How do I start with programming languages

I want to learn to program! Where do I begin?

Nowadays there are countless languages, frameworks and technologies in the programming jungle. As a newcomer, it is easy to lose track of things. At the Master21 Coding Bootcamp, we have received many inquiries from insecure beginners for a year now. We recommend first defining a clear goal and only then choosing the programming language. And last but not least: stay tuned. As soon as you are fluent in one programming language, you can learn another without great difficulty.

1. Decide on a project

Many who come to us have already tried various online tutorials, but always gave up at some point. However, if you want to stick with it, it takes more than good tutorials and discipline. It takes a specific goal in mind to stay motivated. At Master21, participants therefore work on their own project. Here are various programming project ideas from our students:

Idea 1: Choose an everyday problem that you want to solve.

Example: At a Rails Girls Event, a 2-day programming workshop, a participant had the problem of downloading payslips as PDFs and manually renaming them every month. By writing 20 lines of Ruby Code with her coach, she automated the repetitive task and henceforth saves several hours of work every month.

Idea 2: program the 1st version yourself (it doesn't have to be pretty)

If you have a business idea, build the first, minimal version yourself. It could take years to find a developer, as the example of David Crowley, founder of Foursquare shows. For three to four years he looked in vain for a developer to implement his ideas. After that he taught himself as much programming as needed to hack a prototype together.

The first version doesn't have to be beautiful, as Twitter proves with its first prototype:

Idea 3: Build your website

Nowadays, it can't hurt to have your own website. With a website creator like Wordpress, Squarespace or Jimdo you are faster but very bound to the templates. The learning effect is much greater when you program your own page. You will train logical thinking, learn how to build websites and understand the interrelationships between technologies.

2. Decide on a programming language

Which programming language should I learn? This question is like, "Should I learn Portuguese or Spanish?" It depends on whether you want to speak on the computer in Spanish or Portuguese. Ultimately, the computer translates everything into zeros and ones, so-called machine code. It doesn't really matter which programming language you learn, as everyone basically does the same thing, namely communicating with the computer.

Some languages ​​were written to build operating systems (e.g. C), others to program iOS apps (e.g. Swift) and still others to quickly launch web applications (e.g. Ruby on Rails).

Web applications are interactive websites that can be opened in a browser, on a mobile device or on a computer.

There are high-level languages ​​like Ruby or Python. High-level languages ​​are closer to human language than to computer language. An example of a low-level language is C. Since you are probably not planning on programming an operating system right away, we recommend learning a high-level programming language first. High-level languages ​​are closer to human language than to computer language. This means that you have to specify fewer details and you can focus on the essentials: understanding programming concepts. You will also see results quickly and stay motivated.

Once you understand the logic and are fluent in one language, you can easily learn another.

Let's assume you want to implement a web application as your first project. A distinction is made between front-end and back-end.

Frontend is all visual and consists of HTML, CSS and Javascript. (Whereby HTML and CSS are not programming languages ​​but markup languages.) HTML specifies the structure, CSS defines the appearance and Javascript animates.

Python, PHP, and Ruby are examples of popular backend programming languages. Django and Rails are examples of frameworks written in Python and Ruby, respectively.

A framework is a collection of programs that have already been written. Analogy: You do not build the whole house from scratch but take prefabricated building blocks where available.

You can find popular programming languages ​​from the following Stackoverflow survey. Stackoverflow is a question-and-answer platform for software developers. Ruby is in 10th place. This can be easily explained if you look at the use of the other languages:

  • Javascript is clearly in first place because it is the standard programming language in the web browser and is therefore used by most web applications.
  • SQL is used for database queries and updates. However, most programming languages ​​offer a simple adapter that allows SQL to be written in Ruby, for example.
  • Java and C # are still widely used in large corporations. However, both languages ​​have been losing popularity for years.
  • Python is often used at university and PHP is popular because of Wordpress, which is based on PHP.
  • C and C ++ are often used for hardware, e.g. in mechanical engineering or robotics.
  • Ruby is well represented by startups and SMEs.

As new frameworks and technologies keep emerging, the popularity of languages ​​changes rapidly. For this reason, we at Master21 rely on Ruby, a proven, simple and versatile language.

Other benefits of Ruby:

  • The language was invented to make programmers happy. Many other languages ​​are optimized for the machine and not particularly beautiful or simple. [DHH video bigthink]
  • The well-known and popular Rails framework is written in Ruby. Rails allows you to build a web application in a very short time. Twitter, Xing and Shopify are examples of Rails apps.
  • Ruby and Rails are freely accessible (= open source) and are constantly being improved
  • Ruby on Rails has an active and helpful community. Examples are Rails Girls, Hello Ruby Book etc.

3. Don't get discouraged - stay tuned.

Programming is not easy, and you often feel stupid, as the following quote shows:

“Some things in this world are just hard. When I am struggling with something, I sometimes think ‘Damn, this is hard for me. I wonder if I am stupid, ’and then I remember that I have a degree in astrophysics from Cal Tech; I must not be stupid. "

- Aaron Hillegass, Author of several programming books.

Programming can be learned if one proceeds correctly and does not give up. Remind yourself why you started and that you can solve many problems with your new skills.

  • Give yourself time. You don't have to understand everything right away. Certain things only make sense in retrospect, as Steve Jobs says in the quote below.
  • Don't be a shame to ask for help. From our experience, programmers are happy to help.
  • Exchange ideas with other beginners. At meetups, for example, you meet such people. One possibility is the Master21 Meetups, which take place monthly on the 1st Wednesday evening.


If you want to learn to code, it's best to start with a small project. This will help you stay tuned and not lose focus. After that, decide on a programming language. Every programmer will have a different opinion about “the best language”. At Master21, we use Ruby as our first language because it is very meaningful and beginner-friendly. Lastly, don't give up. Programming is not easy, but it is very fulfilling once you see results and can solve problems.

If you want to get a good overview of web development and would like to start in a group with other beginners, take a look at our Coding Bootcamps.

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