Do you think you need more or less space to tweet or simply write in your language?

By 15th March 2013 Cultural twists No Comments

We recently happened upon a new-ish App called ‘Tweeet‘, that’s tweeet with not 2 but 3 ‘e’s.

Composing a TwEEEt

It’s an App that allows you to say your something in more than 140 characters – and that’s not just a straight win for those who are unable to edit what they write, or for those who just feel that they have so much more to say than everybody else; more significantly (for us anyway) this allows people whose natural tweeting language requires more characters and even words than the English language to say what they properly want to say – and without abbreviation or insult. Take the Arabic language, or even French and Spanish, and you will find that to say the same as what you may have said in English you will need anything from a 15/20% through to some 30% increase in characters; or, within the constraints of 140 characters, that’s more likely to mean saying 20-30% less than what you would like to. Ways around this so far have included:

– a greater dependency on web links (although even this has just recently contracted by 2 characters for anyone using the ‘’ suffix),

– and a much less formal use of language such as ‘tu’ replacing the more polite ‘vous’ in French and ‘usted’ in Spanish, and similarly ‘Du’ replacing ‘Sie’ in German, and ‘to’ instead of the more formal ‘shoma’ in Persian. This latter example is a sign of the social networking times where barriers are down and everyone is starting off as friends rather than perpetuating the hitherto offline respect by hierarchy of age or experience (except in Russian where ‘vy’ persists in on-and-offline greetings to strangers). It certainly requires more thought and imagination when composing a brief message with even fewer letters.

simple abbreviations, acronyms and even made-up words

Anyway, it reminds us of our experience when researching ads, product design and concepts in different countries, when design and layout has to take into consideration the potential expansion or contraction of words depending on which language it is written in.

“In other words, when capturing every nuance of a language as the linguist does (unlike machine translation, Google translate etc), different languages require more, or less, words to get the exact same meaning across“, explained Edward Ling at Foreign Tongues Translation Agency. “Any ambiguity in the conversion can mean your target audience misses the subtleties of your finely crafted marketing copy or survey question.”

Below is a table provided by Edward that lists some of the main commercial languages, and the average target text expansion/contraction when translated.

“Take the single word ‘please’ in English for example, it becomes 3 words in French: ‘s’il vous plaît’.” Edward further explained:


And just back to the Tweeet App for a moment, in case you were wondering… No, it isn’t magic, nor anything less than legal, it simply takes the extra long tweet and exports it as an image which it posts to your Twitter account. “Then, when you tweet it, you’ll be able to add the normal 140 character message where will be added automatically all the hashtags mentions and links you put in the text box. Simple and effective. It recognizes all types of alphabets including the Arabic and the Chinese. And, of course, it’s free! It requires the Twitter client installed in the phone.” Oh, and it was developed by a couple of teenagers – pretty impressive!

So now you, your language (especially not, but even if it’s English) – are there any shortcuts or strategies you have for optimising the 140 character space, or other language copy issues? Let us know – send an email to

Many thanks to

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