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How Many Programming Languages Should I Know

By Shane Staret on 2017-07-14

If you are a programmer, you may have heard the saying, “once you have learned one language, you have practically learned them all.” While this is true to some extent, learning one language definitely means that you only know that one. Learning other programming language’s syntax can be difficult but typically you use the same logic to complete a specific task. So, really the saying should be, “once you have learned how to think like a programmer, you never go back”.


Some languages are incredibly similar to others (like Java and C++) while others are very different, like Ruby, Python and Javascript. The only thing that makes these things truly different (from a programming perspective) is what they are capable of. Object-oriented languages are different from scripting languages which are different from embedded languages which are different from every other type. Now, having good knowledge of only one language can only get so far, however, having great knowledge of at least one of every type of language would make you the best programmer in the world.

Within each type, there are similarities with how variables, functions, classes, and libraries are handled, and in some languages, none of these are used. Some languages are also of a “higher” level than others, which basically means that the programmer needs to do less to actually get the result they want. For example, assembly language is very low level, as you are directly dealing with the registers and memory within the computer. But a higher level language like Java, is a whole lot different, as there are many layers of abstraction so that the programmer does not have to worry about where they are storing their data, rather they just have to worry about the bigger picture. This is why high-level languages are so much more popular than lower-level languages, as they save you time and energy while also making things easier for the programmer.

In reality, the number of languages that you should know depends on what you want to do as a programmer. Do you strictly want to stick to the web? Then, you should probably know at least 4 languages (or 2 if you don’t count HTML and CSS). One is JavaScript, which allows you to program the actual behavior of a webpage, and another would have to be a language that specializes in creating databases, like SQL. But if you want to create an iPhone App, then HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are most likely useless to you. In fact, all you really need to know to start creating an iPhone app is Swift. Of course, having some backend knowledge would help immensely with creating a great iPhone application, however, it is not necessary. Most people specialize in one area, either being an app developer, software engineer, game developer, devops developer,  web developer etc. Languages cross between these fields often, however, if you are a game developer, there is no reason for you to also know JavaScript.

So how many languages should you know? It all depends on what kind of programmer you want to be. Want to stick strictly to frontend web development? Well, if you just like designing the web pages, be prepared to find a backend developer who knows how to handle databases. Want to do it all by yourself? Learn both frontend and backend languages, and become a full-stack developer.

If there is one thing that you take away from this though, is that you should only learn one language of each type most of the time. For example, you really are not doing yourself any favors by learning Java and C++ as both have virtually the same exact functionality.

 

Programming Languages and Resources for Web Developers
The easiest way to learn coding is via web design programming. You should lean coding languages that are in use by millions of sites. HTML, CSS (or HTML5 & CSS3) PHP, MySQL, JavaScript (or JS frameworks like jQuery, Angular, React, Node, or Express) or MongoDB, Apache, Ruby on Rails, and Linux are all related to web design coding. For beginners interested in learning more about web design and development, here are a list of step-by-step training guide articles: i- Become CMS specialist, ii- Become front-end specialist, iii- Become expert SQL developer, iv- Become expert PHP developer


Discussed coding languages are well suited for those interested in pursuing a career in web design and development; however, other options are mobile App design and development, system admin and software engineering. It is advisable to consult with an IT counselor to understand what options best fits your skills. For instance, if you want to be a software engineer, learning HTML and CSS might not fit the bill. Here is an excellent article for learning more on coding and technology career roadmap. Once you know what career path you wish to pursue, you can make a plan on what, when, and how to learn. There are lots of online resources for learning coding and technology in general. For teenagers and high school students, High School Technology Services offers variety of hands-on training. For adults and professionals, Coding Bootcamps and DC Web Makers Companies offer basic to advance project-based programming and technology classes.

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