am about to start software engineering but am not sure of a better programming language to

One man's opinion:
In the end you will know many languages.
The underlining computers mostly all work the same way.
Your choice of language to use on a project may be determined by your boss.

Most of us here will probably say start with Java.

If you want portability use java, java is good but it dont give platform dependent api, also we can use some bridges but slow in that case... C++ is best in case of platform depedency..

I thoughte that the OP is talking about learning programming.
Portability is one very small part of that.
And speed is of no concern at all.

He will probably use a language, when i started learning i tried many languages, because if you cant implement and see reponse you dont motivate yourself well.

Langauge also matter, because jumping from language to another is very difficult.

I would recommand starting with something high level, like python or perl

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If you are getting a formal education in software engineering,
the program you are taking (the classes and your profs) will tell you what language.

Well a friendly advice.... never ever limit yourself to one language as if you are able to learn more languages the better.... But what I would say is first whatever the language it might be try grasping the logics behind each and everything and in the end... You will be able to handle any language hopefully... For instance get he concepts of OOP correctly and if you are able to implement correctly in JAVA then if you are asked to do the same with some other OOP language it would be easy for you just wanting only to learn thhe basic synatx of that language....

But you want one language only I would say JAVA as I personally like it... (Only my personal opinion)