I am new to the Drupal community, but am quite excited by the potential that I see in the work that you have done. I'd like to make a case for better support for multi-lingual sites. I know that quite a lot of work has gone into making the code available in alternate languages, but there are a lot of cases where an organization may want to have more than one.

But first a bit of history. Back-End is a GPL PHP/MySQL CMS which my company, OpenConcept Consulting has been developing now for the last 3-4 years. We initially developed code to make the CMS bilingual because there was a clear need for a few of our clients to have a site which was available in both English & French. We did this by simply adding a few language dependent columns to existing tables. It soon became apparent that although bilingual was good, multi-lingual would be much better, so we began developing a data structure where all of the data could be stored in the language of choice. We have developed English/French, English/Farsi(Persian), English/French/Spanish using this CMS and will be working on an English/French/Farsi/Arabic one shortly.

We have also been developing a number of Take Action tools for this framework. OpenConcept works with a lot of national NGOs, unions & progressive politicians in Canada and the USA.

Since the adoption of Drupal by DeanSpace (now CivicSpace), we have become increasingly interested in watching the development of this code base. There is considerable crossover between the work we've been doing for our clients and the work that is being done by many of the people who are using drupal code. We've decided that it is worth the gamble to build an upgrade path so that we can migrate our existing clients over to Drupal.

This isn't going to be easy. There are some similar concepts, but we have developed a lot of custom code for our clients needs. We couldn't have even considered this before the i18n module was set up.

I have been talking to a number of Drupal advocates this spring, all of which acknowledged that Drupal still does not handle multi-lingual objects all that well, but all were convinced that it was an issue that was taken seriously by core developers and was part of the roadmap. Multi-lingual objects are particularly important here in Canada where almost any national organization needs to present information in both English & French. Many organizations in the states are starting to offer English/Spanish (and quite a lot more should be than presently do).

I've collected a list of existing Drupal sites that are presently working on being (or at least looking) multi-lingual (please feel free to contribute):

Some of these sites actually have two installs of drupal, and even two different teams of people maintaining content (one for each language). However, this isn't a very sustainable approach for most organizations and certainly would add to the cost of maintaining the code base (and ensuring parallel content)

This site was recently launched using Drupal:

They started this early in the year and due to their deadline (and the state of the i18n module at the time they first looked at it) they decided to write their own module to make their site bilingual. It is presently the most fully multi-linugal install of Drupal I've seen. Although because they crafted their own stand alone solution supporting this for future upgrades of Drupal will not be easy. The key developer has recently been talking to Jose and is interested in contributing back to the project.

Labour unions are starting to get interested in Drupal:
(there will be a website up soon...)

Many unions (in Canada, EU & even the USA) either require either completely bilingual content or at least some bilingual content on their site. The same is true for many levels of government and community groups who may be servicing a multi-lingual community. There is a movement within Labour groups to start using more Open Source software. Drupal is an obvious chose for many organizations (we should have our first union client using a drupal site this fall).

Multi-lingual sites will start to be more common in:
- Elections (where candidates are trying to appeal to specific communities in their riding)
- Campaigns (particularly international campaigns), where a global response is requested
- National sites, where bilingualism is a requirement (or preference).

It is also good for Drupal's business needs as serving multi-lingual objects well in a CMS is still rather new and very few OpenSource or proprietary applications deal with it very well. Jose Reyero has done an excellent job in setting up the i18n module. His module/core patches offer a very sound foundation for future work. Without substantially altering the data model patches allow for translation links to exist. See the following for a better picture:

There will still be the challenge of adding multi-lingual object support to other modules, but having these changes made to the core code is key.

Allowing people to see a site in the language of their choice is already important for many organizations. Most will not have the resources or technical skill to implement this themselves. If it were an optional module that could be installed by your average Drupal administrator then I think we'd find a lot more people setting up multi-lingual sites. If core support isn't available for multi-lingual objects then you'll find that Drupal just won't be considered for a number of projects.



Jose Reyero’s picture

Yes, this is an important feature also in Europe, for any medium sized site but for only english ones.

