Seven Languages Grow, Three Hold Steady on Facebook in June 2010

[Editor’s Note: The following stats are excerpted from Inside Facebook Gold, our membership service tracking Facebook’s business and growth around the world. Click here to learn more about our complete data and analysis offering.]

Today, we revisit growth and demographics stats for Facebook’s top languages.

Facebook’s user base has become increasingly international since the site launched its first non-English version in February of 2008. Back when Facebook was still the English-only social network, site localization turned out to be an important force in driving Facebook’s traffic growth in locales around the world.

Now, the United States’ 125 million users currently account for just a third to a quarter of the social network’s total. That portion will fall even further by the end of the year as other regions, especially Europe and Asia, expand further.

While growth within specific countries is an important metric — one that we examine in depth in the Facebook Global Monitor Report — an equally vital measurement is which languages are actually being used most often. The results aren’t always what one might expect; for instance, many users across the world load the English version of Facebook, even when their own languages are available.

We track Facebook’s 15 most used languages, which account for about 90 percent of all users, as part of Inside Facebook Gold.

Below is an excerpt showing the top 10:

Since we looked last month, seven of the ten languages in the sample added users. English, including both the American and British standards, saw the largest growth, adding just over 10 million new users in the past month.

Spanish appears to have grown at a somewhat slower rate, adding less than two million speakers — a surprising fact, since Latin America added well over three million new monthly active users to Facebook in March. There is, of course, the Portuguese-speaking country of Brazil to account for, while users in the other countries may be choosing English to interact with applications or friends abroad.

French, the next language following Spanish, is only a third of its size. But in combination with two other major European languages, German and Italian, French offers both developers and advertisers a good reason to consider localizing for Europe. Portuguese might be included in this group, but over half of its users on Facebook are actually in Brazil. Still, in all, the various continental European languages within the top 15 (not all are shown here) now make up about 15 percent of Facebook’s userbase.

Below French, Turkish is maintaining its lead over Indonesian, despite the stronger growth of the latter country. Again, this is likely because many Indonesian users tend to choose English, while most Turkish users seem to stick with their native language. But Indonesia has almost three times the population of Turkey, so it should inch past within the next month or two.

The three languages that didn’t grow over the past month — but didn’t lose users either — were German, Chinese, and Arabic. Note that our measurement of Chinese includes both traditional and simplified usage, and spans several countries, including Taiwan, Singapore and Pacific Rim states like Malaysia; China itself has banned Facebook.

The chart below shows the percentage that each of these top ten languages represents out of the total Facebook audience:

Overall, the strongest growth among the language groups this month is coming from Europe, and we’re seeing developers (especially in gaming) work toward localizing their apps for that audience. However, Asia is gradually becoming more important, and should provide some interesting challenges; Asia’s audiences often skew much younger, with huge audiences in the 13 to 17 age range and very few users in older demographics.

The full breakdown of Facebook’s top 15 languages, including age, gender, and country splits by language, is only available through Inside Facebook Gold, our data membership service that also includes the monthly Global Monitor report on Facebook’s traffic growth around the world. To get access to the all the data we’re tracking, please see Inside Facebook Gold at gold.insidenetwork.com/facebook.