Latin now usable language on Facebook

Ronny Kerr · October 2, 2009 · Short URL:

Facebook adds Latin to its roster of over 70 living, dead, and joke languages

"Quid cogitas?"

"Senttentiam scribe..."

"Abhinc 50 minutas via Facebook pro iPhone."

You might not need to be a classics scholar to figure out what these phrases mean, if you're on Facebook often enough. Many of us check the social site so frequently that if we ever saw "Quid cogitas?" in the status update bar, we would probably be able to guess that it meant something like, "What's on your mind?" Likewise for the second quotation ("Write a comment...") in comment bars and the third ("50 minutes ago from Facebook for iPhone") beneath friend updates.

Scholars, nerds, and curious folk alike: today is a good day.

Having already translated the site into more than 70 languages, Facebook announced this morning that it has added Latin as an available language for the site. Aside from supporting a vast quantity of extant languages around the world (which certainly helped erect its still-growing 300+ million user base), Facebook has long been a fan of supporting languages that no one really uses. Pirates can have their Facebook in Pirate language ("What be troublin' ye?"), while the down-right silly can have their Facebook display everything in English, except upside-down.

All the languages Facebook has added support for have been added quickly and with quality translations--even the joke ones--due in large part to Facebook's method of crowd-sourcing the translation process. Influenced by other Web 2.0 sites like Wikipedia and Reddit, Facebook implemented a system where users could submit translations of various strings on the site. Other users would then vote on the quality of the translation.

Facebook's translation into Latin may not be just for giggles, however. It could prove to be a valuable learning tool.

"To students of Latin, the availability of the language on Facebook may be just what's needed to narrow the distance between themselves and the venerable language. After all, the experience of studying Latin can frequently seem somewhat far and away," says Facebook communications team associate Elizabeth Linder. "Recognizing verb stems and identifying vocabulary roots just somehow aren't quite the same as ordering off a menu or asking for directions."

I guess we will all see soon enough whether students want to be studying every time they check their news feeds.

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