Founder and Lead Developer of Macrotone Consulting Ltd.

Making a component truly Multilingual (1)

One of the first requests we received for our Issue Tracker component after its initial release was to make if ‘Multilingual’.  At the time we were rather busy but recorded the request with the intent to implement it later when circumstances permitted.. We recently decided to look at the changes involved in more detail but decided to look at our Rialto component, which is not so complex and would (should) be easier to modify.

It is important to clarify exactly what is meant by a component being ‘Multilingual’.  It is one thing to have language translations available for a component that can be loaded upon a site to permit the component to display the inbuilt ‘text strings;’ in the native language of the site, but this does not in itself make the component ‘Multilingual’.  Perhaps the best definition is that a site can be considered ‘Multilingual’ if it is possible to support more than one language such that one can switch from one to another via a single mouse click.  Items like site categories, menu items, and articles etc. would at the same time change to be in the selected language. A component would be ‘Multilingual’ if it can itself support such transitions. The classic Joomla component that does this is of course the ‘com_content’ component.

There is one other aspect that needs to be mentioned and this is the matter of ‘Associations’.  Joomla permits an article, or a category (amongst other things) to have an assigned language.  If one were to translate an article into another language then the site would have two (or more) identical articles each the same apart from the specific language. Joomla then permits one to ‘associate’ the one article with the other, such that the ‘seamless’ change on changing the language in use is switched is achieved.

Of course one does not necessarily have to translate all articles, and it is possible to define a default language (indicated by a ‘*’) which is display which ever site language is in use.

Our Rialto component, which is a Classified Advertisement component, is a situation where it is expected that a ‘Multilingual’ site would possibly have categories in different languages, which are probably ‘associated’ but that the specific adverts themselves (known as entries) are unlikely to be present in anything other than the one language. This does not mean that advert entries might not be in multiple languages just that the situation is not likely to be so common.

We shall describe some of the changes that were required to achieve what we desired, but given the number of changes required will split it into several parts. We will endeavour to avoid ‘too’ much specific code, and instead concentrate on the areas where we made our changes. We will also describe a few ‘opportunities’ for enhancement that we discovered whilst implementing the changes.

Just before we start into the detail it is worth mentioning that there is a component name ‘JAMultiLingual’ from Joomla Arts that can be used to set up a Joomla site for ‘Multilingual’ and certainly aids in getting started into Joomla Multilingual. It is not the only possibility but one which we have used and found very well constructed.

Language Field

The first step is to add the additional ‘language’ field to the database tables that we wish to have language contained within.

ALTER TABLE `#__rialto_categories` ADD `language` CHAR(7) NOT NULL COMMENT 'Language code';

Obviously we require the same column present upon all tables not just the one indicated. We also have to consider whether to apply a default language setting, possibly ‘All’ (*) for any existing entries that may be present in the database.

Having made the table change we then have to make the following code changes:

  • Change the component list and single item views so that the field is displayed.
  • Modify the Model ‘getItem’ (getItems) methods to return the additional language field to the views
  • Modify the Model Item ‘Save’ method so that the language field is updated when an item is updated or created. Ensure that a suitable default is applied if required
  • Note that one has to allow for the option that the component is being used upon non-multilingual sites and thus ensure that all situations are allowed for.  There are some standard Joomla language routines that enable one to test whether languages are installed (Method JLanguageMultilang::isEnabled() ), which aid in the coding.

These changes are ‘required’ for the back end, but may also be required in the front end if appropriate. It is not common to permit the creation (or editing) of Joomla categories in the front end, but it one permits the creation of ‘entries’ (articles)  in the front end, which is true for the Rialto component then we have to modify these as well. It is reasonable to assume that in the front end of the site, if a person is creating a new ‘entry’ that the language currently displayed on the site is the one in which they are entering the entry details. Otherwise one has to provide the user with the option of specifying the language they are using. 

These changes are required for all tables.

To be continued…..

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