This is a link to i18n module, to give it a try: http://drupal.org/project/i18n

And this is, for now, the only patch pending to get it working without more patches with Drupal 4.7:

DAfshar’s picture

Like I said in a previous post, hats off to Jose and the others trying to incorporate the multilingual content. I can't speak for Canada, but I can speak for Asia. UTF-8 is a must. I look forward to seeing the changes implemented!

Daren Afshar
Winery Productions

Jose Reyero’s picture

Thanks Daren, I'm looking forward too to that :-)

Btw, Drupal is fully utf-8 from time ago.

beginner’s picture

Thanks mgifford for your nice post.
And Thanks Jose for your work on i18n.
What is missing, beside the good will of the core developpers, before the said patch can be committed to core for 4.7?

Whatever happens, I'll have an opportunity in the next few months to install and test, and probably improve the Drupal i18n features.

thanks again.

Healing with Sexual Relationships.

Jose Reyero’s picture

That's basically what we need: the good will of the core developers. Or someone else providing a better alternative.

But first, we need everybody to be aware that Drupal needs multilingual support, for which Mike's article can be a great help :-)

Boris Mann’s picture

I don't think there is any argument that Drupal needs multi-lingual support. There is likely a feeling that adding i18n (and X number of languages?) would make Drupal core somewhat large.

I'm thinking there is likely an argument to be made for a Drupal multi-lingual distribution, which has i18n and locale include and enabled by default, perhaps with a handful of 90% plus languages (e.g. English, French, Spanish?) also loaded.

As I mentioned to Mike via email, let's revive this on the developer's list after 4.7 is baked, and make it a goal for 4.8.

beginner’s picture

What do you have in mind? What's to be done, yet?
I saw the patch in question above (url rewrite) has been commited to HEAD already, and thus will be part of the 4.7 release.

Healing with Sexual Relationships.

henrik.ingo’s picture

To be clear: i18n will now be 100% supported by Drupal 4.7? (As a contrib module, but no patches to core needed?)

I just picked Drupal as a framework for a fairly large portal project. I18n is certainly one of the deciding factors, though Drupal has many strengths.

omar’s picture

It does look like it is for real... Yeeeehaaa! That is great news!

As I had nothing to do with this, other than being one of the "drupal advocates" that Mike refers to above, I would like to send my...

Thanks to all who contributed! This is, IMHO, a very important step for the Drupal community.

omar’s picture

I have been using Drupal since fall 2001 (for CMAQ.net) and have done dozens of sites/installs since then. The lack of multilingual support and the difficulties/costs associated with getting it, has always been a huge issue for me.

The idea of having a seperate distro of Drupal is not, IMHO, appealing at all. In the past, while I have managed to install i18n and get it running (something that many will find too difficult to do), it has resulted in other modules breaking (e.g. due to patches to the taxonomy system for example). So while a pre-patched distribution would facilitate the install process for some, it does nothing to resolve the fundmental problem of incompatibility. In fact, as far as I can tell, it would only serve worsen the situation.

I'm not sure that Mike is arguing for i18n to become part of the core as much as for it to be supported by, and compatible with, the core. At least for my part, I'd be satisfied if installing i18n was made as simple as it is the other modules, and did not risk breaking anything else.

jozef’s picture

I think that that Drupal should be a Multilingual CMS out of a box. If the core is multilingual-able, then all module developers should updated their code to be multilingual-able ASAP.

jozef’s picture

- locale and i18n enabled by default
- language packs for GUI should stay separate download

robertgarrigos’s picture

My penny on this matter is that not only sites located in English spoken countries will benefit of a fully mulitilingual capable Drupal. Many organisations in many 'non' English spoken countries will like to offer their content in a different language than theirs own one. English has become waht Esperanto tried to do years ago and I'm convinced that many sites will offer 'also' English.

So lets get this i18n module right into the core. This will only be a benfit for eveyone. - some of my sites also ;-)

Robert Garrigos
Personal site:www.garrigos.org
Admin of: www.escolasafa.info - www.societatbach.org

simplulo’s picture

And Esperantists are still trying to do it. Several Esperanto sites are using Drupal now, including the Moscow site www.moskvo.ru
and the new site for the main US organization, which will appear at www.esperanto-usa.org.

