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Facebook in Arabic and Hebrew

12 Mar 09 16:13

The social-networking site Facebook has added Arabic and Hebrew to more than 40 language versions already available to web users.

The California-based internet firm says it aims to create the site "in every language across the world".

Users were already able to write in Hebrew and Arabic on the English site.

Israeli Facebook user, Kobi Cohen told the BBC he opted for the new Hebrew version, but has since reverted to the English site because "it looks better".

"I prefer English as a computer language - and the Hebrew translation is not accurate," said Kobi, an office manager in Tel Aviv.

Facebook engineer Ghassan Haddad, who speaks Arabic, Hebrew and Farsi, says creating the Arabic and Hebrew versions was tricky.

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

Tel Aviv student Meytal Ben-Yosef describes herself as a "heavy Facebook user". She says the new sites may appeal to people who don't speak a lot of English.

"But I chose not to go Hebrew. I have a lot of friends in other countries and I want my page to be in the same language as others speak. That way it's more of a global community."

Facebook claims to have 175 million members worldwide, making it the world's most popular social-networking site.

The company may hope to extend its global reach by talking to people in their own language.

However, London-based Iraqi journalist Marwa told BBC News that current members would find it hard to switch.

"I've developed online habits! I'm used to navigating Facebook in English and from left-to-right. I've just looked at the new Arabic site and I don't really like it.

"Some of my Facebook friends in Iraq may use it, but it's hard to leave something that you're used to."

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