@vocab/webpack
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1.2.9 • Public • Published

Vocab

Vocab is a strongly typed internationalization framework for React.

Vocab helps you ship multiple languages without compromising the reliability of your site or slowing down delivery.

  • Shareable translations
    Translations are co-located with the components that use them. Vocab uses the module graph allowing shared components to be installed with package managers like npm, just like any other module.

  • Loading translations dynamically
    Vocab only loads the current user's language. If the language changes Vocab can load the new language behind the scenes without reloading the page.

  • Strongly typed with TypeScript
    When using translations TypeScript will ensure code only accesses valid translations and translations are passed all required dynamic values.

Getting started

Step 1: Install Dependencies

Vocab is a monorepo containing different packages you can install depending on your usage. The below list will get you started using the CLI and React integration.

npm install --save-dev @vocab/cli
npm install --save @vocab/core @vocab/react

Step 2: Configure Vocab

You can configure Vocab directly when calling the API, or via a vocab.config.js or vocab.config.cjs file.

[!TIP]
It's a good idea to name your languages using IETF language tags, however this is not a requirement.

In this example we've configured two languages named en (English) and fr (French). We've also configured a devLanguage of en. This is the language Vocab will assume when it sees a translation.json file without a language prefix.

// vocab.config.js
module.exports = {
  languages: [{ name: 'en' }, { name: 'fr' }]
  devLanguage: 'en',
};

See the configuration section for more configuration options.

Step 3: Set the language using the React Provider

Vocab uses React's context API to provide information for your translation lookups. To tell Vocab which language to use, wrap your app in a VocabProvider component and pass in a language prop corresponding to one of the language names configured in your vocab.config.js file.

[!NOTE] Using methods discussed later we'll make sure the first language is loaded on page load. However, after this, changing languages may lead to a period of no translations as Vocab downloads the new language's translations.

// src/App.tsx

import { VocabProvider } from '@vocab/react';

const App = ({ children }) => {
  return (
    <VocabProvider language="en">{children}</VocabProvider>
  );
};

If you need to customize the locale for your language, you can pass a locale prop to the VocabProvider component. This tells Vocab which locale to use when formatting your translations.

// src/App.tsx

import { VocabProvider } from '@vocab/react';

function App({ children }) {
  return (
    <VocabProvider language="myCustomLanguage" locale="en">
      {children}
    </VocabProvider>
  );
}

See here for more information on how and when to use the locale prop.

Step 4: Create translations

A translation file is a JSON file consisting of a flat structure of keys. Each key must contain a message property, and optionally a description property.

Rather than creating one giant file for each language's translations, Vocab enables you to co-locate the translations alongside their consuming components. To facilitate this, Vocab lets you group translations inside folders ending in .vocab. You may have as many of these folders as you like in your project.

[!TIP] Your folders can be named anything, as long as it ends in .vocab. It's recommened to just name your folders .vocab so you have one less name to think of/rename in the future.

Translation files must follow the naming pattern of {languageName}.translations.json. The exception to this is translations for your devLanguage which must be placed in a file named translations.json.

In the following examples, we're defining translations for our devLanguage, and a language named fr.

// src/MyComponent/.vocab/translations.json

{
  "my key": {
    "message": "Hello from Vocab",
    "description": "An optional description to help when translating"
  }
}
// src/MyComponent/.vocab/fr.translations.json

{
  "my key": {
    "message": "Bonjour de Vocab",
    "description": "An optional description to help when translating"
  }
}

[!NOTE] You can create your translation files manually. However, Vocab also offers integrations with remote translation platforms to push and pull translations automatically. See External translation tooling for more information.

Step 5: Compile and consume translations

Once you have created some translations, run vocab compile. This command creates an index.ts file inside each folder ending in .vocab. Importing this file provides type-safe translations for your React components. Accessing translation messages is done by passing these imported translations to the useTranslations hook and using the returned t function.

// src/MyComponent.tsx

import { useTranslations } from '@vocab/react';
import translations from './.vocab';

function MyComponent({ children }) {
  const { t } = useTranslations(translations);

  // t('my key') will return the appropriate translation based on the language set in your app's VocabProvider
  return <div>{t('my key')}</div>;
}

Step 6: [Optional] Set up Webpack plugin

With the default setup, every language is loaded into your web application all the time, potentially leading to a large bundle size. Ideally you will want to switch out the Node.js/default runtime for the web runtime, which only loads the active language.

