Currently, there are over 500 programming languages, with more being written every day. The majority of these languages admittedly overlap, and a large number of these were never meant to be used in a development setting. However, when it comes to the languages being used in everyday coding, you need to make some choices. With so many programming languages being used for different purposes, it’s important for you to know which are the easiest programming languages, which programming languages are hard to master, and what is the use case of different (both easy and difficult) programming languages - so that you have a good foundation, to begin with.
This foundation is especially important if you’re looking to ace the interview for one of the FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google) companies or other top product companies that work on an array of different technologies. While the frameworks, technologies, and languages you’ll work on in your job will depend on the project that you’re on - like Machine Learning, Databases, iOS/Android development, Front-End/Back-End development, and more - it’s still advised that you familiarize yourself with a few of both easy and hard programming languages, so that you have a good starting point.
With that settled, let’s look at some programming languages, both easy and hard, that you can start mastering before your next technical interview.
Easy programming languages to learn for FAANG interviews
While ‘easy’ and ‘hard’ is a subjective affair, what we mean by easy programming languages here, are the languages that either:
- Follow an English-like syntax that makes it easier to read and write. Or,
- Offer inbuilt modules and functions that can be utilized without knowing in-depth about the particular language. Or,
- Are beginner-friendly and don’t require a lot of development background to master.
Here’s the list of such languages for you to look into!
1. Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)
Why is learning HTML considered easy?
For one, HTML is not a programming language, so it doesn’t work on logic as such. It’s a markup language used for creating skeletons of webpages or web apps. As a result, to master HTML, all you need to know is the basic syntax, important tags, and how the tags are invoked and utilized. Because of these reasons, HTML is a pretty easy language to learn, and mastering it will give a good start to your FAANG interview preparation.
Use cases of HTML in FAANG
- HTML continues to be important for all the front-end work - be it webpages, websites, or web applications; the first skeleton is always created using HTML.
- There are different frameworks and libraries for HTML that can be utilized for different purposes, but to know how to use them, one needs to know the basics of the working of HTML.
- Facebook uses FBML (Facebook Markup Language) for its page creation, which is a modified version of HTML. Working knowledge of HTML will help you master different variants of HTML with ease.
- Angular JS is an open-source framework developed and maintained by Google for binding data from databases to the front-end.
- React JS, another JS framework, is developed and maintained by Facebook. React Native is another very powerful JS framework introduced by Facebook that can be used to make iOS and Android applications too.
C is considered a middle-level programming language. It was developed in the 1970s by Dennis Ritchie and has since emerged as debatably the mother of all languages. The language was developed to redesign the UX operating system and enable it to be used in more systems. C combines the features of both low- and high-level languages and allows for functions such as scripting for applications.
Why is learning C considered easy?
Compared to object-oriented programming languages like C++ or Java that utilize concepts like inheritance, abstraction, encapsulation, and others, C is relatively simpler to get the hang of. That being said, creating complex applications in C is a tricky task but still manageable. Another reason why C is considered relatively easy, and why most beginners find C as a good starting point, is because it starts from the very basics and builds the foundation for learning all other, more complex programming languages. Further, C is also one of the fastest languages in terms of execution speed.
Use cases of C in FAANG
- C programming language is often used for working with embedded systems, whether it is scripting applications or drivers.
- C can also be used for creating Graphical User Interface (GUI) applications. Fun fact - Adobe Photoshop, the OG editing tool, was developed in C language.
- Google uses C language for their file system and Chromium web browser.
- C programming language is also used for developing operating systems.
Python is the go-to choice for developers and companies working on Machine Learning applications. It is a relatively slow language, being interpreting in nature, and is therefore not the best fit for competitive programming. However, because of the number of modules and libraries it offers and the simplicity of its syntax, Python has grown to become one of the most important languages of today. Other than ML applications, Python can be used for game development, back-end development, Data Science, data visualization, and a lot more.
Why is learning Python considered easy?
The syntax of Python resembles simple written English. As a result, many find it easier to learn Python. Python code is extremely easy to read for developers, which makes debugging easier. Furthermore, Python is backed by an extremely active community of developers where you can reach out for help - which simplifies the learning experience to another level.
Use cases of Python in FAANG
- Python offers frameworks like Flask and Django, which are best in business for rapid application development. Because of these frameworks, Python has evolved as an irreplaceable tool for web application development.
- Pandas, NumPy, SciPy, Keras, Tensorflow, and various other libraries help you work with large amounts of data, analyze it, and extract valuable insights to meet business requirements. Python has an extensive collection of libraries for Machine Learning applications.
- Another interesting use case of Python is that it allows developers to turn any physical object simply into an electronic gadget by taking the help of Raspberry Pi.
- FAANG companies use Python to implement ML capabilities in their products to understand user behavior patterns and generate insights from them.
