Minimalist gettext style i18n for JavaScript
Last updated 2 months ago by signavio .
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Minimalist gettext style i18n for JavaScript



npm install --save signavio-i18n


Add a section like the following to your packages.json:

  "scripts": {
    "i18n-init": "cd src/locales && msginit --no-translator --input messages.pot --locale",
    "i18n": "i18n-extract \"src/**/*.js\" src/locales/messages.pot && i18n-merge src/locales/messages.pot src/locales/*.po"

Create the file .i18nrc and add a configuration object for gettext message extraction:

  "headers": "<POT_HEADERS>",
  "fileName": "<PATH_TO_POT>",
  "baseDirectory": "<PATH_TO_BASEDIR>"

More available options are documented here:

Optionally, you can also define your babel configuration in the .i18nrc file. This allows you to ignore your project's .babelrc file when extracting messages, which is helpful if your project is using a legacy version of babel (<6).

  "fileName": "<PATH_TO_POT>",
  "babel": {
    "babelrc": false,
    // other babel settings


Add the translations to the PO files, and initialize the i18n module in your application using the init function:

import i18n, { init, setLocale } from 'signavio-i18n'

function getLangLoader(locale) {
  // Lazy load the translation bundles
  return require(`bundle?lazy!json!po!./locales/${locale}.po`)

const config = {
  // the default locale to use if the browser preference locale is not available
  default: 'en_US',
  // optional mapping of locales
  map: {
    en: 'en_US',
    de: 'de_DE',
  // optional regular expression pattern for custom interpolation syntax
  interpolationPattern: '__(\\w+)__', // this is the default value

init(getLangLoader, config).then(() => {
  // promise will be resolved when the translation bundle for the active locale has been loaded
  alert(i18n('Hello world!'))
  // >> Hello world!

  // switch to another language
  setLocale('de').then(() => {
    alert(i18n('Hello world!'))
    // >> Hallo Welt!


Interpolations make it easier to include variable content into messages without confusing translators. For instance, if you want to include a computed number in a message, you can do it like this:

const available = 100
const count = available / 10

i18n('Showing __count__ of __available__ entires.', { count, available })

For your convenience interpolations also support React elements. So you can do things like:

i18n('Contact __supportLink__', {
  supportLink: <a href="">Support</a>,

The default syntax for interpolations is a group of characters or numbers (\w+) wrapped in double underscores (__). If you require a different syntax this can be customized using the init option interpolationPattern. Internally, pattern value will be used to create a regular expression for matching interpolation placeholder like this:

new RegExp(interpolationPattern, 'g')

It must contain a capturing group ((\w+)) for capturing the interpolation key.


Often times you get to the situation that the same message needs to look slightly different depending on whether you talk about one or more things. Handling this can add quite a lot of unnecessary code. You can circumvent this with the built in support for pluralizations.

i18n('Showing __count__ item', 'Showing __count__ items', { count })

To use this feature simply pass two different translations to the i18n function. The first string is used for the singular case and the second one for the plural case. Note that you have to hand in a variable called count. This variable is used to decide which version of the translation to choose.

Message context

Sometimes the same translation key can have different meanings based on the context in which is it used. Message context offers a solution to this problem. If you specify the optional context parameter you can have different translations for the same translation key.

i18n('Ok', { context: 'button' })


Another convenience of signavio-i18n is the optional support for markdown in translations. By default this is turned off, but you can activate it by setting the markdown option to true.

i18n('I want _this_ to be **bold**', {
  markdown: true,

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