Simply put, a programming language is a form of communication — between machines and geeks. Just like human languages, it has rules, grammar, pronunciation, and even scripts. Including dialects, accents, and esoteric ones, there are thousands of programming languages currently in use. Thankfully, you don’t need to know them all. We’ve parsed the most notable ones to identify the best programming language to learn in 2020.

Best programming language to learn

Python programming language

Python is a 30-year-old general-purpose object-oriented programming language. Its core philosophy invites programmers to make code beautiful, explicit, simple, readable (and complex, only when necessary). 

Why Python?

By intent, Python is an easy-to-learn language — it’s like ‘coding in English’. With its focus on readability, whitespace and English keywords as punctuation, Python is easily comprehensible for even the amateur programmer. Its syntax and semantics are easy to grasp. It’s ‘one way to do it’ approach makes it easier to collaborate with and work on large-scale projects.

It is also easy to use. It would take fewer actions for a programmer to code a plugin on Python, as compared to, say, Java or C++. There is also a vast global community of Python programmers who contribute regularly to the thousands of open-source libraries available — this includes pioneering engineering teams from Netflix, Instagram, etc. Python is also highly integrable — across Django, Flask, Tensorflow, Scikit-Learn and more.

What is Python used for?

The language has long been used for server-side programming and building web and desktop applications. But recently, Python is a great hit among data scientists and machine learning engineers. Across web mining, chatbots, sentiment analysis, quantitative trading, performance forecasting, Python is turning out to be a versatile multi-purpose language in the machine learning space.

R programming language

R is a statistical computing language. It is popularly used through the command prompt, but there are also graphical user interfaces for programmers comfortable with GUI-based coding.

Why R?

Built primarily for statistical computing, R is platform-independent and machine-independent — it works seamlessly across operating systems. It is easy to debug errors in code. It is easily extendable — one can work with R objects even by writing code in other languages such as Python, Java, C, etc. There are over 10,000 packages in repositories, and hundreds of graphical libraries, for programmers to leverage.

The vibrant R community comes together to help programmers write code, solve problems, and take the language forward.

What is R used for?

R is used by data scientists, statisticians and data analysts in data mining, statistical modeling, time-series analysis, classification, clustering, etc. R is also highly popular in data visualization, due to its graphics capabilities. 

Java

Built with the philosophy to ‘write once run anywhere’, Java is a class-based, object-oriented general-purpose programming language. 

Why Java?

Java is among the most popular programming languages, millions of programmers across enterprises and startups, using it for various purposes. It is robust and stable, making it suitable for high-performance applications; as well as secure and trusted for server-side applications. Even though its syntax is similar to C/C++, Java is easier to learn and manage.

What is Java used for?

Programmers traditionally use Java for desktop apps and backend development. In the last decade, with Android Studio, Java has also been the preferred language prowess to create functional programs that have also made it popular among mobile application development, especially among Android developers. 

JavaScript

If you’ve been on the world wide web, you’d have heard of JavaScript. It is a high-level, just-in-time compiled, object-oriented programming language.

Why JavaScript?

As it runs within the browser, and not compiled, JavaScript is fast, flexible and compatible with most browsers today. With regular updates and improved data validation capabilities, JS is secure. It is highly compatible with other languages — making it a great front-end development tool for any back-end development structure. 

What is JavaScript used for?

Primarily front-end development — several big-tech companies, including Netflix, Uber, etc., use JavaScript to build dynamic web pages for their applications. It is used to build visualizations, animations and multimedia objects. More recently, programmers adept with JS are also bringing it to develop machine learning algorithms as well.

Swift 

Swift is a general-purpose, multi-paradigm, compiled programming language developed by Apple for their ecosystem. 

Why Swift?

As a language developed by Apple, the company is actively promoting its use for applications in its ecosystem — not just for iOS and macOS, but also the iPad, iWatch, Linux and z/OS. In fact, over 40% of iOS apps are already using Swift, and this will only grow.

Apple also makes it easy to learn Swift with the Swift Playground, a fun, interactive and gamified way to learn the language, even for those who have zero coding skills. For any application developer in the Apple ecosystem, learning Swift will become a necessity in 2020.

Up and coming languages

In addition to these, surveys show that programmers worldwide are adopting newer, faster, more secure, perhaps even better languages for programming. As Android’s preferred language, Kotlin combines object-oriented and functional programming for a more versatile coding experience. Go (or Golang), managed and maintained by Google, is gaining popularity for its performance and efficiency, and game development capabilities. Typescript, developed by Microsoft, is extending the capabilities of JavaScript, attracting programmers with its documentation and toolbox.

In 2020, it is important for a programmer to be multi-skilled, adaptable and flexible — and that begins with being a polyglot. Based on where you want to drive your career, pick a language that’s going to serve you well. If you’re building web applications, master Java and JavaScript. If you develop for the Apple ecosystem, learn Swift. If you’re interested in machine learning or artificial intelligence, choose Python programming language. If you’re interested in statistics/analytics, choose R programming language. If you’re interested in a career in data science or analytics, check out Springboard Data Science Career Track that offers 1:1 mentoring-led, project-driven programs, which include practical application of Python and R.