Facebook debuts in Arabic

Popular social networking website is now available in 40 languages with plans to add 60 more

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By  Vineetha Menon Published  March 12, 2009

Facebook is now available in both Arabic and Hebrew as part of plans to customize itself to every language in the world.

The social networking service, which is already available in 40 languages including French and German, has also made a series of changes to user home pages based on feedback from 30,000 emails.

Supporting different languages online involves a number of technical, cultural and linguistic issues, and Facebook admits that languages read from right-to-left like Arabic are exceptionally challenging.

“For example, with right-to-left languages some of the characters, mainly punctuation marks and numbers, are the same as those used in left-to-right languages like English. The mix of characters between languages written in different directions makes it difficult at times for Web applications to determine the correct direction in which to display the language,” wrote Facebook blogger Ghassan Haddad.

Different dialects of Arabic spoken in Gulf countries was also another factor that had to be considered. “In some cases, the dialects can seem so different that they border on being completely separate languages,” explained Haddad.

In the end, it settled on using the modern standard of Arabic, which is used in media, publishing and other formal circles.

Upon investigation, itp.net found that the Facebook chat application doesn’t have real-time translation functionality so Arabic users will still receive messages written in English, but it does give bi-lingual users in the country more flexibility in their communication.

With plans to add over 60 more languages in the near future, Facebook is calling on its community of more than 175 million users to help make the service available in every language across the world.

"If you speak a language other than English, check out our Translations application to participate in the process of making Facebook available to everyone, anywhere - no matter what language they speak," Haddad concluded.

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