Facebook moves into international translation efforts

Lagging behind some of its close competitors, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based social network unveils its strategy for launching French, Spanish, and German versions.

As has been long expected , Facebook has begun to work on making its service available in multiple languages as it expands internationally--and it's doing so by utilizing the power of its millions of users by enlisting them to volunteer a few minutes. The site has spent the past few weeks asking international users to participate in the process by installing a "Translation" application that lets them translate words on Facebook from English to their native languages. It only applies, of course, to Facebook-generated text; anything entered by users, like interests or favorite movies, remain as-is.

The Translation application is initially available in French, Spanish, and German, and Facebook has said that thousands of users have enlisted in the process and are "actively translating."

A preview: Facebook en espanol Facebook

But it's more complicated than that: "This doesn't mean that once a user has finished translating the site will be available in that language," a release from Facebook explained. "In order to get the best possible quality translations, we have a voting system. Other translators of that language will be able to vote on the quality of the translation by giving it a thumbs up or thumbs down. Users are also able to report any poor translations or translators." Essentially, Facebook has prank-proofed the system.

Full versions of Facebook in French, Spanish, and German will be available, ideally, before the end of March; when those are complete, the next set of languages (which have yet to be determined) will enter the translation process.

A handful of other social networks already offer a variety of languages based either on personal preference or geographic location. Friendster, which is popular in Asia, allows its users to toggle back and forth between English and Chinese ; MySpace operates more than a dozen international sites with both language and content targeted toward the culture in question.

 

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