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I watched a lot of “Top Programming Languages for 2021” videos so you don’t have to

It’s that time of the year again

It’s the start of a brand new year, and in the world of developer YouTube, that means one thing: A whole lot of videos on the topic of the programming languages that you must know or learn for the upcoming year.

In a non-pandemic year, “Top programming languages for 2021” is a relatively easy topic to cover, and one that’s sure to attract some extra search-based viewership. In the year after the one we just had, a good number of people who are trying to pivot to software development, and a title like “Top programming languages for 2021” is pure YouTube audience bait.

Since I had some time to kill while reformatting one of my machines over the holiday break, I decided to enter the search term top programming languages for 2021 into YouTube’s search field and see what came up. To keep the number of videos down to something manageable, I considered only videos posted after the start of November 2020.

A lot of the same recommendations

Creative Commons photo by Doug Kline. Tap to see the source.

I ended up watching 17 videos, and there was a high degree of overlap in their recommendations:

Language Recommendations
JavaScript 17
Python 16
Go 12
Java 11
C# 10
Kotlin 10
C / C++ 9
PHP 9
Swift 6
R 3
Rust 3
Ruby 2
SQL 2
TypeScript 2
Dart 1
Shell scripting 1

Unsurprisingly, every video recommended JavaScript and all but one recommended Python. The more interesting results were further down the list including:

  • A surprisingly high number of recommendations for Go and C/C++ — lower-level systems programming languages that are a little less suited for web development than the others. Most of the people who posted “top languages for 2021” videos seemed to be targeting an audience of web developers, which makes me wonder if their recommendations are based simply on C’s, C++’s, and Go’s strong showing on the TIOBE Index.
  • I thought Kotlin and Swift would be about even, but 10 reviewers recommended Kotlin, while only 6 recommended Swift.
  • I thought TypeScript would get more recommendations.

The videos

For the benefit of the curious, I’ve listed the videos below, complete with links and each one has a list of the recommendations made in the video.

I feel obliged to remind you that these are subjective opinions that could easily be based on the presenter’s biases, some Googling, or cribbing notes from the Technology section of the 2020 Stack Overflow developer survey.

If you’re planning to learn a new programming language or sharpen your skills on a language you’re already familiar with, you should make sure that it’s in service of some kind of goal. Is knowing a language part of a larger career plan, to assist you with your current job, to make yourself more attractive to prospective employers, or for fun? All of these are valid reasons, but you should have a reason.

And now, the videos:

Top 10 Programming Languages to learn for 2021:
polyglotengineer
(December 26, 2020, <1K views)

I thought I’d start by giving my home state of Florida some love by presenting Jacksonville-based polyglotengineer’s list of languages to learn this year. Here are his picks:

10. Java
9. C#
8. PHP
7. C / C++
6. Go
5. Kotlin
4. Rust
3. Python
2. Swift
1. JavaScript

Top 10 Programming Languages In 2021:
Simplilearn

(Nov 19, 2020, 93K views)

Simplilearn is an online bootcamp that boasts of partnerships with Purdue, Caltech, UMass Amherst, AWS, IBM, Microsoft, and Accenture. Here’s their “top ten” list of programming languages to take up in 2021:

10. C#
9. Go
8. C++
7. JavaScript
6. Swift
5. Java
4. R
3. Kotlin
2. PHP
1. Python

Top 10 Programming Languages to Learn in 2021:
Chris Hawkes
(December 28, 2020, 4K views)

Here’s a short one — Chris Hawkes takes you on a literal walk through the woods as he goes over his picks for 2021.

  • JavaScript
  • Python
  • PHP
  • Java / .NET Core
  • Go
  • Ruby
  • Rust
  • C++
  • TypeScript
  • JVM languages (Kotlin, Scala…)

Top 7 Programming Languages to learn in 2021! (Pay attention to these!):
DThompsonDev
(December 14, 2020, 9K views)

Danny “DThompsonDev” Thompson wins the prize for best use of props in his round-up of the languages you should learn in the new year, with the Python fanboy baseball bat and PHP cash money.

Here’s his selection of the top seven programming languages to take in the 2G21:

7. Go
6. PHP
5. C#
4. Java
3. C++
2. JavaScript
1. Python

Top 5 programming language for 2021:
Hitesh Choudhary
(December 7, 2020 / 96K views)

Hitesh Choudhary is one of the instructors at LearnCodeOnline, an online coding school.  Here’s his list of the top five programming languages to learn this year:

  • JavaScript / ReactJS
  • Python / Django
  • C++
  • Java
  • PHP

Top 10 Best Programming Languages To Learn In 2021:
TiffinTech
(December 27, 2020, 5K views)

“Tiffin” is Tiffany Janzen, a software developer based in my old home town of Toronto who started her career in the modeling & fashion industry. You can find out more about here on this episode of the podcast You’re Too Pretty.

