Speaking the Language: Must-Have Programming Languages for Every Development Team

Speaking the Language: Must-Have Programming Languages for Every Development Team

May 28, 2021

Software development is a polyglot industry. If you go by the most often reported figure widely credited to Wikipedia, there are at least 700 functional programming languages out there.

Even then, Wikipedia’s criteria excludes ‘dialects’ of BASIC, mark-up languages and so-called ‘esoteric’ languages, which covers all kinds of weird and wonderful experimental and niche approaches to code.

Clearly, trying to put together a team of developers that can code in all 700 languages is a futile and unnecessary exercise on several levels. Every software house and Devs teams has to make choices – which of these languages do we really need to work in?

Likewise, prospective developers have to make choices about which languages they spend time learning and mastering.

Many of these decisions are job role, business or sector-specific and based on what you will actually be coding. Different languages are better suited or even designed for different uses like building mobile or web applications, database management, writing security scripts and so on.

But even so, certain languages are widely considered ‘must haves’ across a broad range of industries and Devs teams, either because of their flexibility, how common their main use is, or because they are seen as up-and-coming languages that are helping to reshape and improve development.

If you are running a development team, or if you are a programmer looking to update your skills, here are some must-have languages that will serve as a sound base across a wide range of disciplines.

JavaScript

In terms of popularity and frequency of use, JavaScript is probably the one language that needs no introduction. It’s more than likely already being used in your Devs team, or if you’re a programmer, the odds are you know it already. According to Stack Overflow, 70% of developers used JavaScript at some point in 2020.

JavaScript’s popularity is largely built on the fact that it has become a must-have for front-end web development, enabling now standard functions like dynamic content display. But through the open source Node.js runtime, it is also widely used in server-side network application development and also in mobile app development.

As well as being the ‘king’ of web development languages, JavaScript is also easy to learn, flexible and forgiving, making it an ideal starting point for new developers.

Python

Like JavaScript, Python hardly needs any introduction to anyone in the software industry. Also like JavaScript, Python is viewed as a popular choice for beginners because it has such a straightforward, easy-to-pick-up syntax. And again like JavaScript, it is commonly used in back-end web development.

If anything, though, Python is more flexible. Away from web-based applications, it is also widely used for building tools for data science as well as business-focused desktop applications.

Scala

Viewed as the heir-apparent to classic programming language Java, Scala supports both object-oriented and functional programming. It is sometimes viewed as the programmer’s programming language – compared to other static, strongly typed languages like Java, its syntax is very concise, allowing for a high degree of precision even when tackling the most complex functions.

Because it runs on Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and is compatible with pre-existing Java script libraries, Scala is viewed as a very versatile general-purpose language in many different environments. Compared to the likes of JavaScript and Python, it is a pretty tough language to master. But the pay-off is that it provides the logical precision required to write code that accurately and reliably handles large data workflows, making it ideal for data analytics and AI applications.

Go & Rust

Finally, we’ve pooled these two together because they share many similarities and can largely be used interchangeably for the same purposes. Both are noticeably similar to C and C++, but with a range of modern updates and improvements.

Both are similarly ‘low level’ languages, involving very little abstraction – they are designed to essentially write instructions direct to the machine. This makes them both very well suited to building systems software, the kind of programmes that run the nuts and bolts of IT infrastructure ‘under the hood’, because they deliver fast run-times and minimise the potential for errors.

Go was developed internally by Google, Rust by Mozilla, and both are now enjoying a huge amount of popularity among other enterprises as key tools in systems and infrastructure development. Go is the simpler of the two to learn and use, but Rust has a reputation for creating very reliable, bug-free programmes because of its emphasis on ‘safe code’ features.