gettext in JavaScript

We have gettext in JavaScript! Just mark your strings with gettext() or ngettext(). There isn’t an _ alias right now, since underscore.js has that. If we end up with a lot of JS translations, we can fix that. Check it out:

cd locale
./ -d javascript
pybabel init -l en_US -d . -i javascript.pot -D javascript
perl -pi -e 's/fuzzy//' en_US/LC_MESSAGES/javascript.po
pybabel compile -d . -D javascript
open http://0:8000/en-US/jsi18n/

Model fields

The translations app defines a Translation model, but for the most part, you shouldn’t have to use that directly. When you want to create a foreign key to the translations table, use translations.fields.TranslatedField. This subclasses Django’s django.db.models.ForeignKey to make it work with our special handling of translation rows.

A minimal model with translations in zamboni would look like this:

from django.db import models

import mkt.translations

class MyModel(
    description = translations.fieldsTranslatedField()


How it works behind the scenes

As mentioned above, a TranslatedField is actually a ForeignKey to the translations table. However, to support multiple languages, we use a special feature of MySQL allowing you to have a ForeignKey pointing to multiple rows.

When querying

Our base manager has a _with_translations() method that is automatically called when you instanciate a queryset. It does 2 things:

  • Stick an extra lang=lang in the query to prevent query caching from returning objects in the wrong language
  • Call translations.transformers.get_trans() which does the black magic.

get_trans() is called, and calls in turn translations.transformer.build_query() and builds a custom SQL query. This query is the heart of the magic. For each field, it setups a join on the translations table, trying to find a translation in the current language (using translation.get_language()) and then in the language returned by get_fallback() on the instance (for addons, that’s default_locale; if the get_fallback() method doesn’t exist, it will use settings.LANGUAGE_CODE, which should be en-US in zamboni).

Only those 2 languages are considered, and a double join + IF / ELSE is done every time, for each field.

This query is then ran on the slave (get_trans() gets a cursor using connections[multidb.get_slave()]) to fetch the translations, and some Translation objects are instantiated from the results and set on the instance(s) of the original query.

To complete the mechanism, TranslationDescriptor.__get__ returns the Translation, and Translations.__unicode__ returns the translated string as you’d expect, making the whole thing transparent.

When setting

Everytime you set a translated field to a string value, TranslationDescriptor __set__ method is called. It determines which method to call (because you can also assign a dict with multiple translations in multiple languages at the same time). In this case, it calls translation_from_string() method, still on the “hidden” TranslationDescriptor instance. The current language is passed at this point, using translation_utils.get_language().

From there, translation_from_string() figures out whether it’s a new translation of a field we had no translation for, a new translation of a field we already had but in a new language, or an update to an existing translation.

It instantiates a new Translation object with the correct values if necessary, or just updates the correct one. It then places that object in a queue of Translation instances to be saved later.

When you eventually call, the pre_save signal is sent. If you followed the example above, that means translations.fields.save_signal is then called, and it unqueues all Translation objects and saves them. It’s important to do this on pre_save to prevent foreign key constraint errors.

When deleting

Deleting all translations for a field is done using delete_translation(). It sets the field to NULL and then deletes all the attached translations.

Deleting a specific translation (like a translation in spanish, but keeping the english one intact) is implemented but not recommended at the moment. The reason why is twofold:

  1. MySQL doesn’t let you delete something that still has a FK pointing to it, even if there are other rows that match the FK. When you call delete() on a translation, if it was the last translation for that field, we set the FK to NULL and delete the translation normally. However, if there were any other translations, instead we temporarily disable the constraints to let you delete just the one you want.
  2. Remember how fetching works? If you deleted a translation that is part of the fallback, then when you fetch that object, depending on your locale you’ll get an empty string for that field, even if there are Translation objects in other languages available!

For additional discussion on this topic, see

Additional tricks

In addition to the above, apps/translations/ monkeypatches Django to bypass errors thrown because we have a ForeignKey pointing to multiple rows.

Also, you might be interested in translations.query.order_by_translation. Like the name suggests, it allows you to order a QuerySet by a translated field, honoring the current and fallback locales like it’s done when querying.