The Programming Languages You Shouldn’t Learn

By Ed Schwarz

As the programming landscape continues to evolve, new languages emerge to replace the incumbents. Once dominant platforms shrink from prominence, and older languages are relegated to legacy status.

Given the dynamic nature of programming technology, what languages should you learn first? What languages should you avoid? While many websites focus on the “best” programming languages to learn, very few suggest which languages are best left unlearned. While there is no universal list of “Languages to Avoid,” depending upon your career goals, interests and objectives, certain languages are best ignored. There are a variety of reasons you should steer clear of certain languages, as well as factors that might dissuade you from learning a certain programming language.

Lack of Demand for Skilled Programmers

If you’re learning a new programming language to improve your job prospects, you need to consider the market for the language or platform skills. Certain niche programming languages, like Lisp or Prolog, serve very small market segments. This limits the demand for programmers with these language skills.

The Language Strengths Don’t Align With Your Interests

If you are seeking to develop web or native apps, then you would be wasting your time learning languages like VBA or Fortran. Make sure you choose a language that will allow you to do what you want to do. Learning Swift for iOS development, or Java for Android development, is a much quicker path to bringing your app idea to fruition.

The Market Is Flooded With Qualified Programmers

Because of the simplicity of some languages, there are very few barriers to becoming a programmer on those languages or platforms. Entry-level programming languages, like Python or Visual Basic, have a large pool of qualified programmers competing for available programming jobs. The abundant supply of programmers means fierce competition and lower pay for jobs requiring these skills.

Programming Language Obsolescence

Certain languages, such as BASIC or Cobol, are nearing the end of their lifecycle. Very few new development projects require proficiency with these languages, and the number of legacy systems relying on these languages continues to decrease as companies adopt new systems.

Level of Programming Proficiency

Many of today’s popular programming languages have evolved from simpler languages. If you are new to programming, it’s worth investing some time to develop a solid foundation with one or more basic programming languages before proceeding to learn more advanced languages. For example, someone with limited programming knowledge would do well to avoid JavaScript without first developing a good understanding of HTTP.

Your Skill Set Inventory

As you continue to add new programming languages to your repertoire, consider how the languages relate to each other. Some languages naturally complement each other and knowledge of complementary languages allows you to do things you couldn’t do with a single language. A good example is a web developer learning PHP, Ruby, SQL and Java. This portfolio of programming skills equips them for virtually any web development assignment. Selecting languages based on synergies results in a more valuable skill set compared to learning lots of disparate languages.

All that being said, it’s still worth pointing out that learning a new language is never a bad thing. While every language has its nuances, all programming languages have common themes. Programming logic and methods tend to carry over between languages, so learning one language will help with learning subsequent programming languages.

Before you set out to learn a new programming language, take a moment to examine your reasons for learning the language in the first place. After going over the job prospects, the demand for language proficiency, and whether or not the language is on its way out the door, you can either continue with your education or choose a different, more suitable language.

As you continue your evolution as a programmer, it’s important to be fully prepared when upgrading your language skills and adding new languages

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