A programming language is an artificial computer language that instructs a computer how to perform specific tasks. It typically has a vocabulary and set of rules that describe how it used. Common programming languages include Pascal, FORTRAN, BASIC, COBOL, C, or C++. There are unique keywords and syntax for each language that determine how instructions in the programming language are to be written.
There are different levels of complexity in programming language. Procedural languages are not as complex as human languages but they are not understood by the computer. These languages need to be translated into machine language that the central processing unit of a computer can understand. There is a unique machine language for each type of central processing unit.
Assembly languages are programming languages that are lower level than high level languages. They are similar in syntax to machine languages but since they substitute words numbers, they are easier for programmers.
More complex than high level languages are fourth generation languages.
Every programming language, whether it is assembly language or a high level language, needs to be converted into a language that the computer can understand known as machine language. Programs are typically written by a programmer in source code and this source code is compiled into object code, the computer’s machine language, by assemblers, compilers, and interpreters. Then they are linked with other modules to produce an executable program. Only after a program has been compiled can it be run.
Determining which language to use when writing a program requires time and research by computer programmers. FORTRAN, for example, is helpful for processing numerical data while Pascal is good for programs that require the use of data structures. C++ is a more complex language that uses object-oriented features, combining data structures with functions to create reusable objects.