Cross-language information retrieval is an important research area with lots of activity. There are all kinds of elaborate algorithms and ways of doing it. There’s a lot of domain specificity and connotation kind of things that have been really improved in the past decade.
Most people searching won’t really have the support of the fancy specialized tools. I’ve approximated some of this searching for years using various basic search engine language tools. Luckily, recently they’ve added a lot more Chinese, Japanese, Persian, and Russian translation options in addition to the Western or Romanized languages. They’ve also become a lot more sophisticated.
Typically these sites offer to translate a word, a passage, or the page at a URL. Google now offers alternate meanings for a word (cool!) and also will translate a search.
For alternate meanings here’s an example:
Translating the search is even cooler:
Update: you can find this stuff on the main page of google next to the search box. Here’s a direct link: http://translate.google.com/