When taking coding classes for kids, many people are overwhelmed by the many programming languages available to learn. Because each language has its own uses and syntax, it’s important to make the right choice when deciding what language to learn. Almost everyone has their own opinions on which language is best depending on what they use it for, but in this article, we’re going to be exploring more about the complexity and uses of each language to figure out which is best for you!
What are Programming Languages?
Before we get into the specifics of each language, it’s important to understand what exactly programming languages are. Programming languages are the way that people can interact with the computer. Each language has specific syntax or “rules” that make it unique. In short, they allow people to type code, which is later converted to binary (a series of ones and zeroes) for the computer to understand. Python, C++, and Java are only three of the hundreds of languages available to learn, but they are some of the most commonly used and have many applications.
One of the main points of comparison for these three languages is their complexity. Python, Java, and C++ are high-level programming languages, meaning that they are simple for people to understand. Note: C++ has recently been becoming more known as a low-level language compared to more modern languages as it does not have some of the capabilities of some more recent languages. However, it is still a very powerful and commonly used language.
Although none of the languages are classified as completely object-oriented, they are considered semi object-oriented languages. They all support object-oriented programming, meaning that the code is divided into reusable, simplified pieces of code called “classes”, which are then used to create “objects”- specific examples within the class. Each language also has its own syntax. Syntax is the set of rules that the language must follow, almost like the “grammar” of the programming language. This plays another huge role in the language’s complexity, and this will be explored further below.
Here is a summary of Python’s complexity and syntax:
- Simple Syntax: When it comes to syntax, Python does not rely on semicolons and brackets, but instead uses indentation to separate lines and loops. This makes it very simple to type and understand, as there are less syntax errors due to odd numbers of brackets or missed semicolons.
- Dynamically Typed: Python is also a dynamic programming language, meaning you don’t need to define every variable’s datatype before using it. This makes it more simple than statically-typed languages like Java and C++.
- Classes: In Python, functions and variables are able to be used outside or inside of classes. This makes the code much simpler and easy for kids to understand.
- Compiling speed: One of the major factors to consider when choosing a language is its compiling speed. Python is slower than many languages because it uses an interpreter to execute code, which slows it down.
Hint: An interpreter is a program that reads and executes the code directly without using the compilation process.
Because of these factors, Python is often considered a very good option for beginners, although it may not be as powerful when it comes to some more high-performance tasks.
Now that we’ve finished an overview of Python’s complexity, let’s move on to learning about Java.
- Complex Syntax: Java has a more complex syntax than Python, as it relies on semicolons and brackets to separate functions, classes, loops, and lines of code. This leads to more possible syntax errors than a very high-level and simple language like Python, but it is still relatively user-friendly.
- Statically Typed: Unlike Python, Java is a statically typed language, meaning that each variable’s data type must be declared. This also means that the variable type cannot be changed. For example, in Python, a value could change from an integer to a string, but in Java, it needs to stay as an integer.
- Classes: Java also differs from Python and C++ when it comes to classes. In Java, every part of the code needs to be inside a class, making the code a little longer and more complex to read and understand.
- Compiling Speed: Because Java is a compiled language, it uses a compiler instead of an interpreter to run the code. Compiling is always faster than interpreting, resulting in Java being a bit faster than Python.
Although Java is a bit more complex than Python, it is still a strong and relatively beginner-friendly language, making it a great language to learn. Java is also the language
generally used for the AP Computer Science A and AP Computer Science Principles courses, making it great for anyone who plans on taking these courses and exams.
Next, it’s time to have a look at C++ and its complexity and syntax.
- Complex Syntax: C++ relies on semicolons and brackets quite heavily, making its syntax slightly more complicated than Java or Python. This leads to a higher potential of syntax errors as well.
- Statically Typed: Like Java, C++ is a statically typed language. This also contributes to its complexity and the length of the code. Code in C++ is approximately 1.5 times shorter than the same code in Java, but Python is easily the shortest, being3-4 times shorter than Java.
- Classes: The syntax for classes in C++ is similar to Python, where variables and functions can be used outside of classes.
- Compiling Speed: C++ is also a compiled language, meaning it often runs faster than interpreted languages such as Python. C++ also takes less memory than Python or Java, making it more efficient to run.
Because of how powerful C++ is and because of its fast compiling and relatively low memory usage, C++ is one of the preferred languages for the CCC or USACO coding competitions.
Solutions written in C++ often have better speed and lower storage consumption than solutions written in Java or Python
Now that we’ve covered the complexity and syntax of all three languages, it’s time to explore the uses of each language. Because they are all different, they each have advantages when it comes to specific applications, which will be explored below.
Python is a language with many uses, but the most common applications are machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI), data management, and backend web development. Python is great for machine learning and AI because it is easy to create algorithms that will gather data and make predictions based on previous results. Because Python is a relatively new language as well, it is gaining popularity within these fields.
Python is also used for data management. It’s simple to learn and makes it easy to handle large amounts of data. Within data management, Python is used for gathering and organizing data, analyzing statistics, data visualization, and making predictions based on prior results and data, making it a must-have for any data analyst.
Finally, Python is also used for backend web development. It can be used with frameworks to help speed up and simplify the web development process. Because Python is dynamically typed and simple to use, it’s perfect for backend web developers to use when they need to efficiently make web apps or webpages.
Java is used for a wide variety of projects as well, such as applications (apps) for phones and computers, backend web development. Like Python, it is used to store and manage user data, interact with APIs and libraries, and much more.
Note: APIs are connections between computers or applications that allow them to “talk” to one another. For example, weather apps make use of APIs to gather weather information for your specific location.
Backend web development deals with every part of the website that users can’t interact with, and languages such as Java are some of the most commonly used languages for developing this aspect of web development.
Java is also used for app development because its syntax and compiling speed make it efficient for creating apps, whether they be web-based or on mobile devices. Because Java can be used for object-oriented programming (OOP) and is a powerful language, it is great for developing apps. It is also a very popular programming language, which has contributed to its frequent use in developing these applications.
C++ is arguably one of the most powerful languages, and also has a very wide range of applications. It is often used for game development, app development, and embedded systems. Like Java and Python, it supports object-oriented programming and allows developers to easily create servers and functionality in their applications.
It is also used in embedded systems. Embedded systems are microprocessors with hardware and software components that work within a larger system. Some examples of this include smartwatches and medical devices and machines.
Because of its power, C++ is also used a lot in game development and is great for 3D and multiplayer games. Some popular games developed using C++ game engines are Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed.
Hint: Game engines are essentially the core software that allows the program to run and lay the foundation for the rest of the game’s code.
Overall, these examples go to show the wide range of applications for C++ and how it can be used in real-world situations.
Now that you know about the complexity and uses of C++, Java, and Python, hopefully, you have an idea of what language you would like to learn. Any of these would be great options for kids who want to learn how to code either on their own or by taking coding classes for kids ,and based on your interests and preferences you should have an easier time choosing a language to learn based on the information covered in this article.