Currently, less than 10 percent of all Web pages are in German, so when German speakers search the Internet for information they are missing out on the huge amount of content that may be useful to them but is in a different language, said Eckart Walther, vice president of product management at Yahoo Search.
As it is now, Web searchers must know the exact word or phrase in a foreign language to get search results that are applicable beyond what is available in their own language.
The beta, or test version, of Yahoo Suche (Search) Translator, available at Yahoo's German search site, will make it possible for people to search knowing only their own language.
For example, a search for "bestes vegetarisches restaurant in San Francisco" brings up about 45 search results when searching German language documents, but pulls up an additional 290,000 results when using the Yahoo Suche Translator tool.
"The goal is to present the entire Web to a user, in essence, in their native language," said Walther, who speaks some German.
The test site includes a search option that turns on the machine-based technology that performs the translations on the fly. After a query is typed in, it translates it into English and French, searches across the Web and provides a list of result abstracts in German.
Each item has an accompanying link next to it that points back to the Web page in its original language. When a result in German is clicked on the entire Web page is then automatically translated into that language. Walther concedes that there will be mistakes because it is machine-based translation, which is not nearly as accurate as human translation.
The next language Yahoo will tackle is French, followed by additional languages in Europe and Asia in the coming year, Walther said.
The technology combines the company's in-house development with software supplied by Systran.