A question we are often asked by parents interested in having their kids learn coding is simple – should my child learn Python programming or Java programming? To understand the answer to this, its important to realize that while this decision might seem overwhelming, most programmers eventually learn both languages – the key question is more along the line of which language is better to learn coding with, and what language they’ll be using most at school or university.

What can you do with each language? Which language is easier?

Because both Java & Python are high level languages, almost any task from web development to games to enterprise programming can be done easily in both languages. What does it mean for a language to be “high-level”? To put it simply, the higher level a language, the more the programmer can concentrate on the logic of a program, and less on the intricacies of making it work on a computer. In comparatively low level languages, the programmer must deal with concepts such as addressing memory, whereas in comparatively high level languages, all these problems are handled automatically by the coding language.  In exchange, in general, the higher level a language, the less efficient the code (usually) is.

While Java and Python are both categorized as “high level” languages, Python is usually considered a higher level language than Java – meaning that while it is not suitable for certain tasks such as building complex 3D games, it is easier to learn coding with it.

Does that mean that Python is superior to Java?

In a word, no. A language being higher level or lower level merely refers to how much of the core computing tasks such as memory allocation and garbage collection are handled by the programming language itself, instead of by the programmer. A language being low level does not make it an inferior programming language.

Which language is used most in school?

Currently, Java is the de facto standard language in use at high schools due to its use in the AP Computer Science exam. As a result, the majority of classes in high school focus on teaching the Java language. For most students who are interested in preparing for an upcoming AP class, and subsequently, the AP Computer Science exam, should probably consider mastering Java if only for this reason.

On the flip side, Python is often used in universities due to its flexibility in paradigms – Python can quite easily be used in a variety of different programming paradigms that are taught in university level. While languages such as Scala and LISP often were used for this role in the past, Python is rapidly becoming more popular for this purpose at the university level.

For any student who aspires to pursue a career or degree in computer science, a good understanding of both languages is probably necessary.

I want my child to learn both languages, but which should they learn first?

In the case where you’re deciding which language to learn first, for a student with no background in programming, Python is probably the easiest due to its interactive shell – a feature for which there is no good equivalent in Java. The interactive shell allows students to learn about many programming concepts in real time by coding right into the interactive shell, rather than writing it all out before finally reading the result.

In addition, Python’s syntax involves less “boilerplate”, or repeated code that would likely confuse a first-time programmer. While a motivated student is perfectly capable of learning Java or even lower level languages as their first coding language, in our experience we have seen that in general, most students prefer to start learning programming using Python.

 At VisionTech, we offer Python programming camps and Java programming camps both – which feature curriculums designed to teach students in a real and engaging way – using projects that allow students to immediately see the result of their coding. Our 2016 Summer camps are currently open, and these camps can be viewed below.

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