I'm not impressed by your example of doing little things. Even in
C (which I don't recommend as a first language), it's easy to do -
in fact, it translates almost token for token. It's like saying
a Ferrari is a good car to learn driving with because it's easy
to turn on the headlights.
You say that Java isn't your idea of a lightweight language. I don't
disagree with that, but hopefully you aren't suggesting that Perl is.
Perl is far from being lightweight language, in all aspects. It has
a syntax hardly anyone, including wizards with more than five years
of experience, can fully remember, and it has a very wide range of
primitives. I doubt there's a language with a significant user base
out there that has such a complex function to open a file. It was only
yesterday that on perlmonks people were confused about 1-arg open.