Social networking: What's happening? 140 characters in three new languages

Twitter's global ambitions rely on it being available to as many people as possible and in each of their native languages.

This week, the little blue bird spread its wings wider, adding Basque, Czech and Greek to the list of more than 30 languages it now supports. This comes hot on the heels of Ukrainian and Catalan, both added in July.

Twitter was English-only for the first two years after its launch in 2006. In 2008, it added Japanese. In 2009 it rolled out in French, Italian, German and Spanish, the first four for any web product planning an incursion into Europe. In February 2011, the company launched the Twitter Translation Centre.

By crowdsourcing the assistance of willing, multilingual volunteers, it is able to launch in new languages more quickly. Last September, shortly after announcing it had reached 100m active users worldwide, Twitter added Chinese, Hindi, Filipino and Malay, making it more accessible to half a billion. In March 2012, for the first time, the service began supporting right-to-left languages: Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew and Urdu. It now claims more than 13,000 volunteers are at work on behalf of the Translation Centre. Many come from countries where Twitter is blocked: they include a Saudi blogger, an Israeli teacher, Iranian IT workers, Lebanese teenagers and at least one BBC journalist.

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