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Difference Between A Programming Language And a Natural (Everyday) Language?

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May 6th, 2024

Are programming language and natural language are two distinct forms of communication humans use? While both enable us to express ideas, accomplish tasks, and interact with others, there is the key difference between programming language and natural language in their primary functions, structure, and acquisition.

This article will analyze the core attributes of programming language and natural language. It will compare their formal syntax and semantics against the complex nuances in human languages.

We will explore how their intended purposes lead to contrasts in learning approaches, expressiveness, and ambiguity. You will better understand that programming languages are designed for machines while natural languages evolve organically for human-to-human communication.

Definition of Programming Languages

Programming languages are special languages that tell computers what to do. They are made up of people and have very strict rules about using them. This is because everything has to be super clear so the computer understands exactly what you want it to do.

These languages don’t change or grow independently like normal talking languages do. Instead, smart computer people design them for specific jobs.

Here are some things about programming languages:

  • They have their own set of words and rules about how to put those words together. You must follow these rules exactly, or the computer won’t understand what you’re saying.
  • They mean exactly what they say. There’s no room for guessing, so the computer doesn’t get confused.
  • They are made easy enough for people to learn and write, but can also be turned into a language that computers can follow.
  • They use special codes to do things like repeating tasks, making choices, or dealing with numbers and information.
  • They have special tools for doing computer jobs, like sorting information, solving problems, or organizing tasks.
  • They provide abstractions that allow any custom website development firm or developers to control hardware without dealing directly with bits and bytes.

Definition of Natural Languages

Natural languages are the ones we speak and learn as kids like English, Spanish, and Chinese. Someone on purpose doesn’t make them up but grows naturally as people talk to each other. Over time, they can change.

We learn our talking language by listening to others around us, like our family. We start to understand and use words just by being around them often, not by studying from a book.

Talking languages have many rules, but we usually don’t consider them. We know what sounds right because we’ve heard it a lot. These languages don’t have a big list of all the rules, and there are often when the usual rules don’t apply.

We can use these languages to share many big, complicated ideas. We can say things differently, use funny phrases, and even make up new words.

Difference Between A Programming Language And a Natural Language:

Here are some differences that The App Founders‘ experts have put together to make it easier for others to understand.

  • Syntax and Semantics

Programming languages have very rigid rules for syntax and semantics that must be followed precisely. Syntax refers to the structure of statements and how code is written, using specific keywords, symbols, indentation, and other formatting. Even small syntax errors will cause a program to fail. The semantics refer to the meaning of code elements and how the computer interprets them.

If any syntax part is incorrect, such as missing a quotation mark, the program will throw an error and not run properly. The semantics tell the computer that “Hello World” should be output to the user when this line executes.

When delving into programming, understanding the rigid frameworks is necessary. That’s where development frameworks come into play, providing the necessary scaffolding and guidelines for structuring and deploying your code efficiently and effectively.

Natural languages have much more flexible rules for syntax and don’t require the same rigid precision. Sentences can be structured in many ways and still convey the same meaning.

The semantics are also more flexible, with words taking on different meanings depending on context. Programming languages require absolute precision and lack the nuance of natural languages.

Their formal and strict nature allows computers to parse and understand them in a way that would be difficult with the complexity of human languages.

  • Learning and Acquisition

Programming language and natural language are acquired in fundamentally different ways.

Natural languages like English or Mandarin are typically learned as a child through immersion and interaction with other speakers. Children are not explicitly taught grammar rules but implicitly acquire language through exposure. The acquisition happens automatically in the brain through pattern recognition.

In contrast, programming languages must be actively learned later in life. There are no “native speakers” of Python or JavaScript that acquire it as children. Programming languages have precise syntax and semantics that must be studied and practiced. Books, classes, documentation, and coding practice are needed to gain proficiency.

  • Expressiveness

Programming languages are typically less expressive than natural languages. This is because programming languages are designed for precise communication with computers, while natural languages evolved for human-to-human communication.

Some key differences in expressiveness between programming language and natural language are:


Programming languages have fixed keywords and syntax, while natural languages have a vast and constantly evolving vocabulary. Humans can invent new words and phrases to express new ideas.


Natural languages can communicate complex abstract ideas efficiently through metaphors, analogies, and high-level concepts. Programming languages lack this ability.


Natural languages can convey subtle shades of meaning through tone, context, and connotations. Programming languages struggle with nuance. The meaning is either precisely defined or ambiguous.


Natural languages have flexible word order and grammar. This allows for creative expression. Programming languages have rigid syntactical rules.


Natural languages can communicate feelings, moods, and attitudes. Programming languages are purely logical.

  • Use Cases

Programming languages and natural languages have different uses.

It lets us give computers instructions. They use strict rules to be clear to the computer, helping to make software, automate tasks, manage computers, analyze data, and control devices.

Natural languages, however, developed for people to talk to each other. They’re complex and flexible, used for chatting, sharing stories, recording information, expressing culture, and teaching.

In short, programming languages are for computer tasks, and natural languages are for human communication.


Programming and natural language are both languages, but they are used for different things. Programming languages are made-up languages that tell computers and gadgets what to do. They have strict rules you need to follow exactly, or they won’t work.

Natural languages, like English or Spanish, grow and change with people over time. We use them to talk to each other and share ideas. They can be pretty flexible – there’s often more than one way to say the same thing.

Learning either kind of language takes practice. Programming languages have a set list of rules to learn. Natural languages keep changing and can be tricky because they have many exceptions to their rules.

This comparison touches on language’s theoretical vs. conceptual aspects—the concrete rules of programming (theoretical) against the fluid use of natural language (conceptual).

We hope this guide has clarified the differences between programming and natural languages, addressing any previous misunderstandings.

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