Language support

docassemble allows you to write a single interview that asks questions differently depending on the user’s language and locale. It also allows Unicode to be used in user-facing text and user input. With these features, docassemble should be fully usable in languages other than English.

Configuration

By default, the active language and locale are determined by the language and locale settings in the docassemble configuration.

The value of language must be a two-character lowercase ISO-639-1 code. For example, English is ‘en’, Spanish is es, French is fr, and Arabic is ar.

The value of locale must be a locale name without the language prefix, such as US.utf8 or DE.utf8. Any locale you use must be installed on your system. (See the other os locales configuration directive.)

Within interviews, the functions set_language() and set_locale() from docassemble.base.util will change the active language, locale, and dialect. (The dialect is relevant only for the text-to-speech feature, which is controlled by the special variable speak_text.)

If you write functions that need to know the current language or locale, use the get_language() and get_locale() function from the docassemble.base.util module. Also note that there is a function get_dialect() for retrieving the dialect.

The language and locale settings have the following effects:

  • When docassemble looks for a question or code block that defines a variable, it first tries questions and code blocks for which the language modifier is set to the active language (either explicitly or by operation of the default language). If docassemble does not find any such questions or code blocks, it looks for ones that do not have language modifier set. This means that if your interview only uses one language, you do not need to worry about setting the language modifier. If you want the interview to be available in two languages, then you simply need to make sure that each question is in your interview two times, in the two different languages.
  • Built-in words like “Continue” for a continue button, or “Login” for the login link, will be translated into the active language. Whenever docassemble prints such a word or phrase, it calls the word() function from the docassemble.base.util module. Calling word('Login') will look up the word Login in a translation table. If the word() function finds the word Login in the translation table for the active language, it will return the translated value. If it does not find a translation, it will return Login. For more information about how word() works, see functions. For information on how to define translations for a server, see the words directive in the configuration.
  • Some functions have language-specific responses, such as today() in the docassemble.base.util module, which returns today’s date in a readable format such as “October 31, 2015” (for language en) or “31 octobre 2015” (for language fr).
  • When docassemble highlights terms in a question (see initial blocks), it will only highlight words specified in terms blocks for which the language of the term matches the language of the question. Or, if the question does not have the language modifier set, docassemble will look for a terms block that does not have language set.
  • When docassemble displays interview help text, it will only display the content of interview help blocks for which the language modifier is the same as the language of the question. Or, if the question does not have the language modifier set, docassemble will look for an interview help block that does not have the language modifier set.

Best practices for single-language interviews

If your interview only works in one language, do not set the language modifier for any blocks, do not use default language, and do not call set_language() or set_locale(). Instead, simply make sure that the default language and locale in the configuration are set to the correct values.

Best practices for multi-language interviews

If you use the language modifier or the default language, you will need to have initial code that calls set_language(). docassemble does not remember the active language from one screen to the next, but the initial code will make sure that it is always set to the correct value.

---
include:
- basic-questions.yml
---
initial: True
code: |
set_language(user.language)
---
generic object: Individual
question: |
What language ${ x.do_question('speak') }?
field: x.language
choices:
- English: en
- Español: es
---

If you are writing an interview that offers multiple language options, you may want to break out your interview into different files:

Below is an example of a multi-language interview that asks the user for a language, then asks for a number, then makes a statement about the number. The interview is split into the four files listed above, and all files reside in a folder called bestnumber within the data/questions folder.

The contents of code.yml are:

---
modules:
- docassemble.base.util
---
initial: True
code: |
set_language(user_language)
need(final_screen)
---
question: |
What language do you speak? (¿Qué idioma habla?)
choices:
- English: en
- Español: es
field: user_language
---
code: |
best_number = favorite_number + 1
---

The contents of en.yml are:

---
default language: en
---
terms:
favorite number: The number you most like to calculate.
---
question: |
What is your favorite number?
fields:
- Number: favorite_number
datatype: number
---
sets: final_screen
question: |
All done.
subquestion: |
The best number in the world is not ${ favorite_number },
but ${ best_number }.
buttons:
- Restart: restart
---

The contents of es.yml are:

---
default language: es
---
terms:
numero favorito: El número que más le guste para calcular.
---
question: |
¿Cual es tu numero favorito?
fields:
- Número: favorite_number
datatype: number
---
sets: final_screen
question: |
Completado
subquestion: |
El mejor número en el mundo es de ${ best_number },
no ${ favorite_number }.
buttons:
- Reanudar: restart
---

Finally, the contents of interview.yml are:

---
include:
- code.yml
- en.yml
- es.yml
---

(Try it out here.)

Creating documents in languages other than English

The documents feature, which allows RTF and PDF documents to be created from Markdown text with Mako templating, supports languages other than English to the extent that RTF, Pandoc, and LaTeX do. LaTeX has support for internationalization, and the default LaTeX template will load either the polyglossia package or the babel package, depending on what is available. The language used by LaTeX can be set using the metadata entries lang and mainlang in the attachment specification. For some languages, you may need to write your own templates in order to enable fonts that support your language.