How To Choose A Coding Language? - or not!


One of the first questions we hear from parents who want to start using coding with their kids is "What coding language is this?" often followed by some version of "Is that the one I want my kids to know?" 

It's a valid question. Nobody wants to learn useless coding! On the other hand, we at Let's Start Coding don't think it's one of the first questions to ask. In this blog post, I'll lay out why language choice is less important than you may think for total coding beginners. 



LANGUAGES UPON LANGUAGES UPON LANGUAGES....


If you search Wikipedia for "List of Programming Languages", you'll find this page and hundreds of programming languages that are described as 'notable', meaning they aren't languages written as a joke and used by 5 people worldwide.

Nobody knows all of these languages. Nobody needs to. Some coding languages are extremely specialized to a certain field or function. And rather than spend all of your time researching each of these languages and trying to predict their usefulness to your beginners, you may want to look for 'most used computer programming languages'. 





FOCUS ON THE FUNDAMENTALS


If you're setting out with a specific goal in mind- a great website, a console video game, or a robot, you'll likely find that there is one language that is most common for that function. But if you're setting out to learn some basic coding and then follow your interests from there, the core fundamentals are very, very similar between these languages. Let's prove it by examining a common code structure: the 'for' loop.


THE 'FOR' LOOP Almost every coding language has a way to repeat an action a certain number of times. You may want to blink a light exactly 10 times, for example, or create 10 random numbers.  That's what the 'for' loop allows you to do. I found a list of the most used programming languages in 2017 and then looked up the specific syntax for each language to run a command 499 times. The command is not important; what we're demonstrating is that the structure of each of these 'for' loops is similar and often exactly the same! Take a look at the list of programming languages and the format for a 'for' loop below- no need to understand all of the code, just look at the letters, punctuation, and formatting.


C++ for(int i=0; i<500; i++) { }

Objective C for(int i=0; i<500; i++) { }

Javascript for(var i=0; i<500; i++) { } Java for(int i=0; i<500; i++) { } Swift for i in 0..<500 { }

Python for i in range(0, 500): C for(int i=0; i<500; i++) { } PHP for($i=0; $i<500; $i++) { } Ruby for i in 0..499 end Golang for i :=0; i<500; i++ { }


Therefore, once a coder understands the purpose of a 'for' loop and when to use it, they could easily make the leap between languages. So, if language isn't the first consideration for someone who wants to learn code, what is?


ENGAGEMENT AND SUPPORT


Especially when teaching kids to code, engagement is critical. It's not likely that a task like manipulating lists of fake customer data is going to keep them interested in learning to code.

A support structure is important to a beginner having a solid learning experience. Without guidance, students can get lost in the huge body of knowledge around coding. How should concepts be sequenced? What are the real-world examples of code in action? A structured learning experience helps answer those questions.




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