Between Java and Python, which one is better to learn first and why?

Written by Alex Preiss on July 12, 2019

There is a debate among established programmers as to the easiest language for novice coders to learn. While most languages share the same fundamental concepts, there are some important differences that should be considered, particularly between Java and Python which are among the most popular.

Python is widely adopted as a first language because of its relatively simple syntax which is based closely on the English language. This means non-programmers can often make sense of a simple script. The Python community is huge and is host to a massive number of libraries that function across many different disciplines and sciences. It is often considered the ‘Swiss-army knife’ of programming, and can be utilised with a minimal understanding of core programming concepts.

Java on the other hand, is considered to be far less user-friendly and requires a tighter grasp of core programming concepts before achieving any meaningful output. Java uses ‘strict’ typing – meaning that the user needs to be precise in their commands and error feedback can often be ambiguous to newcomers. Those who learn with strict programming languages usually have a tougher time learning, but likely end up with a better understanding of core fundamentals. This is unlike Python which will get the job done without necessarily requiring an-depth understanding.

Generally, Java is compiled within an IDE (or integrated development environment), which itself may take some time to become familiar with. Furthermore, Java is mostly used for standalone and web applications i.e mobile Android based games. Python on the other hand is often used for different purposes. 

The learner should familiarise themselves with the basic properties of each language before choosing which one to start with. Both languages have clear advantages and disadvantages as learning tools. The key to becoming proficient in any programming language is regular practice, and this is best attained by working projects the learner enjoys. With that in mind, the best programming language to learn with is that which will be the most enjoyable. Therefore the decision should be made based on the kind of software the learner will be interested in building.