Arabic Takes a Clear Growth Lead Among Facebook’s Top Languages in August 2010

Editor’s note: The following data is an excerpt from Inside Facebook Gold, our research and data membership service covering Facebook’s platform and advertising ecosystem.

Last month we reported that three languages were leading growth across Facebook: Arabic, Portuguese and Spanish. The field has now narrowed even further, with the growth rate for Spanish falling, Portuguese holding, and Arabic racing ahead.

Most of the other top languages, including Chinese, German and English, have more or less held steady with July’s growth rates with the exception of French and Italian, which fell to a crawl:

The rapid growth in Portuguese and Arabic is just the latest sign of the change taking place on Facebook.

While the growth of languages like English remains highest by absolute numbers, the market has more or less peaked for the moment. Meanwhile, the major European languages are more or less tied to the growth of highly-penetrated countries, like France.

The case is different for emerging languages like Arabic and Portuguese. The latter, of course, is entirely driven by Brazil, whose 191 million native speakers far outweigh the 10 million found in Portugal itself.

Brazil is still dominated by Google’s Orkut, but as we wrote last week, Facebook is growing strongly in the country and appears to have a good chance of becoming a serious contender.

Arabic is a rather different case. Despite its growth, Arabic is still by far the smallest of the top 10 languages. However, there are actually 280 million Arabic speakers in the world, but as with Spanish speakers, they’re widely scattered throughout a large geographical region.

It’s difficult at this point to pick out a strong growth trend for any specific Arabic-speaking country, of which we track over a dozen on Facebook, but the language itself is clearly establishing a foothold that will help bring more speakers from individual countries onto the social network.

There’s one more notable trend to pick out this month: English, which has long claimed a majority of users on Facebook, has now fallen below 50 percent of the total.

As you can see above, the smaller language groups still don’t hold a candle to English, or even Spanish. However, with over 500 million users now on Facebook, each of the top 10 still offers exposure to millions of users.

Brand advertisers may further benefit from reaching out to users of a language like Arabic, whose users are geographically diverse. Meanwhile, there are now eight languages with over 10 million users, which is a good threshold for investment by application developers.

The full Facebook Global Language Report is available through a membership to Inside Facebook Gold, which also includes monthly data on total global audience growth and demographics. To learn more or join, please visit Inside Facebook Gold.