Facebook goes live in Arabic

14th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

Facebook went live last year with French, Spanish and German versions of its service, which is available in 40 languages. Engineers at the California-based Internet firm are working on adding 60 more languages to its repertoire.

San Francisco -- Facebook on Wednesday launched Arabic and Hebrew versions of the world's most popular social-networking website as it continued customizing itself to languages around the planet.

Facebook went live last year with French, Spanish and German versions of its service, which is available in 40 languages. Engineers at the California-based Internet firm are working on adding 60 more languages to its repertoire.

"Our goal is to make Facebook available in every language across the world," Facebook engineer Ghassan Haddad wrote in an online message.

Arabic and Hebrew versions of the website were tricky to create because writing in those languages is read right-to-left instead of left-to-write as is the case with English.

"Supporting different languages on the Web always entails many technical, cultural and linguistic issues, but right-to-left languages present extra challenges," Haddad wrote.

"Over the past 20 years, I have worked on hundreds of translation projects with different companies. Few of those projects ever tackled right-to-left languages because of the technical challenges."

Facebook created a "dynamic explosion" feature to deal with the fact that Arabic and Hebrew words are sometimes used differently depending on whether a person being referred to is a man or a woman, according to Haddad.

Facebook said it uses the only written form of Arabic, a Modern Standard style used by Middle Eastern media, publishing, and religious circles.

"Even with the use of one written form, significant regional variations exist, especially related to words for modern advances such as in the area of technology," Haddad wrote.

Facebook enlists its community to get local languages correct at its websites.

"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 wrote.

Founded in 2004 by former Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook claims to have 175 million members worldwide.

AFP/Expatica

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