Translating Alaveteli

We've designed Alaveteli to be used in many different jurisdictions all around the world. If it doesn't already support the language you need, you can help by translating it. This page explains how.

Alaveteli already contains translations!

Alaveteli ships ready to run in a number of different languages. If Alaveteli has already been translated into the language (or languages) you need, you just need to configure it – see AVAILABLE_LOCALES.

Look in the locale/ directory to see what translations are already available. Some are complete translations of the site. Others are only partial – either because the translations have not been finished yet, or else because the translators have not updated the texts since developers changed or added text on the site.

There are two reasons the translations may need more work before you can use them:

  • the language you want is not one of those we already have
    In this case, there will be no entry in locale/ for it, because nobody has yet translated Alaveteli into your language. See the rest of this page to learn how to add a new translation.

  • the translation for your language is incomplete, or lagging behind
    This might simply be because it is a work in progress. Furthermore, sometimes an incomplete translation already covers all the areas of the site you need anyway. Of course, you can add to a partial translation, but it’s a good idea to check with us first, since we’ll probably know who is working on the current translation and what state it’s in.

Translators are members of the Alaveteli community, and often work separately from the developers. This means translations can lag a little behind the code. However, our release process includes a “translation freeze”, which gives the translators a chance to catch up – read the rest of this page for details.

Alaveteli’s translations

You don’t need to be a programmer to translate Alaveteli – we use an external website called Transifex to help manage translations. This makes it easy for translators to get to work, but it does mean you (or your technical team) need to do a little extra work to get those translations back into Alaveteli when they are ready.

The Transifex project is at – you’ll probably want an account there (ask on the mailing list). It has a fairly easy-to-use interface for contributing translations.

Alaveteli localises strings using GNU gettext and .pot & .po files. If you’re a developer, you should read internationalising Alaveteli.

What a translator needs to do

If you’re just working on translating Alaveteli into a language you know, then this section is for you.

Remember that Alaveteli already comes with some translations, so check first that you really need to do this. Maybe someone has already translated Alaveteli into the language you need!

When a developer adds a new feature to the user interface in Alaveteli, they use some code to mark sentences or words (“strings”) that they think will need to be translated.

When the Alaveteli release manager is planning a release, they will upload a template containing all the strings to be translated (called a .pot file) to Transifex. This causes your own translations in Transifex to be updated with the latest strings.

When you visit Transifex, it will prompt you to fill out values for all new strings, and all strings that have been modified. In the case where a string has only been slightly modified, such as with punctuation (“Hello” has become “Hello!”), Transifex will suggest a suitable translation for you (look for the Suggestions tab under the source string).

In order for this feature to work properly, the release manager has to download your translations, run a program that inserts the suggestions, and then upload them again. Therefore, when a release candidate is announced, make sure you have uploaded any outstanding translations, or you will lose them.

When a release candidate has been annouced, there is a translation freeze: during this period, developers must not add any new strings to the software, so you can be confident that you’re translating everything that will be in the final release.

The release manager will also give you a translation deadline. After this date, you can continue to contribute new translations, but they won’t make it into the release.

General notes on translation in Transifex

Some strings will have comments attached to them from the Alaveteli application developers about the context in which the text appears in the application — these comments will appear under the Details tab for the text in Transifex.

Some strings will have placeholders in them to indicate that Alaveteli will insert some text of its own into them when they’re displayed. They will be surrounded by double curly brackets, and look like this:

some text with {{placeholder}} in it

For these strings, don’t translate the placeholder. It needs to stay exactly the same for the text to be inserted properly:

ein Text mit {{placeholder}} in ihm

Similarly, some strings may contain small bits of HTML — these will have code in angle brackets (it might really be indicating that the text is a link, or that it needs special formatting). For example:

please <a href=\"{{url}}\">send it to us</a>

Again, don’t edit the bits between the angle brackets — preserve them in your translation, and just edit the text around them. So the example might become:

bitte <a href=\"{{url}}\">schicken Sie es uns</a>

Some strings are in the form of two pieces of text separated by a vertical bar (|) character, e.g. IncomingMessage|Subject. These represent attribute names, so IncomingMessage|Subject is the subject attribute of an incoming message on the site. Do not prioritise these types of text when translating – they do not appear on the site anywhere at the moment, and when they do, they will only be used in the admin interface. If you do translate them, only translate the text that comes after the |.

How the translations get into Alaveteli

In order to get the translated strings from Transifex into Alaveteli, follow the instructions in these deployment notes. This will be the job of the technical people on your team (or even mySociety’s release manager). If translators aren’t technical, they can use Transifex without needing to worry about this.

The help pages

As the help pages for Alaveteli contain lots of text, they’re translated outside Transifex, by translating each whole help page and replacing it in the theme that Alaveteli is using, so that it overrides the default page. See the guide to Alaveteli’s themes for more information on this.

Developers and internationalisation

If you’re writing new code for Alaveteli, then you’re a developer, and you need to understand how to make any text you add easy for translators to work with – see the page about internationalising Alaveteli.

If you are a developer or translator actively working on internationalising Alaveteli code, you should talk to us to find out when the next release is due, so your translations can be prepared in time to be included in it.