Elixir is a dynamic programming language that follows the functional paradigm. Released in 2011, Elixir is still a relatively new language but has gained a lot of support through the years because of its reliability and scalability. Furthermore, it is a great programming language for microservices and cloud computing applications. The language is based on Erlang VM, a 20-year old VM that supports concurrent, robust, distributed software. Together with its Phoenix framework, you can use Elixir for virtually any application in any industry.
Why is learning Elixir considered easy?
Elixir is a highly readable and fun programming language. Learning Elixir will be simpler for programmers who have some idea of Ruby since both follow a similar syntax. Elixir doesn’t require programmers to write large code lines and offers libraries to simplify a lot of work. For instance, using the Tesla library, you can implement integration with a provider like Paypal in 20 lines of code.
Use cases of Elixir in FAANG
- Pinterest is one of the biggest names to have used Elixir. Because of Elixir, the company handled 250 Mn active users pinning more than 180 Mn items to their board in 2018.
- The Financial Times runs a vast online service that houses more than a million paying readers. They moved from a microservice REST APIs to an Elixir-based API to seamlessly manage the growing readers base and traffic.
- Discord uses Elixir to build its platform’s services. As a result of this, they’ve successfully managed more than 5 Mn concurrent users and millions of events per second.
Difficult programming languages to learn for FAANG interviews
Don’t worry about the languages being hard or difficult - at the end of the day, it’s all about understanding the syntax and applying the knowledge to solve real-world problems. That being said, not all programming languages are like Python or Elixir having programmer-friendly syntax. A few programming languages are slightly difficult to master because of the syntactical- and paradigmatic-complexities they present. The trick for learning these languages is taking it slow and working on a project sideways to apply the concepts you’re learning in real-time. Otherwise, it might get overwhelming.
Remember, with programming, practice is always the key.
Let’s look at some conventionally hard languages to learn for FAANG interviews.
C++ is an object-oriented programming language and is considered the fastest language out there. As a result, it’s recommended to learn C++, especially if you’re looking to try out your hands-on competitive programming. Also because of the speed, efficiency, and robustness of the language, it is mainly used in performance-critical sections of the products and algorithms developed by FAANG companies.
Why is learning C++ considered hard?
Being object-oriented, C++ is a highly dynamic language having lots of complex moving parts. Sometimes these parts interact in intuitive ways, sometimes they don’t, and the onus is on the programmer to find a way around it. There’s no point in going into all the complexities of C++; you should just note that the complexity is fractal, and you can never really hope to know everything about the language. The idea should be to learn the concepts in a hands-on manner by simultaneously working on a small project to accompany your learnings. Learning C++ might be hard, but once you get around it, you’ll enjoy the speed and efficiency of C++.
Use cases of C++ for FAANG
- Google’s core search algorithm is written in C++ (and Python).
- C++ is used for developing GUI-based applications like VS Code, Microsoft Office, Google Chrome. Nowadays, people have started using Python, but the importance of C++ still remains.
Prolog stands for Logic Programming. It was developed in 1972 and is an extremely exciting programming language if you’re interested in working with the Natural Language Processing aspect of Artificial Intelligence. Prolog is extremely useful for creating conversational bots. ELIZA - the first-ever chatbot created - was developed in Prolog.
Why is learning Prolog considered hard?
As a language, Prolog isn’t that difficult. Its syntax is comparatively more straightforward in comparison to C++ or Python. However, formulating Prolog programs is another challenge altogether. Concepts like facts, rules, and goals make Prolog a hard language to get around with. You can’t thoughtlessly copy and paste Prolog code hoping for it to work - you’ll most likely face compiler errors or infinite recursion. The core logic behind your program must be spot on - this is a hard thing to develop. Most procedural languages being used today let programmers get away with some logical inconsistencies. Programmers can write long lines of code to compensate for the logical errors and adjust the code accordingly. With Prolog, you can’t do this. You need to get the logic right from the get-go.
Use cases of Prolog for FAANG
- Prolog is an extremely cost-efficient language and helps companies in cutting down both maintenance and development costs.
- Prolog is a logic-based programming language, so the code is extremely reusable and readable. This is why Prolog successfully reduces maintenance costs.
- Prolog is Turing Complete - which means it is highly reliable and predictable. While most modern programming languages are Turing complete, many have not been utilized in that manner.
LISP stands for List Processing. After Fortran, it is the second oldest programming language and was created by John McCarthy, one of the founding fathers of Artificial Intelligence as we know it today. It’s called the “programmable programming language,” which reflects its most significant advantage over other programming languages.
“Lisp is a language for doing what you’ve been told is impossible.”
LISP is built as a practical mathematical notation for programs and has been a consistent choice for AI developers. Some of the features - like Rapid Prototyping, Dynamic Object Creation, Garbage Collection, and extreme flexibility - make it one of the best programming languages for AI/ML.
Why is learning LISP considered hard?
