Translating CKAN

CKAN is used in many countries, and adding a new language to the web interface is a simple process.

CKAN uses the url to determine which language is used. An example would be /fr/dataset would be shown in french. If CKAN is running under a directory then an example would be /root/fr/dataset. For custom paths check the ckan.root_path config option.

See also

Developers, see String internationalization for how to mark strings for translation in CKAN code.

Supported languages

CKAN already supports numerous languages. To check whether your language is supported, look in the source at ckan/i18n for translation files. Languages are named using two-letter ISO language codes (e.g. es, de).

If your language is present, you can switch the default language simply by setting the ckan.locale_default option in your CKAN config file, as described in Internationalisation Settings. For example, to switch to German:


If your language is not supported yet, the remainder of this section section provides instructions on how to prepare a translation file and add it to CKAN.

Adding a new language or improving an existing translation

If you want to add an entirely new language to CKAN or update an existing translation, you have two options.

  • Transifex setup. Creating or updating translation files using Transifex, the open source translation software. To add a language you need to request it from the Transifex dashboard: Alternatively to update an existing language you need to request to join the appropriate CKAN language team. If you don’t hear back from the CKAN administrators, contact them via the ckan-dev list.
  • Manual setup. Creating translation files manually in your own branch.


If you choose not to contribute your translation back via Transifex then you must ensure you make it public in another way, as per the requirements of CKAN’s AGPL license.

Transifex setup

Transifex, the open translation platform, provides a simple web interface for writing translations and is widely used for CKAN internationalization.

Using Transifex makes it easier to handle collaboration, with an online editor that makes the process more accessible.

Existing CKAN translation projects can be found at:

When leading up to a CKAN release, the strings are loaded onto Transifex and ckan-dev list is emailed to encourage translation work. When the release is done, the latest translations on Transifex are checked back into CKAN.

Transifex administration

The Transifex workflow is described in the Doing a CKAN release

Manual setup


Please keep the CKAN core developers aware of new languages created in this way.

All the English strings in CKAN are extracted into the ckan.pot file, which can be found in ckan/i18n.


For information, the pot file was created with the babel command python extract_messages.

1. Preparation

This tutorial assumes you’ve got ckan installed as source in a virtualenv. Activate the virtualenv and cd to the ckan directory:

. /usr/lib/ckan/default/bin/activate
cd /usr/lib/ckan/default/src/ckan

2. Install Babel

You need Python’s babel library (Debian package python-pybabel). Install it as follows with pip:

pip install --upgrade Babel

3. Create a ‘po’ file for your language

Then create a translation file for your language (a po file) using the pot file (containing all the English strings):

python init_catalog --locale YOUR_LANGUAGE

Replace YOUR_LANGUAGE with the two-letter ISO language code (e.g. es, de).

In future, when the pot file is updated, you can update the strings in your po file, while preserving your po edits, by doing:

python update_catalog --locale YOUR-LANGUAGE

2. Do the translation

Edit the po file and translate the strings. For more information on how to do this, see the Pylons book.

We recommend using a translation tool, such as poedit, to check the syntax is correct. There are also extensions for editors such as emacs.

3. Commit the translation

When the po is complete, create a branch in your source, then commit it to your own fork of the CKAN repo:

git add ckan/i18n/YOUR_LANGUAGE/LC_MESSAGES/ckan.po
git commit -m '[i18n]: New language po added: YOUR_LANGUAGE' ckan/i18n/YOUR_LANGUAGE/LC_MESSAGES/ckan.po

NB it is not appropriate to do a Pull Request to the main ckan repo, since that takes its translations from Transifex.

4. Compile a translation

Once you have created a translation (either with Transifex or manually) you can build the po file into a mo file, ready for deployment.

With either method of creating the po file, it should be found in the CKAN i18n repository: ckan/i18n/YOUR_LANGUAGE/LC_MESSAGES/ckan.po

In this repo, compile the po file like this:

python compile_catalog --locale YOUR_LANGUAGE

As before, replace YOUR_LANGUAGE with your language short code, e.g. es, de.

This will result in a binary ‘mo’ file of your translation at ckan/i18n/YOUR_LANGUAGE/LC_MESSAGES/

5. (optional) Deploy the translation

This section explains how to deploy your translation to your CKAN server.

Once you have a compiled translation file, copy it to your host:

scp /usr/lib/ckan/default/src/ckan/ckan/i18n/hu/LC_MESSAGES/

Adjust the path if you did not use the default location. This example is for language hu.

6. Configure the language

Finally, once the mo file is in place, you can switch between the installed languages using the ckan.locale option in the CKAN config file, as described in Internationalisation Settings.

Translations management policy

One of the aims of CKAN is to be accessible to the greatest number of users. Translating the user interface to as many languages as possible plays a huge part in this, and users are encouraged to contribute to the existing translations or submit a new one. At the same time we need to ensure the stability between CKAN releases, so the following guidelines apply when managing translations:

  • About 3 weeks before a CKAN release, CKAN is branched, and the English strings are frozen, and an announcement is made on ckan-dev to call for translation work. They are given 2 weeks to translate any new strings in this release.
  • During this period, translation is done on a ‘resource’ on Transifex which is named to match the new CKAN version. It has been created as a copy of the next most recent resource, so any new languages create or other updates done on Transifex since the last release automatically go into the new release.