If you are not into programming, I need to start by telling you that a programming language is basically an artificial language (system of communication) designed to communicate instructions to a machine, typically a computer.
Now there are a lot of programming languages out there. Some are more popular than others, some are more recent, some are more powerful to some extent.
In an ideal world, each programming language serves a specific purpose. So an engineer should be able to adapt to the on going project and choose the optimal technologies. But the truth is, we very often tend to feel comfortable with some languages and find some others kind of painful. It depends on the features of the language and how long we have been using it. It's a bit like natural languages (human languages). You may learn many languages (French, Italian, Spanish, German, Japanese, etc.) and wherever you go, there will be one language that would be more relevant and that you would have to use, but as a native English speaker, you would mostly feel more comfortable speaking English than anything else. If you get in a non English speaking country, you may sure have to adapt to the local language but you would feel some relief when you meet people you can speak English with, as this is what comes naturally to you.
The difference is that you don't choose your main human language. It's generally the language they speak at the place you were born and grew up, the language your parents speak, the language your friends and teachers speak at your school, etc.
Programming languages are a different matter. Programmers do choose to learn a language, even though their motivations may be different. What I want to discuss here is, why and how people choose their programming languages ? What's the best way to go about it ?
From what I observed, there are 2 main reasons people go for a specific language:
- social proof: I guess this concern mostly the beginners, when you want to learn programming for the first time, you don't know much about the languages but you got to start somewhere. So you just go for the language that's popular among your friends, your lecturers/mentors or at your school/college. In short, you go for the languages you are most exposed to or you take advice from people around you. The upside is that you would definitely be surrounded with people who are into the same technologies so they will be able to guide and support you, work along with you on same projects. It's a bit like choosing to buy a specific video game console because all your friends have the same. Suppose you get stuck at some level, there is probably one of your friends that can tell you what to do. Plus you can exchange games with them, discuss game news & cheat codes, enjoy playing together. In short, you become part of the community and it goes pretty much the same when it comes to choosing a language.
- project requirement: throughout their career, developers come across many projects they are compelled to do. The requirements may lead them to learn other languages and technologies, for example, if you work for some company and they assign you to work on that new Python project, you would need to learn Python. Even if you are an independent developer, you may learn another language as it becomes popular with your customers or as it better meets the needs of your users (in terms of speed or user experience for example).
Personally, I think both reasons are valid points. Regarding the first reason, I would just add that it's not about following the trend just for the sake of it. You should make some research to find out which language will help you better do what you are trying to do. Regarding the second reason, I realise it is required to do things that you don't really like but, as often as possible, I would advise you to use the technologies and languages that you like better. If programming is your job, you better enjoy it. Do what you love, really.
Coming to my own experience, I guess I went for C#.NET firstly because it is very popular in the institution where I started getting serious about programming (NIIT). But this is only the reason why I got introduced to C#. There are many other reasons that keep me going.
The main reason being that I find it comfortable but not just because I had been using the most that time. Anyway it wasn't my first programming language. I did program in VB and Pascal before, so it's not that I got stuck to the first language I liked to use. By comfortable, I mean that I enjoy writing C# code. Personally, I would rather write code if I have a lot of fun doing it than write code in some obscur language that's just painful. It's true that we need to worry about things like performance and user experience but I believe that one should enjoy what they are doing.
Now what's so cool about C# ? I won't be discussing how C# compare to other programming languages and whether it's technically better or not. That's not the point of this article and as I said before there is no perfect language, there is just a right language for the right circumstances. I will just say what make C# so awesome to me (and probably to you as soon as you give it a try):
I can't help it, I need to mention that Visual Studio, the work environment for C#, is probably the world best IDE. Automated features like IntelliSense and controls drag and drop save a lot of time and effort. It's not being lazy, it's really about productivity. Whether you work solo or as a team, you always have some important tasks that are not necessarily programming oriented. Automation helps you avoid spending time and effort on the obvious, frequent, basic tasks and focus on the things that are most important.
The language itself is easy to grab, it follows the same kind of syntax that C, C++, Java, etc. So anyone with a similar background can quickly get going. Also, it's known to be simple and elegant.
C# is powerful. It helps me make ANYTHING I want, whether it's a website, a web application, a web service, a smart client application, a game, a windows application, a windows service or a in-browser (Silverlight) application, etc. While most of the languages are used just for a specific purpose, either for the web server, for the client or for the browser, C# does it all. The obvious advantage is that you don't have to learn a new language when you want to start a new kind of application.
Interoperability and language integration: C# applications and services can talk to each other. In fact, they can communicate with any other .NET applications. For example, you can easily make a WPF C# application get data from a WCF VB.NET service and pass it to a Silverlight C# application.
Well, now you know why I like C# so much...