Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products NV (L&H) has launched free Internet translation tools to help companies conduct electronic commerce internationally, the company announced today.

Through the iTranslator web site, users can translate documents up to 5,210 characters in length for free using L&H's automatic translation software.

If they are not satisfied with this "gist quality" translation, then for a fee the site offers a more polished work of the L&H's network of human translators, the company said in a statement.

The company is pushing the service as a way for businesses to overcome language barriers to e-commerce.

The site - at http://www.itranslator.com/ - offers machine translation between 16 different language pairs, including translation from English to French, German, Italian, Spanish or Portuguese, and back.

Human translation services are offered between 29 language pairs, and the Web site enables users to get quotes and pay for translation work by credit card.

While machine translation services are provided "on the fly," translations requiring human intervention are rather slower: they can take 48 hours for documents up to 1250 words (around 7500 characters) in length.