This is done using the VocabWebpackPlugin. Applying this plugin to your client webpack configuration will replace all vocab files with dynamic asynchronous chunks designed for the web.

npm i --save-dev @vocab/webpack
// webpack.config.js

const { VocabWebpackPlugin } = require('@vocab/webpack');

module.exports = {
  plugins: [new VocabWebpackPlugin()]
};

Step 7: [Optional] Optimize for fast page loading

Using the above method without optimizing what chunks webpack uses you may find the page needing to do an extra round trip to load languages on a page.

This is where getChunkName can be used to retrieve the Webpack chunk used for a specific language.

For example, here is a server render function that would add the current language chunk to Loadable component's ChunkExtractor.

// src/render.tsx

import { getChunkName } from '@vocab/webpack/chunk-name';

// ...

const chunkName = getChunkName(language);

const extractor = new ChunkExtractor();

extractor.addChunk(chunkName);

Dynamic Values in Translations

Translation messages can sometimes contain dynamic values, such as dates/times, links, usernames, etc. These values often exist somewhere in the middle of a message, and could change location depending on the translation. To support this, Vocab uses Format.js's intl-messageformat library, which enables you to use ICU Message syntax in your messages.

In the below example we are defining two messages: one that accepts a single parameter, and one that accepts a component.

{
  "my key with param": {
    "message": "Bonjour de {name}"
  },
  "my key with component": {
    "message": "Bonjour de <Link>Vocab</Link>"
  }
}

Vocab will automatically parse these strings as ICU messages and generate strict types for any parameters it finds.

t('my key with param', { name: 'Vocab' });
t('my key with component', {
  Link: (children) => <a href="/foo">{children}</a>
});

Overriding the Locale

By default, your language name is passed as the locale to the formatting API provided by intl-messageformat. The locale is used to determine how to format dates, numbers, and other locale-sensitive values. If you wish to customize this behaviour, you can pass a locale prop to the VocabProvider component.

<VocabProvider language="myCustomLanguage" locale="th-TH">
  {children}
</VocabProvider>

This can be useful in certain situations:

  • You have chosen to name your language something other than an IETF language tag, but still want to use a specific locale for formatting
  • You want to use a different locale for formatting a specific language. E.g. when formatting values for th (Thai) locales, the default calendar is Buddhist, but you may want to use the Gregorian calendar. This can be achieved by specifying a locale value with a BCP 47 extension sequence suffix such as -u-ca-gregory. For example: th-u-ca-gregory. See the MDN Intl docs for more information on BCP 47 extension sequences.

Accessing the Current language or locale

If you need to access either the language or locale that you passed to your VocabProvider, you can use the useLanguage hook:

import { useLanguage } from '@vocab/react';

const MyComponent = () => {
  const { language, locale } = useLanguage();
  return (
    <div>
      {language} - {locale}
    </div>
  );
};

[!CAUTION]
locale is only available when you pass a locale prop to your VocabProvider. If you don't pass a locale prop, locale will be undefined. It's generally advised to name your languages using IETF language tags and let Vocab handle the locale for you. This gives you the added benefit that you can use the language from useLanguage if necessary, and it will always be defined.

Typically you won't need to access these values since the ICU message syntax supports locale-aware formatting of numbers, dates, and times. However, one use case where you might need to access these values is when formatting a currency value. This is because there is currently no way to specify the currency for an ICU message programmatically, so it must be hardcoded within the messsage. This poses a problem when you don't want to couple your translations to a specific currency.

{
  "my key with currency": {
    "message": "You have {value, number, ::compact-short currency/GBP}"
  }
}

When given a value of 123, the above message would render as You have GBP 123.

To format a value with a dynamic currency, you could use the useLanguage hook to access the current language and format the currency value using the Intl.NumberFormat API:

const Currency = ({ value, currency }) => {
  const { language } = useLanguage();

  const formattedValue = new Intl.NumberFormat(locale, {
    style: 'currency',
    currency
  }).format(value);

  return <div>{formattedValue}</div>;
};

Configuration

Configuration can either be passed into the Node API directly or be gathered from the nearest vocab.config.js or vocab.config.cjs file.

