transliteration-bookmarkletTwitter has announced that it will over the coming few weeks, support Hindi and 16 other languages. Though the company hasn’t elaborated on what exactly it means by ‘support’, it probably means that it will allow tweeting in Hindi. Well, if you’ve been on Twitter long enough, you’ll probably already have seen tweets in Indic languages, including Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. Tweeting in regional languages is already possible using Google’s Indic transliteration bookmarklets – and it has been so since May 2009 – that’s when I took the screenshot (top, right); it’s just that Google hasn’t done a good job of promoting the bookmarklets.

Twitter should integrate a transliteration service as a default option, allowing users with India as their location to tweet in their regional language by choosing Hindi as their default language, and launch other language options via transliteration too.

If you don’t want to wait for Twitter to evolve, just copy the following bookmarklets to your browser toolbar, and click on the bookmarklet to begin typing:

– [ع Type in Arabic]
– [अ Type in Hindi]
– [ಅ Type in Kannada]
– [അ Type in Malayalam]
– [அ Type in Tamil]
–  [అ Type in Telugu]

What Twitter is probably doing

Based on what we’ve seen from Facebook’s Hindi and other Indic language deployments, it probably means that a Hindi language interface is being launched for the site. This means that instead of ‘What’s Happening?’ the question users will have to answer is – क्या हो रहा हैं? There is a suggestion in its announcement that this is more about reading than writing: For many, getting the most out of Twitter isn’t only about tweeting: 40 percent of our active users simply sign in to listen to what’s happening in their world.

If it doesn’t have transliteration for tweeting in Hindi, then this launch will be #Fail, and just lip service, much like Facebook’s Indic pages which don’t allow users posting information in Indic languages. Transliteration is important since the proliferation of Indic language keyboards and mobile phones in India is minuscule.

That said, I’d like to be proven wrong, and hope that there’s more to the Hindi launch than just an interface with Hindi text, and tweeting only in English.

P.s.: if anyone from Google is reading this – what has your Indic team been up to over the last year and a half? Has development on Indic halted? Let me know – nikhil at medianama dot com