Java was the first programming language I felt comfortable enough to write lengthy programs that, for instance, could be used to advance the goals of a research project. So for my first program needed for my summer research at the Bard College REU, I used Java. I wrote code to create a random sentence generator. That was during my second week of the REU, and I had writen one significant Python script in my life, which was for a bonus question from my Algorithm Design & Analysis homework.

Let’s fast forward a bit. By the time the REU ended, I had written over 20 significant programs … in Python. So what happened?

At the start of the REU, I knew much more about Java than Python. But after some prodding by my advisors, and the fact that everyone else in my research project was using Python, I switched languages. I soon found — as they said I would — that Python was so much easier to write than Java. In particular, the file input and output is so stunningly simple, yet incredibly useful, a must for all the scripts we wrote that involved manipulating files. My project, after all, was about text simplification, and all the relevant corpora were stored in files.

I also found it easier to understand the official Python documentation than Java’s, so looking up things was less of a challenge. Like the guy who wrote this (heavily biased) article about Python versus Java, I have to look up a lot of things for Java, whereas the same became a bit less true for Python.

My experience confirmed what I’ve heard that learning new languages is easier once one becomes proficient at another language. Well, with the possible exception of Malbolge.