// vocab.config.js

function capitalize(element) {
  return element.toUpperCase();
}

function pad(message) {
  return '[' + message + ']';
}

module.exports = {
  devLanguage: 'en',
  languages: [
    { name: 'en' },
    { name: 'en-AU', extends: 'en' },
    { name: 'en-US', extends: 'en' },
    { name: 'fr-FR' }
  ],
  /**
   * An array of languages to generate based off translations for existing languages
   * Default: []
   */
  generatedLanguages: [
    {
      name: 'generatedLanguage',
      extends: 'en',
      generator: {
        transformElement: capitalize,
        transformMessage: pad
      }
    }
  ],
  /**
   * The root directory to compile and validate translations
   * Default: Current working directory
   */
  projectRoot: './example/',
  /**
   * A custom suffix to name vocab translation directories
   * Default: '.vocab'
   */
  translationsDirectorySuffix: '.vocab',
  /**
   * An array of glob paths to ignore from compilation and validation
   */
  ignore: ['**/ignored_directory/**']
};

Translation Key Types

If you need to access the keys of your translations as a TypeScript type, you can use the TranslationKeys type from @vocab/core:

// translations.json
{
  "Hello": {
    "message": "Hello"
  },
  "Goodbye": {
    "message": "Goodbye"
  }
}
import type { TranslationKeys } from '@vocab/core';
import translations from './.vocab';

// "Hello" | "Goodbye"
type MyTranslationKeys = TranslationKeys<
  typeof translations
>;

Generated languages

Vocab supports the creation of generated languages via the generatedLanguages config.

Generated languages are created by running a message generator over every translation message in an existing translation. A generator may contain a transformElement function, a transformMessage function, or both. Both of these functions accept a single string parameter and return a string.

transformElement is applied to string literal values contained within MessageFormatElements. A MessageFormatElement is an object representing a node in the AST of a compiled translation message. Simply put, any text that would end up being translated by a translator, i.e. anything that is not part of the ICU Message syntax, will be passed to transformElement. An example of a use case for this function would be adding diacritics to every letter in order to stress your UI from a vertical line-height perspective.

transformMessage receives the entire translation message after transformElement has been applied to its individual elements. An example of a use case for this function would be adding padding text to the start/end of your messages in order to easily identify which text in your app has not been extracted into a translations.json file.

By default, a generated language's messages will be based off the devLanguage's messages, but this can be overridden by providing an extends value that references another language.

// vocab.config.js

function capitalize(message) {
  return message.toUpperCase();
}

function pad(message) {
  return '[' + message + ']';
}

module.exports = {
  devLanguage: 'en',
  languages: [{ name: 'en' }, { name: 'fr' }],
  generatedLanguages: [
    {
      name: 'generatedLanguage',
      extends: 'en',
      generator: {
        transformElement: capitalize,
        transformMessage: pad
      }
    }
  ]
};

Generated languages are consumed the same way as regular languages. Any Vocab API that accepts a language parameter will work with a generated language as well as a regular language.

// App.tsx

const App = () => (
  <VocabProvider language="generatedLanguage">
    <div>Hello, world!</div>
  </VocabProvider>
);

Pseudo-localization

The @vocab/pseudo-localize package exports low-level functions that can be used for pseudo-localization of translation messages.

$ npm install --save-dev @vocab/pseudo-localize
import {
  extendVowels,
  padString,
  pseudoLocalize,
  substituteCharacters
} from '@vocab/pseudo-localize';

const message = 'Hello';

// [Hello]
const paddedMessage = padString(message);

// Ḩẽƚƚö
const substitutedMessage = substituteCharacters(message);

// Heelloo
const extendedMessage = extendVowels(message);

// Extend the message and then substitute characters
// Ḩẽẽƚƚöö
const pseudoLocalizedMessage = pseudoLocalize(message);

Pseudo-localization is a transformation that can be applied to a translation message. Vocab's implementation of this transformation contains the following elements:

  • Start and end markers (padString): All strings are encapsulated in [ and ].

    If a developer doesn’t see these characters they know the string has been clipped by an inflexible UI element.

  • Transformation of ASCII characters to extended character equivalents (substituteCharacters): Stresses the UI from a vertical line-height perspective, tests font and encoding support, and weeds out strings that haven’t been externalized correctly (they will not have the pseudo-localization applied to them).

  • Padding text (extendVowels): Simulates translation-induced expansion.

    Vocab's implementation of this involves repeating vowels (and y) to simulate a 40% expansion in the message's length.

This Netflix technology blog post inspired Vocab's implementation of this functionality.

Generating a pseudo-localized language using Vocab

Vocab can generate a pseudo-localized language via the generatedLanguages config, either via the webpack plugin or your vocab.config.js or vocab.config.cjs file. @vocab/pseudo-localize exports a generator that can be used directly in your config.

