Facebook Introduces Arabic And Hebrew Versions

Makes itself accessible to at least 213 million people

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[ Social Media]

It doesn’t look like Facebook’s international growth rate is going to taper off anytime soon.  Huge numbers of people will find the social network easier to access as of today, since Arabic and Hebrew versions of the site have been introduced.

Arabic, according to the Ethnologue, is the fourth-most common language with around 206 million speakers (in 1999).  Toss in another 7 million or so individuals who speak Hebrew, and you’ll see that Facebook accomplished something very important here.

Facebook Arabic

It also accomplished something difficult.  On the Facebook Blog, Ghassan Haddad pointed out that Arabic and Hebrew are written right-to-left, and "[t]he 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.  Design is another challenge, since a Web page laid out from right to left looks like a mirror image of an equivalent English page.  All components on the page must be changed . . ."

And here’s another curveball: "both Arabic and Hebrew are highly inflectional languages.  In English, verbs do not change based on the gender of the person described, whereas in Arabic and Hebrew, two words with the same meaning are used differently based on whether a person is male or female.  In order to deal with this issue, our developers built a feature we call dynamic explosion, which detects a person’s gender and selects the matching translation."

Anyway, the addition of Arabic and Hebrew brings Facebook’s language total to exactly 40.  Over 60 more are in development.

Facebook Introduces Arabic And Hebrew Versions
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  • http://www.microsplot.com bszlachta

    “Dynamic explosion”? Was that really the best choice of words for a harmless-sounding feature on Arabic pages?

    Well, congratulations anyway to Facebook for the Arabic and Hebrew updates. Though I suspect cross-pollination of Friends among the two groups will be a wee sluggish…

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