Today is a gorgeous warm day, and at 9:30 it’s already 80. Time to kick back and read yesterday’s WSJ, where a story about foreign language web content caught my eye. Yes, Virginia, only 30-40 percent of the web is written in English. The rest is a treasure trove of other languages…until recently not accessible to those of us who remain monolingual.
But search engines are making it easier–and the article by Jessica E. Vascellaro details some of Google and Yahoo’s plans to allow searches in English that crawl the other language versions of Google to find better results. Granted, the translations are not always perfect, but they are usable. “An English-speaking user could type in ‘Bordeaux tasting’ and a particular town in France and select from a pull-down menu–an option that lets him search French web pages. Google then automatically translates the query into French, finds the most relevant results among French Web pages, and presents those pages back to the user in English.”
Yahoo has taken a different approach–they use humans to answer questions on their Yahoo Answers page. In a dozen languages, the service lets users ask other Yahoo users questions in their language. “Outside the US, there is information that is still in people’s heads that doesn’t appear on the web,” said Tim Mayer, VP Product development at Yahoo Search. “This is a very large opportunity.”