Python vs. C++: Which to Learn First and Where to Start

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Deciding whether to learn Python or C++ first is a matter of preference for most people. Learn more about the pros and cons of each before you make a decision.

Both Python and C++ are popular, easy programming languages for beginners, and choosing the one to learn first is often a matter of personal preference. For one thing, these languages share many similarities. They also have legions of fans, extensive support, and portability that makes them useful in multiple situations.

If you're in the process of deciding which programming language to learn first, you may find it helpful to explore the advantages and disadvantages of each language. You'll be able to make an informed decision about which program best meets your current needs.

Python: Beginner-friendly

Python isn't just an excellent programming language for beginners. It's one of the most popular programming languages in the world, perhaps because it's so easy for beginners to pick up. This high-level language combines built-in data structures with dynamic binding and typing to create a powerful language that can have you writing code faster than you imagined possible.

Advantages

Python offers several key advantages that make it a viable option for anyone wanting to learn a programming language. These advantages include the following characteristics:

  • Easy to comprehend: Python reads like English, making it easy for new users to pick up and start writing code.

  • Easy to debug: As an interpreted language, Python executes code line by line and stops executing as soon as an error appears. You won't spend as much time tracking down and correcting errors in the code.

  • Free and open-source: You can use and distribute your own version of Python.

  • Library support: The extensive Python library reduces your dependence on external libraries. If you need to import a package from another library, you have more than 125,000 third-party Python libraries to choose from as you write code [1].

  • Portability: The code you write in Python will work anywhere.

Disadvantages

Python is popular, but that doesn't mean it's a perfect programming language. It won't work for all applications, and it has other drawbacks listed below:

  • Execution speed: Python executes code line by line, which can slow the process. When speed matters Python may not be the best programming language.

  • Memory usage: Python requires a considerable amount of memory, which can limit its use for particular projects.

  • Usability in mobile computing: Python can take up too much memory to make it usable for mobile devices.

  • Database access: The Python database is underdeveloped compared to similar technologies and can be cumbersome to use.

C++: The faster option

Created in 1985, C++ has been around longer than Python. Despite its age, it remains one of the most efficient programming languages available. More than 4 million developers around the world use C++ in their work [2]. But should you? Check out the advantages and disadvantages of C++.

Advantages

So many developers use C++ because of its portability and speed. More advantages of this language include:

  • Portability: C++ codes you write on one platform can easily transfer to other platforms without producing an error.

  • Speed: As a compiler-based language, C++ is faster than Python. The same code running in both programs simultaneously will generate in C++ first.

  • Mid-level language characteristics: C++ is a mid-level language, which allows the developer to use it as both a low-level and high-level language.

  • Memory management: C++ does not support garbage collection, so the developer has complete control over the memory.

  • Similarity to other programming languages: If you also know C, C#, or Java, you may find it easier to learn C++.

  • Extensive community of users: C++ is such a popular program, you'll find a vast network of support to help you solve problems with your code.

Disadvantages 

You may find it helpful to be aware of the disadvantages of working in C++. The more you understand the language's limitations, the better you will be prepared to make accommodations as needed. Here are some of the programming language's drawbacks:

  • Memory management: Since the user has complete control over the memory, there's a risk of storing redundant data that increases the memory used.

  • Flexibility: C++ can feel less flexible because of its strict syntax. Small errors lead to a series of errors that take time to correct.

  • Functions: C++ lacks first-class type functions like passing and returning values without restrictions and creating functions without restrictions.

  • Complexity: As a multi-paradigm language, C++ is not useful for platform-dependent apps.

Ways to learn either language

Although you can learn programming languages on your own through trial and error, it may be easier to take a class. In a class, you should learn basic programming concepts and have opportunities to practice writing code. If you don't want to enroll in a college program, you can try shorter learning opportunities through bootcamps and certificate programs.

Bootcamps

A bootcamp is essentially a coding school where you learn a programming language in a condensed timeframe. Many bootcamps run for eight to twelve weeks, and some can take as long as seven months to complete. By the time you complete a Python or C++ bootcamp, you should be able to write code well enough to practice on your own or apply for an entry-level coding position.

Certificate programs

Like bootcamps, certificate programs typically take eight to twelve weeks to complete. These programs may be available on a college campus or online, so you can find one that fits your schedule. Many certificate programs focus on one sub-topic, and you should get plenty of introductory knowledge about the topic along with practice opportunities. When you finish, you receive a certificate of completion.

Next steps

If you're still unsure which programming language is the best to learn first, you have options. You can take introductory courses that are available that teach you the fundamentals of how to use the languages and can be helpful in your decision-making process. Check out the Python for Everybody Specialization or Programming in C++: A Hands-on Introduction Specialization courses on Coursera and try one out to find which programming language you want to learn first.

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Article sources

1. Techvidvan. “Python Advantages and Disadvantages – Step in the right direction, https://techvidvan.com/tutorials/python-advantages-and-disadvantages/.” Accessed February 18, 2021.

2.  Geeks for Geeks. “Top 10 Reasons to Learn C++, https://www.geeksforgeeks.org/top-10-reasons-to-learn-c-plus-plus/.” Accessed February 18, 2021.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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