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Arabic explodes on Twitter

Arabic is exploding as a language on Twitter. In a reflection of the social network’s importance to the “Arab Spring” (which saw the overthrow of decades-old regimes in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia) the number of Arabic tweets has grown by more than 2 000% in the last 12 months.

A number of prominent bloggers, who admit that social networks like Facebook and Twitter were tools used in the revolutions, were widely praised for their real-time reporting of events on the social network.

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According to social media analysis firm Semiocast, Arabic is now the eighth most used language on Twitter, with Arabic messages accounting for around 1.2% of all messages sent on the social network.

The French-based firm says more than two million public messages were posted in Arabic every day on Twitter in October 2011, up from about 30 000 in July 2010.

The phenomenal growth of Arabic is particularly intriguing, given that it is not one of the 17 languages Twitter has been translated into.

Other Middle Eastern languages, although less prolific than Arabic, have also seen immense growth in the last year.

Farsi grew 350% in the past year, sending around 50 000 messages a year, while Turkish grew 290% in the same period.

Semiocast’s report also reveals widespread growth in the use of a number of other languages on the social network.

English is still the most used language on Twitter. Its share of the Twittersphere has, however, levelled out at around 39%.

The top five languages used on Twitter in 2011 were English, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish and Malay, according to the report.

Of these, only Japanese tweets have decreased in volume — falling from more than 19% mid-2010 to 14.2% in October 2011 — , The rest all showed significant growth.

Semiocast reckons that its technology is capable of identifying “the language used in short messages among 61 languages in all major writing systems (including Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, Chinese, Korean, Tamil, Cyrillic, Devanagari).”

The company says it conducted the survey “on 5.6 billion public messages gathered between July, 1st 2010 and October, 31st 2011, to establish the evolution of most-used languages on Twitter”.

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