Facebook, now live in over 40 languages with over 60 more in the process of user translation, today officially launched in Arabic and Hebrew – two languages in which writing begins on the right side of the page and ends on the left.
It’s an impressive technical accomplishment, because many elements of the Facebook site had to be reworked to account for all the linguistic differences. As Facebook’s Ghassan Haddad writes,
For example, with right-to-left languages some of the characters, mainly punctuation marks and numbers, are the same as those used in left-to-right languages like English. The mix of characters between languages written in different directions makes it difficult at times for Web applications to determine the correct direction in which to display the language. Design is another challenge, since a Web page laid out from right to left looks like a mirror image of an equivalent English page. All components on the page must be changed, including text alignment, ordering of tabs on pages, different fields on forms, labels, buttons and much more.
For more details on the challenges of translating into Arabic Hebrew, read the read of Haddad’s blog post.