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

If you want to add an entirely new language to CKAN, you have two options.

  • Transifex setup. Creating translation files using Transifex, the open source translation software.
  • Manual setup. Creating translation files manually in your own branch.


Translating CKAN in Transifex is only enabled when a ‘call for translations’ is issued.

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-discuss 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 as follows:

  • Install transifex command-line utilities
  • tx init in CKAN to connect to Transifex
  • Run python extract_messages on the CKAN source
  • Upload the local .pot file via command-line tx push
  • Get people to complete translations on Transifex
  • Pull locale .po files via tx pull
  • python compile_catalog
  • Git Commit and push po and mo files

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.

0. Install Babel

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

pip -E pyenv install babel

1. Create a ‘po’ file for your language

First, grab the CKAN i18n repository:

hg clone

Then create a translation file for your language (a po file) using the pot file:

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 the CKAN i18n repo:

git checkout master
git branch translation-YOUR_LANGUAGE
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
git push origin translation-YOUR_LANGUAGE

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 automatically to your host, if you are using a remote host.

It assumes a standard layout on the server (you may want to check before you upload!) and that you are deploying to for language hu.

Once you have a compiled translation file, for automated deployment to your host do:

fab upload_i18n:hu

See the config_0 options if more configuration is needed e.g. of host or location.

Alternatively, if you do not want to use fab, you can just scp:

scp /home/okfn/var/srvc/

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:

  • Translations are open on Transifex as soon as a release branch for a minor version is created. At this point the strings are not yet freezed and can still change, but hopefully not too much. An announcement email will be sent to the mailing list and via Transifex.

  • 2-3 weeks before the actual release the strings are frozen. This means that no new strings will be added on this release line. A second announce email is sent at this point.

  • The translations will be kept open on Transifex after the release, and will be updated on each patch release, provided that:

    • They pass a review like any other change merged into a patch release (ie they must not introducde backwards incompatible changes).
    • Big changes like whole new languages (specially ones that introduce new features like RTL supporti, etc) should be tested and reviewed on a separate branch first.
    • Ultimately is up to the commiters and the release manager to decide if a new or updated translation is included in a patch release or needs to wait until the next minor release.
  • The master branch is not currently translated. Translations from the latest stable line (see CKAN releases) are cherry-picked into master after each minor or patch release.