Common sense would tell us that it is necessary to understand a text in order to translate it. So can an artificial intelligence system actually understand a text in the same sense a human being can?
The simplest approach to translation would be simply to have a computer translate word-by-word, utilizing a digitalized bilingual dictionary, and ignoring grammatical structures.
Needless to say, the results of this simplistic procedure are often incomprehensible and useless. Translating between human languages requires intelligence in some form. An ideal field for AI to flex its muscles!
One of the biggest dilemmas for machine translation (MT) lies in the fact that human language is full of ambiguities. The meanings of words or even entire sentences – and hence also their translations – cannot be determined in isolation, but only in context. The latter can include not only other words and sentences in the text, but also knowledge about the subject matter of the text.