LISP follows the functional paradigm of programming. Most programmers are not well versed with functional programming or functional programming languages, how it works, how to maintain code elegance and all of that - which makes beginning to learn LISP a little difficult. There are some conceptual barriers to get over because it uses different concepts than what you might be used to, but that’s manageable with persistence. Once you understand the important ideas in LISP like how the evaluator operates, how macros override it, and some pointers from the functional programming paradigm, things will begin to get progressively simpler.
Use cases of LISP for FAANG
- LISP operates on the philosophy that what works best for the designer, works best for the language’s users. So, working in LISP allows developers to add any feature they find missing from the language and use it in their application.
- LISP allows programmers to clearly map out their ideas about their code with how the program actually works. This makes for easy maintainability of code.
- LISP offers dynamic typing which allows developers to spend more time working on the code, and less time dealing with the compiler. It also offers conditional systems that let developers develop interactive error handling codes.
Haskell is named after Haskell Brooks Curry, the famous mathematician. It was introduced in 1990 and is a purely statically-typed, functional programming language offering shorter code lines. Haskell is highly efficient in handling errors and is therefore considered a safe programming language. A majority of non-syntactical errors are quickly caught at the compile-time itself, instead of being caught at runtime. Some key features of Haskell include:
- Strong abstraction abilities
- Extreme code reusability
- Fewer lines of code, greater code understanding
- Built-in memory management
These, and other features offered by Haskell, improve the productivity of the programmer. While a niche set of developers currently uses it, it has the potential to compete with other languages for AI if given more recognition.
Why is learning Haskell considered hard?
Again, the difficulty in learning Haskell arises from the fact that it’s a functional programming language. But even among other functional languages, Haskell is challenging because of its abstractness, purity, terse syntax, and the use of one-letter identifier names. These are also the things that add to Haskell’s overall strengths, but they also make it challenging to learn and master.
Use cases of Haskell for FAANG
- Haskell goes very well with C. The companies working with the C language on any application generally use Haskell as a powerful tool to write C.
- Haskell pushes programmers to expand their thinking horizons, and think about programming challenges in a different way. With Haskell, developers spend more time thinking about the problem and less time coding it.
- Higher-order abstractions offered by Haskell offer developers a neater way to express the computations they need to perform.
- For developers dealing with data, Haskell teaches them to think more clearly about what you’re dealing with. Haskell supports algebraic data types to encourage developers to think about all the possible things, and for each, what are its parts.
5. Assembly Language (ASM)
Assembly Language is an umbrella term used to refer to low-level code that represents native machine code for any microprocessor. The other languages on this list were syntactically closer to English, and the code must be compiled down to the machine instructions through bytecode. The code here is assembled, hence the name. You can understand the intent of a piece of code written in C or Python just by reading it. For Assembly Language on the other hand, this task is difficult without knowing the entire code for context. Each basic operation, including moving data in and out of memory registers, is a complete statement.
However, these difficulties are not for no reason. Assembly Language is supremely powerful, especially when performance is of utmost importance. Using it, you can perform low-level systems programming. These can also be combined with other high-level programming languages for hardware development or systems programming.
Why is learning Assembly Language considered hard?
As mentioned earlier, Assembly Language operates on different parameters altogether - so learning as well as mastering it is quite a task. To begin learning Assembly Language, you must understand how a computer works underneath. If you’ve only used high-level languages so far, you might find it challenging to understand how CPU works, how memory is managed, or how to read or write from registers. There’s generally a vast knowledge gap that needs to be bridged before learning Assembly Language.
Use cases of Assembly Language for FAANG
- Assembly Language allows direct hardware manipulation. So, companies working on hardware tech require Assembly Language developers.
- For addressing extremely critical and sensitive performance issues.
- Developing low-level embedded systems and real-time systems.
If you’re wondering which programming language to learn (master) out of these, we got you - keep reading!
Which programming language to learn?
At this point, if you’re confused as to how to go about learning programming languages or which language to learn, let’s tell you - don’t panic. You’re here, which means you’re good and you want to keep learning. So go with it!
You probably know one or two of the above languages (if you’re not a fresher). In that case, you should look at improving your grasp of those languages, maybe dive deeper, and understand the language’s unique nuances. You can also build real-time projects that’ll help you immensely during your interview. In terms of learning a new language - it’s totally up to you and your expectations from your future. Select the language depending on what you want to do with your knowledge.
If you’re a fresher, don’t worry. It’s recommended to start with C, and we’d recommend that too, but only if you have time. If you’re low on time but want to get started with developing applications and learning programming, something like Python might be a good choice for you. Again, focus on what role you’re looking at and what skills do you need to gain for that!
Ready to switch careers to software engineering?
For professionals from other fields looking to jump ships to software engineering, we welcome you on board! Just follow the tips we mentioned for freshers, and you’ll be good sooner than you know! If the software development seems daunting to you, reach out to Interview KickStart - we’ve got your back with our interview prep courses.
Team IK wishes you all the best for your next interview!