages such as C# and Java.


Python is a language that was designed with human readability in mind. Because of this, it doesn't take as much code to execute programs as other languages. It's a great, easy way to learn recurring concepts in computer science and has real world use in the creation of scripts.


Ruby has similar function to Python but is less readable. It's more object-oriented than Python and is similarly designed with simplicity in mind. It has many applications, but is most often used for web applications.


HTML and CSS are used for webpage design. While these languages won't really help pave the way for learning more traditional programming languages, they are essential for webpage design. HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is a "markup language" which allows you to put content into a webpage whereas CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), is used to format and define the layout of a page.

MIT App Inventor for Android

If you aren't interested in programming as a profession (at least at the moment) it may be worth looking at using the MIT App Inventor for Android. It requires no coding, but will teach you how programmers think and provide knowledge on some concepts in computing. Plus, you'll end up being able to make Android apps once you've mastered it!

What's next?

If you already have knowledge of another programming language then these are great follow-up languages.


C# is primarily used for Windows applications in the .NET Framework. Learning C# is easy if you have experience in C, C++, or Java. The syntax is similar. It's popularity has been increasing as C# is used for third-party apps on Windows 8 or Windows Phone.


Objective-C is primarily used for Apple's operating systems, OSX (for Macs) and iOS (for iPhone and iPad). If you are looking to develop for Mac, Objective-C is the way to go. Apple provides lots of support for learning Objective-C through their developer program.


Javascript (little relation to Java) is a common language used to make webpages more dynamic. With a syntax similar to C, it doesn't require a lot of effort to set up as it's built into web browsers. It's also used in other applications such as PDFs.


PHP is another language often used for web development, although it works well as a general-purpose language as well. PHP can be implemented directly into HTML. Those looking to learn PHP should already know HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

Where to learn online?

If you are just beginning to learn, we recommend that you stick to one language until you are extremely comfortable with it. Once you've picked a language, check out these resources to find courses:


OpenSesame is a corporate elearning course seller that hosts content from a variety of sellers. It's the best option if you would like to have your employees learn and track them through your own learning management system. If you are an individual however, they allow for the purchase of single licenses and a learning management system is not required. They offer courses in all the languages listed on this page and more from InfiniteSkills,, Webucator, Stone River, Compuworks, Pearson and more.


CodeAcademy offers free in-browser courses that require little set-up and is very user-friendly. The courses are very interactive and offer courses in Javascript, jQuery, PHP, Python and Ruby.


TreeHouse is a paid service ($25-$49/month) that allows you to take courses in HTML, CSS, jQuery, JavaScript, Ruby, Ruby on Rails, WordPress, PHP, iOS and Android. Similar to CodeAcademy, it focuses on interactivity and allows you to learn in the browser.

Online college courses

Many free online college courses are also available. Some of them are only available for a certain amount of time or require you to stay at the pace of the course, among other things, so they may not be for everyone. To see if the language you want to learn is offered, check out Udacity or Coursera.

Daniel Chen is a marketing intern at OpenSesame, the world's largest marketplace for buying and selling corporate elearning courses. He is currently a sophomore at Dartmouth College.

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