What computer language should I learn first?

01 October 2015

Many times in my life some friends asked me that question because they want to discover and learn coding. It’s not easy because you want to give them something which is interesting enough to understand the basics but you also need to find the good way, the good tutorial or interactive website. It’s tempting to give them the language you like but might not be easy for them. So, for a long time I mentioned trytuby.org. This website is really well made, and the team behind it did a very good job. Even if I know nothing about Ruby.

However, with time I met a lot of developers, a lot of people with different experiences. Some of them were pure geniuses who started to code at a very young age. It made me wonder why I didn’t start coding while I was a kid. Ok, the access to the knowledge wasn’t as easy as today with internet. But even later at teen age with an internet access something was missing. It wasn’t the motivation, or hardware requirements, but understanding the tutorial language.

This particular point made me realise one thing: the first language to learn to start coding is English.

It’s the sad reality, but understanding english give you access to the entire world of developers. Nowadays, everything is on internet, this where things happen, where the community is and grow. It became obvious for us (:developers) because we live with it every day, but try to code without knowing english: bye (most of) documentations, bye stackoverflow, bye communication with (the majority of) other developers..  [I can see coming people mentioning Google translate. Let me tell you “no”. It helps for a small sentence, not an entire documentation.]

Some projects got as fundamentals to translate make their product available in every language, like Ubuntu. But their code documentation remain in English. Only few projects translate their documentation, like Mozilla who does an amazing work with MDN.

Back in time, my first books were in french. The first one to learn C++ at age 14 was in french, the eBook “Pratique d’ActionScript 3” to learn AS3 was in french, then the website to learn PHP was “Le Site du Zero” which was the most popular french one. It’s no longer a problem for me, but when I try to motivate me nephew to code, the simple paragraph in english and I loose him.

There will always be ways to learn programming in any language, but if English is your mother tongue you start with good cards.