JavaScript/TypeScript and Rails i18n

Monday 09. July 2018

One feature I really enjoy about Ruby on Rails is its i18n feature. Need to show some text in a different language? No problem, just add a YAML file to config/locales and the i18n library picks it up - all you need to do is provide a key with the same name as the locale you set.

config.locale = :cat
# cat.yml
  greeting: I don't greet humans

Wouldn’t it be nice to have the same powerful capabilities for our JavaScript/TypeScript code as well?1 That’s exactly what we did for all our client-side applications at Brevio.

In order to do this we need to convert the .yml files Rails uses to JSON so they can be used by our TS code. First off, we off we add a task in our package.json file.

"scripts": {
  "translate": "gulp translate"

Two quick notes:

  1. I’m using gulpjs as my task runner, but you can use whichever tool you’re most comfortable with2.

  2. I prefer to have multiple i18n files for my translations, since that reduces the mental load whenever I have to change/add a translation (i.e. if I need to add a translation for something user specific I’ll look in user.yml instead of nn.yml and scan down all nested rows of translations - which can get daunting as your application grows).

The gulp script needs to find the various .yml files and convert them to JSON. This is done using js-yaml, which reads YAML files and produces a JSON object (using a function called safeLoad).

function translate() {
  const path = // ... path to your locales folder
  const jsonPath = // ... path to your JSON-file that will be read by the JS app
  log('Merging all translations');
  glob(path, (err, files) => { // using the glob library to read all files.
    if(err) throw new Error(err);
    const result =
      R.reduce((res, json) => R.mergeDeepRight(res, json),, => fs.readFileSync(name, 'utf-8'), files)));
    log('Writing translations to JSON file');
    fs.writeFileSync(jsonPath, JSON.stringify(result));
    log('Translations complete')

This task can easily be extended to be run on-the-fly like so:

function translate(watch = false) {
  const path = // ... path to your locales folder
  const jsonPath = // ... path to your JSON-file for the JS app

  function run() {
    // ... previous function body

  if(watch), run)
  return run();

Once the translate task has completed you’ll have a lovely JSON file containing all your i18n-translations:

  "cat": {
    "greeting": "I don't greet humans"

Which can be used by your TS code like so:

import translations from './translations.json';

export default function translate(key: string) {
  return R.path(key.split('.'), translations);

This way you can easily add i18n to any React (for instance) components using the following syntax:

import t from '@t';

const CatComponent = () => (
  <div className="cat-greeting">

// <div class="cat-greeting"><h1>I don't greet humans</h1></div>


  1. TypeScript is obiously the best choice. 

  2. This is worth a read.