60%+ of tweets not in English as Arabic increases 22x

Nov 27, 2011 by Dirk Singer

A few months ago I trained a multinational, which has a policy of only responding to English-language tweets, on how to interact with customers on Twitter.

I knew that none of the top five Twitter countries (by % penetration) are English speaking.  But I didn’t question it too closely, understanding the practical difficulties of having a multilingual Twitter feed and assuming that English was still the lingua franca of social media.

In fact, research by French monitoring firm Semiocast shows that both this policy and my assumptions could do with being revised.

Semiocast found that though 70 million tweets a day are sent in English, more than 60% of tweets have been in other languages for the best part of a year.   Starting in Feb 2010, English slipped under the 50% barrier, and its share has since ‘stabilised’ between 35-40%.

It is also instructive to look at what is happening to other languages.   Japanese is still the no.2 language on Twitter, but has dropped from 19% to 14%.   Portuguese is at no.3 with 12% thanks to one word – Brazil.

Study after study shows that Brazilian Internet users are on average, super engaged.   For example, according to Al Jazeera, Brazil boasts the fastest rate of Facebook growth worldwide.

Arabic twitter messages up 2146%

At a time when demonstrations are again erupting in Cairo, the real story however is the growth of Arabic on Twitter.  Over the past year, the volume of Arabic twitter messages multiplied 22x, making Arabic the 8th most popular language on Twitter.

The Jerusalem Post tells us that the Arab world’s adoption of Twitter as a communications tool, is mirrored on other social networks.  The past year has seen 19 million new Facebook accounts created in North Africa and the Middle East, an increase of 51%.

The boom in Arabic language tweets is all the more remarkable given that, according to the Jerusalem Post, Arabic hashtags are only supported by the mobile version of Twitter.    In response to that, a Qatari group called #letstweetinarabic (@taghreedat) is campaigning to increase Arabic content.

  • Qatari Arabization of Twitter: Where even the smile is Arabic! (arabizi.wordpress.com)
  • Twitterology – A New Science? by NYTimes on Arabic Twitter traffic (arabicvideotranslation.wordpress.com)
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  • Al Jazeera
  • Arabic language
  • Brazil
  • English language
  • facebook
  • Jerusalem Post
  • Middle East
  • twitter

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