What is NLU: A Guide to Understanding Natural Language Processing

3 tips to get started with natural language understanding

how does natural language understanding (nlu) work?

NLU essentially generates non-linguistic outputs from natural language inputs. NLP aims to examine and comprehend the written content within a text, whereas NLU enables the capability to engage in conversation with a computer utilizing natural language. Natural Language Understanding enables machines to understand a set of text by working to understand the language of the text.

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He has also led commercial growth of deep tech company Hypatos that reached a 7 digit annual recurring revenue and a 9 digit valuation from 0 within 2 years. Cem’s work in Hypatos was covered by leading technology publications like TechCrunch and Business Insider. He graduated from Bogazici University as a computer engineer and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School. It is best to compare the performances of different solutions by using objective metrics.

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In this article, we will delve into the world of NLU, exploring its components, processes, and applications—as well as the benefits it offers for businesses and organizations. NLU is branch of natural language processing (NLP), which helps computers understand and interpret human language by breaking down the elemental pieces of speech. While speech recognition captures spoken language in real-time, transcribes it, and returns text, NLU goes beyond recognition to determine a user’s intent. Speech recognition is powered by statistical machine learning methods which add numeric structure to large datasets. In NLU, machine learning models improve over time as they learn to recognize syntax, context, language patterns, unique definitions, sentiment, and intent.

how does natural language understanding (nlu) work?

Or, if you’re using a chatbot, NLU can be used to understand the customer’s intent and provide a more accurate response, instead of a generic one. GLUE and its superior SuperGLUE are the most widely used benchmarks to evaluate the performance of a model on a collection of tasks, instead of a single task in order to maintain a general view on the NLU performance. They consist of nine sentence- or sentence-pair language understanding tasks, similarity and paraphrase tasks, and inference tasks. Computers can perform language-based analysis for 24/7  in a consistent and unbiased manner. Considering the amount of raw data produced every day, NLU and hence NLP are critical for efficient analysis of this data. A well-developed NLU-based application can read, listen to, and analyze this data.


NLU helps the quality of clinical care by improving decision support systems and the measurement of patient outcomes. This is achieved by the training and continuous learning capabilities of the NLU solution. It’s the era of Big Data, and super-sized language models are the latest stars.

NLP has applications in many fields, including information retrieval, machine translation, chatbots, and voice recognition. NLU is one of the main subfields of natural language processing (NLP), a field that applies computational linguistics in meaningful and exciting ways. NLU has helped organizations across multiple different industries unlock value. For example, insurance organizations can use it to read, understand, and extract data from loss control reports, policies, renewals, and SLIPs.

What is the difference between Natural Language Understanding (NLU) and Natural Language Processing (NLP)?

Intent detection as an essential element of a task-oriented dialogue system for mining the user’s goal or motivation during natural language understanding has been the subject of many discussions. Among the different approaches to NLU, the most popular one currently relies on classification algorithms to classify inputs. Indeed, companies have already started integrating such tools into their workflows.

  • This provides customers and employees with timely, accurate information they can rely on so that you can focus efforts where it matters most.
  • Although it may be attractive to think about voice-first tech in the context of virtual assistants, voice-first technologies are much more pervasive than that.
  • NLU can greatly help journalists and publishers extract answers to complex questions from deep within content using natural language interaction with content archives.
  • As a result, NLU systems may occasionally misinterpret the intended meaning, leading to inaccurate analyses.
  • For instance, understanding whether a customer is looking for information, reporting an issue, or making a request.
  • In this article, we’ll delve deeper into what is natural language understanding and explore some of its exciting possibilities.

Knowledge of that relationship and subsequent action helps to strengthen the model. Without sophisticated software, understanding implicit factors is difficult. For example, in an MRC task requiring freestyle answers, the model needs to first analyze the question and article.

Natural Language Understanding addresses one of the major challenges of AI today – how to handle the unstructured conversations between machines and humans and translate them into valuable insights. While humans can handle issues like slang and mispronunciation, computers are less adept in these areas. So, consider the auto-suggest function commonly available within word-processing tools and mobile phones. Whilst this is a  great application of NLP, it is so often based on usage algorithms, rather than contextual algorithms.

NER systems employ machine learning models trained to recognize and classify these entities accurately. This capability is precious for extracting structured information from unstructured text facilitating tasks ranging from information retrieval to data analysis. Language is replete with ambiguity, and NLU systems must deftly navigate these linguistic minefields. Contextual understanding becomes paramount as NLU technologies consider not just the individual words but also the words and sentences that precede and follow a particular word. Context window analysis, attention mechanisms inspired by transformer models, and other sophisticated techniques are leveraged to grasp context effectively. This contextual understanding helps NLU systems disambiguate words or phrases based on their surrounding context, resolving the potential confusion stemming from language’s inherent ambiguities.

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