We are having something of a debate right now about Drupal, and the lack of multi-lingual (that's 2 or more languages simultaneously) support is the holdup. I am having a new site developed that will appear in a couple of months at www.esperanto.info, and the developer insisted on using PHP-Nuke.

I think we could provide some manpower if Jose could use us. If Drupal were to provide better multi-lingual support, it would become the default CMS for the Esperanto community. Maybe even www.gxangalo.com would switch from XOOPS, and www.lernu.net from its home-made CMS with lots of built-in translation support.

omar’s picture

FYI.... apparently 4.7 will no longer need to be patched for i18n to function so Drupal is already heading towards "better multi-lingual support".

joel_guesclin’s picture

I spent a lot of time looking at different PHP-based CMS including PHP Nuke, before finally trying Drupal. Unless PHP Nuke has changed radically since then, I don't think it can achieve anything like the cleanliness of the i18n module in terms, not just of translating the interface but of maintaining parallel language versions of the same classification and content system.

Quite apart from Drupal's vast superiority in every other area I can think of!

joel_guesclin’s picture

It is really astonishing (IMHO) that anybody still needs convincing that i18n is a "must-have" for Drupal. The article that started this thread is excellent - a practical, down-to-earth demonstration of what multi-lingual means to real live users.

I would add to that by saying that in today's commercial world where English has become the lingua franca for commerce, then pretty much any company will have to provide its web site in, as a minimum, the national language plus English.

A killer example: France and the French government, bastion of the "spécificité culturelle" - and here is the site of the French Ministry of Finance. Notice those little flags at top right - the site is available also in English, Spanish, and German.

The only thing I would take issue with is the need for a "multi-lingual pack" - I find the locale function (and the i18n patch) pretty easy to use in setting up a new language (using the i18n function to input translations is not so straightforward to explain to users) - and you would have endless problems with translations not being up to date IMHO, not to mention that you would have to use locale anyway as soon as you wanted to add a module.

csimard’s picture


We use drupal in some project of our organisation (www.crim.ca) and we absolutely need i18n implementation for french / english. I'm from Québec (Canada) and I have to modify the code of Drupal if need it. You save me a lot of work with the i18n patch. Thanks ! I will try it right now.

I think that every application now must be i18n. So I vote to include the patch in the core.

Bonne journée !


Bertrand_Lefort’s picture


I use Drupal since few weeks. I am living in canada - Québec, working for educationnal (University) and Health research purpose. In this community, all the Web site I have built and all the Web site I have seen (98%) are bi or tri lingual Web Sites.

I like Drupal very much, I found it very well designed, easy to install, use and to maintain.

There are a lot of features that Drupal offers and that would be very usefull for our communities.

Many thanks


JordiTR’s picture

Interesting thread on a basic issue, crossing many months in time, but I don't see any official information on such a trascendent implementation. I'm eagerly awaiting to see that internationalization function integrated on Drupal but searching through the Drupal site I don't see any confirmation on any direction, just the few rumors pointed on this thread. Despite the message that comments that Drupal 4.7 won't need a patched i18n.module (dated many months ago) we're finnishing February and I don't see any movement, even there isn't still any Reyero's official release for 4.7.

Multilingual support is such a basic feature on the enterprise arena that the lack of it simply closes the way to a CMS, it doesn't mind how many wonderful ideas it features. If Drupal doesn't solve that will time to look on other directions. Waiting a CMS is nonsense, on a years time many other CMS will achive substantial progress and today there's is some already offering it. The point is that after testing Drupal for so long I've start to love it :-/

beginner’s picture

Hello JordiTR,

Actually, the i18n.module doesn't really deserves its name. Its functions are very limited and useful only to people wanting to have a web site in two languages, exactly the same web site. It's very useful for official canadian web site who want to duplicate the content in French and English.

The question of internalization is not that simple. If you want to know more, you may read an excellent thread in the developpers' mailing list:
http://lists.drupal.org/archives/development/2006-02/msg00640.html .

Healing with Sexual Relationships.

because we live in a world of solutions.

Jose Reyero’s picture

A more recent post here: http://drupal.org/node/51544

> Actually, the i18n.module doesn't really deserves its name

I agree but it's for a very different reason :-) , as I explain in the report I've put together