// vocab.config.js

const { generator } = require('@vocab/pseudo-localize');

module.exports = {
  devLanguage: 'en',
  languages: [{ name: 'en' }, { name: 'fr' }],
  generatedLanguages: [
    {
      name: 'pseudo',
      extends: 'en',
      generator
    }
  ]
};

Use Without React

If you need to use Vocab outside of React, you can access the translations directly. You'll then be responsible for when to load translations and how to update on translation load.

Async access

  • getMessages(language: string) => Promise<Messages> returns messages for the given language formatted according to the correct locale. If the language has not been loaded it will load the language before resolving.

[!NOTE] To optimize loading time you may want to call load ahead of use.

Sync access

  • load(language: string) => Promise<void> attempts to pre-load messages for the given language, resolving once loaded. This function only ensures the language is available and does not return any translations.
  • getLoadedMessages(language: string) => Messages | null returns messages for the given language formatted according to the correct locale. If the language has not been loaded it will return null. This will not load a language that is not available. Useful when a synchronous (non-promise) return is required.

Example: Promise based formatting of messages

import translations from './.vocab';

async function getFooMessage(language) {
  let messages = await translations.getMessages(language);
  return messages['my key'].format();
}

getFooMessage().then((m) => console.log(m));

Example: Synchronously returning a message

import translations from './.vocab';

function getFooMessageSync(language) {
  let messages = translations.getLoadedMessages(language);
  if (!messages) {
    // Translations not loaded, start loading and return null for now
    translations.load();
    return null;
  }
  return messages.foo.format();
}

translations.load();

const onClick = () => {
  console.log(getFooMessageSync());
};

Generate Types

Vocab generates custom index.ts files that give your React components strongly typed translations to work with.

To generate these files run:

vocab compile

Or to re-run the compiler when files change:

vocab compile --watch

External Translation Tooling

Vocab can be used to synchronize your translations with translations from a remote translation platform.

Platform Environment Variables
Phrase PHRASE_PROJECT_ID, PHRASE_API_TOKEN
vocab push --branch my-branch
vocab pull --branch my-branch

Phrase Platform Features

Delete Unused keys

When uploading translations, Phrase identifies keys that exist in the Phrase project, but were not referenced in the upload. These keys can be deleted from Phrase by providing the --delete-unused-keys flag to vocab push. E.g.

vocab push --branch my-branch --delete-unused-keys

vocab push supports uploading tags to Phrase.

Tags can be added to an individual key via the tags property:

// translations.json

{
  "Hello": {
    "message": "Hello",
    "tags": ["greeting", "home_page"]
  },
  "Goodbye": {
    "message": "Goodbye",
    "tags": ["home_page"]
  }
}

Tags can also be added under a top-level _meta field. This will result in the tags applying to all keys specified in the file:

// translations.json

{
  "_meta": {
    "tags": ["home_page"]
  },
  "Hello": {
    "message": "Hello",
    "tags": ["greeting"]
  },
  "Goodbye": {
    "message": "Goodbye"
  }
}

In the above example, both the Hello and Goodbye keys would have the home_page tag attached to them, but only the Hello key would have the usage_greeting tag attached to it.

[!NOTE] Only tags specified on keys in your devLanguage will be uploaded. Tags on keys in other languages will be ignored.

Global key

vocab push and vocab pull can support global keys mapping. When you want certain translations to use a specific/custom key in Phrase, add the globalKey to the structure.

// translations.json

{
  "Hello": {
    "message": "Hello",
    "globalKey": "hello"
  },
  "Goodbye": {
    "message": "Goodbye",
    "globalKey": "app.goodbye.label"
  }
}

In the above example,

  • vocab push will push the hello and app.goodbye.label keys to Phrase.
  • vocab pull will pull translations from Phrase and map them to the hello and app.goodbye.label keys.
Error on no translation for global key

By default, vocab pull will not error if a translation is missing in Phrase for a translation with a global key. If you want to throw an error in this situation, pass the --error-on-no-global-key-translation flag:

vocab pull --error-on-no-global-key-translation

Troubleshooting

Problem: Passed locale is being ignored or using en-US instead

When running in Node.js, the locale formatting is supported by Node.js's Internationalization support. Node.js will silently switch to the closest locale it can find if the passed locale is not available. See Node's documentation on Options for building Node.js for information on ensuring Node has the locales you need.

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