Internationalization with static and dynamic content, routing and switching

by kicaj
Many times, when I prepare a new website I always think how to solve better internationalization. Mainly how resolve displaying dynamic content in the event that this has not been translated into the selected language, how to make search friendly links (called nice urls, slugs) in the database, how to solve the problem of routing these links and how to perform switching and keeping language.
In last web project I was prepared application without Cookies and Session, but I only by switching parameter in the address (URL).

Why that solutions?

Because Session and Cookies works perfectly when We haven’t translated links by magic function from Gettext (__();).

In many tutorials setting language is inside Controller (mainly AppControler or Component). This doesn't work when We use translate content in Router (Router::connect();).
Sometimes tutorials resolved problem by set language and refresh page (by $this->redirect();). I don't like that!


I would like URL like these:
/ // home page for default language
/en // home page for english
/pl // home page for polish
/de // home page for germany
/register // register action (for e.g. UsersController) for default language
/pl/rejestracja // register action for polish
/de/anmeldung // register action for germans
And I thinking shouldn't work links like these:
/pl/register // polish language for translated action name
/en/anmeldung // like above
Why? Because in my opinion there is no place for mixing links (mainly for SEO).

My solutions is setting language before app starting (AppController) and this is most ugly part in my article, latter I wrote why.

Let's start coding!

bootstap.php (app/Config):

define('DEFAULT_LANGUAGE', 'en').

Configure::write('Config.languages', array(
	'en' => 'English version',
	'pl' => 'Język polski',
	'de' => 'Deutsch Version'));
In first line we define constant with 2-letter code for default language, which is English. Next prepare array with codes and description languages for own app and save it in configuration.

routes.php (app/Config):

$language = substr(Router::url(''), 0, 2); // check that it works properly (sometimes You must trip part of url, for e.g. folder names)
$languages = array_keys(Configure::read('Config.languages'));

if(!in_array($language, array_diff($languages, array(DEFAULT_LANGUAGE)))) {
	$language = DEFAULT_LANGUAGE;
	$schema = '';
} else {
	$schema = '/:language';

Configure::write('Config.language', $language);

/* PagesController */
Router::connect('/', array(
	'controller' => 'pages',
	'action' => 'display',
Router::connect('/:language', array(
	'controller' => 'pages',
	'action' => 'display',
	'home'), array(
		'language' => implode('|', $languages)));

/* UsersController */	
Router::connect($schema .'/'. __('register', true), array(
	'controller' => 'users',
	'action' => 'register'), array(
		'persist' => array(
Yeah, in first line is most ugly code from all codes. This get first 2 letters from url for checking what is code represent language inside configurations 'Config.languages'. Next prepare schema for using in routing schemas and write selected language to Config.language.
In this code I was prepare 3 routing schemas for home page with default language and with selected language and last for registration page.

Note: How prepare app to using static translated content, using Poedit app It has been well described in the book "CakePHP 1.3 Application Development Cookbook" by Mariano Iglesias (Yeap, the book was translated to polish!).

There is no different between 1.3 and 2.x.

I use magic parameter 'persist' for routing. It's works for adding language params for $this->Html->links(); when the schema using /:language. More info on Router API.

AppHelper.php (app/Views/Helpers):

function url($url = null, $full = false) {
	if($this->params['language'] == DEFAULT_LANGUAGE) {

	return parent::url($url, $full);
I must rewrite url() method because I want using language parameter from configuration. I unset language params when it is default, because we have duplicate content (by 2 urls: /register and /en/register).

When I rewrite url() method and using persist in routing schemas these two things work perfectly together!

default.ctp (app/Views/Layouts/):

Now we test own app with codes below:
foreach(Configure::read('Config.languages') as $code => $language) { // show links for translated version
	echo $this->Html->link($language, array(
		'controller' => 'pages',
		'action' => 'display',
		'language' => $code)) .' ';

echo $this->Html->link(__('register', true), array( // show link to registartion page
	'controller' => 'users',
	'action' => 'register'));
And static, routing and switching all done.

Dynamic content

For dynamic conent Cake setting $locale variable by default in own app from configuration (Config.language). How setting this variable by hand is described on Saving in another language.

But if We want display translate article from database and this article isn't translated I want view oryginal version. How do this?

AppController.php (app/Controller):

Put code below to beforeFilter();.
if(Configure::read('Config.language') !== DEFAULT_LANGUAGE) {
	$this->{$this->modelClass}->locale = array(Configure::read('Config.language'), DEFAULT_LANGUAGE);
} else {
	$this->{$this->modelClass}->locale = DEFAULT_LANGUAGE;
This try get translated version (first array param) or oryginal version (second param).

How add, edit and translate content?
I think the best way is adding content in only default language, but if You want translate content and save it, You must switch language and go to edit page.

This is magic!
Whem we are on edit page and there is no language param in url, we save it in default language, but when there is language param in url, we save it in selected language.

Don't forget to prepare i18n database table and Your model for translated fields.

That's all!
I waiting on question and comments! Tested on 2.2.5 version.

Sorry, but I still learn english.



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