Here’s her list:

  • Python
  • JavaScript
  • Java
  • Kotlin
  • Swift
  • C / C++
  • Go
  • PHP
  • R
  • Ruby

Top 10 Programming Languages For 2021:
Edureka
(December 29, 2020, 28K views)

Here’s the list from Edureka, an online corporate training site:

  • PHP
  • R
  • Dart
  • Go
  • C#
  • SQL
  • C / C++
  • Java
  • JavaScript
  • Python

The Top Programming Languages to Learn in 2021!:
Bryan Cafferky
(October 3, 2020, 3K views)

Here’s Boston-area-based Bryan Cafferky’s take on what you should learn this year, broken down by category. His is the one list that has a recommendation that no one else gave: Learn shell scripting, whether for Windows or Unix-based platforms.

  • C / C++
  • Python
  • PowerShell / Bash
  • JavaScript

Top programming languages to learn in 2021:
Vicky Mei
(December 22, 2020, <1K views)

Vicky Mei has a YouTube channel with the motto “No BS, build your career in tech”, where she posts a new video every week. Here’s her list:

  • JavaScript
  • Python
  • Java
  • Kotlin
  • Swift
  • SQL

Top 5 Programming Languages For 2021 To Land A Job During COVID-19:
AppStuff
(December 15, 2020, <1K views)

This is a very new channel, whose host started posting videos about a month ago. He’s a mobile developer, and here are his recommendations:

5. C#
4. Swift
3. Kotlin
2. JavaScript
1. Python

Top 5 programming languages to learn in 2021:
codebasics

(December 27, 2020, 32K views)

codebasics is Dhaval Patel’s YouTube channel, where he covers a lot of data science and Python topics. Here are his top five languages to learn in 2021:

5. Go
4. Kotlin
3. JavaScript
2. TypeScript
1. Python

Top 5 Programming Languages For 2021:
NeuralNine
(December 28, 2020, 6K views)

Here’s another video from a channel that’s just getting started — NeuralNine, which is “an educational brand focusing on programming, machine learning and computer science in general.”

Here’s their list:

5. C# / Java
4. C / C++
3. JavaScript
2. Go
1. Python

top programming languages 2021 // best languages for beginners to learn to get hired!:
Lena Elizabeth Shapiro
(December 13, 2020, 3K views)

Lena’s channel is a mix of tech and lifestyle. Here’s her list of languages to learn in the new year:

  • Python
  • JavaScript
  • ReactJS
  • C#

Top 10 Programming Languages in 2021:
Great Learning
(December 18, 2021, 47K views)

Great Learning say they have over 200 free certificate courses and seven years’ worth of videos. Here’s their top ten list of programming languages to take up in 2021:

10. Kotlin
9. Swift
8. C#
7. R
6. PHP
5. Go
4. C++
3. Java
2. Python
1. JavaScript

Top 5 Programming Languages to Learn in 2021:
Yazeed AlKhalaf
(November 21, 2020, <1K views)

Yazeed Alkhalaf is the youngest YouTubers in this list — he’s 15, and he’s got four videos in his channel. Here are his recommendations:

  • Python
  • Kotlin
  • Java
  • JavaScript
  • Go

Top 7 Programming Languages to Learn in 2021:
GeeksForGeeks
(December 23, 2020, 57K views)

Ishan Sharma looks to be just a bit older than Yazeed (judging from his youthful appearance and bookshelf contents). In addition to making videos at GeeksForGeeks, he also has his own YouTube channel, which boasts over 32,000 subscribers.

He recommends the same languages as Yazeed, plus two more:

7. Kotlin
6. PHP
5. C++
4. Go
3. Java
2. Python
1. JavaScript

Top Programming Languages 2021:
John Codes
(December 26, 2020, <1K views)

I’ll close out this collection with a more general list from John Codes, who describes himself with the phrase “software engineer turned content creator”. Here’s a quick summary of his recommendations for 2021:

  • If you don’t know it already, pick up a little JavaScript.
  • If you’re looking for a new back-end language and stack, look at Go and Kubernetes.
  • For operating systems and embedded programmers, look at Rust.