Tag Archives: i18n

Multi-language support in a Django project

The Django documentation on internationalization describes how to add multi-language support to your application. As it took me a few tries to get it right, here’s a rundown of what I did to add it to an existing project.

Step 1 — update settings.py
In settings.py, make sure that USE_I18N is set to True, which is the default. The LANGUAGE_CODE setting controls the default language for the site, so if you only need to support one language you set it here.

Then add the LocaleMiddleware class to your MIDDLEWARE_CLASSES, which for a clean project might look like this:


Note that the order of the middleware classes makes a difference. LocaleMiddleware is needed for Django to select the user-preferred language from data in the request (i.e. cookies or the Accept-Language http header).

Step 2 — add translation keys to templates
Every template that should have translation support must load the i18n tag library using the {% load %} template tag. Once loaded, you can use the {% trans %} tag to mark a string for translation. A minimalistic hello-world template could look like this:

{% load i18n %}
{% trans "Hello" %}

Step 3 — create language files
Once your templates are set up, it’s time to create the language files. This step depends a bit on which operating system you’re running. I use Ubuntu Linux, so that’s what I’ll cover.

You can have language files local to an application as well as global for all your site. To set up language files for e.g. English and Swedish, move to the root of your project (or the root of the application), and run:

mkdir locale
django-admin.py makemessages -l en
django-admin.py makemessages -l sv

Note that you need to create the locale directory manually before running makemessages, otherwise you will get an error message. Also, if you get this error message:

Error: errors happened while running xgettext on __init__.py
/bin/sh: xgettext: not found

… it’s because your Linux distribution is missing the xgettext program. In Ubuntu, it’s provided by the gettext package:

sudo apt-get install gettext

Now that the language files are set up as ./locale/<language>/LC_MESSAGE/django.po, you can edit them and provide translations of the “Hello” key for each locale. When you’re done, they need to be compiled to .mo files before Django can use them:

django-admin.py compilemessages

Step 4 — done!
That’s all! You can try changing the LANGUAGE_CODE setting to switch between languages, or change the preferred-languages setting in your web browser (under Tools->Options->Content->Languages in Firefox), and Django should adapt automatically.