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Is Twitter finally ready to launch in Arabic?

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Is Twitter finally ready to launch in Arabic?

IJNet | January 23, 2012

UPDATE: Jan. 25. The Arabic interface may be slower in coming than we thought: Twitter just launched a volunteer translation center for right-to-left languages (Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Hebrew.) You can read more about it here.

Twitter's long-awaited Arabic interface may be launching soon.

The interface has been translated by a global group of volunteers, who are reportedly finishing up Monday, January 23. As of this writing, Twitter has not responded to IJNet's request for comment.

Although the microblogging service has been credited with giving momentum to the Arab Spring, its lack of Arabic-language has been considered a weak spot. One report found Arabic had the highest growth of languages used to tweet in 2011.

"It's about time that Twitter gives Arabic the attention it deserves by providing a right to left interface that makes Arabic sentences coherent and easier on the eyes," said Natasha Tynes, a media professional formerly at the International Center for Journalists, where she developed and managed online training and Middle East programs. "[The interface] will encourage more to tweet in Arabic, especially those who were so turned off by the messed up Arabic interface that they opted to use English or even express themselves in Arabic using Latin characters."

In 2010, the San Francisco-based company announced it would launch an Arabic interface the following year. The new interface is just getting off the ground now, one year after revolutions rocked the Middle East.

The lack of an official interface has meant that Arabic users have employed a handful of other third-party services to get their voices out. Twitter currently offers 20 interfaces, including Chinese and Russian.

Tynes says she's curious to see how one key element of Twitter works in Arabic: the hashtag.

"Will Arabic speakers use hashtags in their native language, or will they be forced to use a whole new symbol that works with Arabic characters?" she asked. "I'm sure perfecting the use of Arabic on Twitter will be an ongoing process."

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