As Facebook grows in other languages, we are learning a lot about what the “Facebook Experience” is like for people around the world. One of the first challenges was getting words that are really long in other languages to fit on the screen properly. Recently, we’ve been figuring out how to deal with a new challenge—grammar.
Ever see a story about a friend who tagged “themself” in a photo? “Themself” isn’t even a real word. We’ve used that in place of “himself or herself”. We made that grammatical choice in order to respect people who haven’t, until now, selected their sex on their profile.
However, we’ve gotten feedback from translators and users in other countries that translations wind up being too confusing when people have not specified a sex on their profiles. People who haven’t selected what sex they are frequently get defaulted to the wrong sex entirely in Mini-Feed stories
Things get complicated when Facebook goes international… It’s odd that gender is so rooted in language– think of all of those Romance languages where everything is masculine or feminine– that it becomes a kind of Rosetta stone for translation. You wouldn’t want to get defaulted to the wrong sex in your Mini-Feed story.