Natural language processing: Key things you need to know

  • Natural language processing (NLP) allows computers to understand and generate human language, facilitating seamless interaction and communication without the need for users to learn complex programming languages.
  • NLP encompasses language understanding, language generation, interactivity, adaptability, and scalability, enabling computers to process and respond to natural language in diverse contexts and languages.
  • NLP technologies are used in machine translation, chatbots, sentiment analysis, text classification, information retrieval, automatic summarisation, text generation, speech recognition, and document processing.

Natural language processing (NLP) is an important research area in the field of artificial intelligence, aiming to enable computers to understand and generate human natural language. The goal of NLP is to allow computers to understand and process text or speech information like humans, facilitating automated language communication and analysis, and enabling natural, smooth interaction between humans and machines.

Introduction to natural language processing

Communicating with computers using natural language has long been a pursuit of humans. This endeavour holds both significant practical and theoretical importance. It allows people to use computers in their most familiar language without spending a lot of time and effort learning various computer languages, which may not feel natural or intuitive. It also helps further understand human language capabilities and the mechanisms of intelligence.

Natural language processing refers to the technology that enables interaction and communication with machines using the natural language used by humans. By processing natural language artificially, computers can read and understand it. The related research on natural language processing began with the exploration of machine translation. Although NLP involves operations across multiple dimensions, such as phonetics, grammar, semantics, and pragmatics, its basic task is to process the text corpus using ontology dictionaries, word frequency statistics, and contextual semantic analysis to perform word segmentation, forming semantically rich lexical units at the smallest word part level.

Also read: 8 essential elements of effective IT asset management

Characteristics of natural language processing

1. Language understanding

NLP aims to enable computers to accurately understand the meaning of human language. This involves processing and analysing word meanings, syntactic structures, semantic relationships, and contexts within texts. Language understanding is a core task in NLP. By establishing language models and semantic representations, computers can recognise and infer hidden information and meanings in the text, achieving semantic understanding and intelligent applications.

2. Language generation

Besides understanding human language, NLP also aims to enable computers to generate natural and fluent text. Language generation is another important task in NLP. Through natural language generation technology, computers can generate text that conforms to grammatical rules and semantic logic based on the required context and situation, achieving automated text generation and human-computer interaction.

3. Interactivity

NLP enables computers to effectively interact and communicate with humans through natural language. Through technologies such as speech recognition, text understanding, and dialogue generation, computers can realise intelligent dialogues, virtual assistants, intelligent customer services, and various applications, improving the efficiency and convenience of human-computer communication.

4. Adaptability

Natural language is complex and diverse, including different languages, dialects, slang, etc. Therefore, NLP technology needs a certain degree of adaptability to handle different linguistic environments and language characteristics. By establishing multi-language models and cross-language technologies, NLP can better adapt to and process linguistic diversity.

5. Scalability

With the increase in data volume and computing resources, NLP systems need to handle large-scale language data. This includes a large amount of text collected from the internet and specialised terminology and knowledge from specific fields such as healthcare and law.

Also read: What is IT hardware asset management?

Applications of natural language processing

1. Machine translation

NLP technology is used to translate text from one language to another. By training on large amounts of bilingual data, machine translation systems like Google Translate and DeepL can perform relatively accurate translations between different languages, facilitating cross-language communication and information acquisition.

2. Chatbots and virtual assistants

Systems utilise NLP technology to engage in natural language dialogue with users, providing information retrieval, task execution, schedule management, and other services. Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant can understand user voice or text input and generate appropriate responses, enhancing user experience.


3. Sentiment analysis

Sentiment analysis is used to detect emotional and sentiment information in text, such as determining the sentiment tendency in social media posts, product reviews, or customer feedback. Brand monitoring and customer feedback analysis help businesses understand public attitudes towards their products or services, thus improving strategies.

4. Text classification

NLP is used to classify text into predefined categories, such as identifying spam versus non-spam emails or classifying news articles into different topics (e.g., sports, politics, technology). This plays an important role in content management and information filtering.

5. Information retrieval and question-answering systems

Systems use NLP technology to retrieve relevant information from large datasets and generate specific answers. Search engines like Google provide the most relevant results by understanding user query intent, while intelligent question-answering systems like IBM Watson directly answer user questions, enhancing information retrieval efficiency.

6. Automatic summarisation

Automatic summarisation technology extracts key information from large amounts of text to generate concise summaries. This is very useful in the news field and academic literature reading, such as news summaries and literature reviews, helping users quickly acquire key information.

7. Text generation

NLP technology can automatically generate natural language text, such as news articles, product descriptions, or business reports. By training generation models, systems can create coherent and meaningful text based on input data, applied in content creation and automatic report generation.

8. Speech recognition and speech synthesis

Speech recognition converts speech input into text, while speech synthesis converts text into natural speech output. Speech-to-text services like Dragon NaturallySpeaking and text-to-speech services like Google Text-to-Speech are widely used in applications like voice assistants and voice input methods.

9. Document processing

NLP technology can help automatically analyse and process complex legal documents, contracts, etc., extracting key information and detecting terms and anomalies. Contract analysis and legal document processing enhance efficiency in legal and financial industries, ensuring accuracy and compliance.


Crystal Feng

Crystal Feng is an intern news reporter at Blue Tech Wave dedicated in tech trends. She is studying Chinese-English translation at Beijing International Studies University. Send tips to

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *