Translating Fields on Models

The olympia.translations app defines a olympia.translations.models.Translation model, but for the most part, you shouldn’t have to use that directly. When you want to create a foreign key to the translations table, use olympia.translations.fields.TranslatedField. This subclasses Django’s django.db.models.ForeignKey to make it work with our special handling of translation rows.

A minimal model with translations in addons-server would look like this:

from django.db import models

from olympia.amo.models import ModelBase
from olympia.translations.fields import TranslatedField, save_signal

class MyModel(ModelBase):
    description = TranslatedField()


How it works behind the scenes

As mentioned above, a TranslatedField is actually a ForeignKey to the translations table. However, to support multiple languages, we use a special feature of MySQL allowing you to have a ForeignKey pointing to multiple rows.

When querying

Our base manager has a _with_translations() method that is automatically called when you instanciate a queryset. It does 2 things:

  • Stick an extra lang=lang in the query to prevent query caching from returning objects in the wrong language

  • Call olympia.translations.transformers.get_trans() which does the black magic.

get_trans() is called, and calls in turn olympia.translations.transformer.build_query() and builds a custom SQL query. This query is the heart of the magic. For each field, it setups a join on the translations table, trying to find a translation in the current language (using olympia.translation.get_language()) and then in the language returned by get_fallback() on the instance (for addons, that’s default_locale; if the get_fallback() method doesn’t exist, it will use settings.LANGUAGE_CODE, which should be en-US in addons-server).

Only those 2 languages are considered, and a double join + IF / ELSE is done every time, for each field.

This query is then ran on the slave (get_trans() gets a cursor using connections[multidb.get_replica()]) to fetch the translations, and some Translation objects are instantiated from the results and set on the instance(s) of the original query.

To complete the mechanism, TranslationDescriptor.__get__ returns the Translation, and Translations.__unicode__ returns the translated string as you’d expect, making the whole thing transparent.

When setting

Everytime you set a translated field to a string value, TranslationDescriptor_ ___set__ method is called. It determines which method to call (because you can also assign a dict with multiple translations in multiple languages at the same time). In this case, it calls translation_from_string() method, still on the “hidden” TranslationDescriptor instance. The current language is passed at this point, using olympia.translation_utils.get_language().

From there, translation_from_string() figures out whether it’s a new translation of a field we had no translation for, a new translation of a field we already had but in a new language, or an update to an existing translation.

It instantiates a new Translation object with the correct values if necessary, or just updates the correct one. It then places that object in a queue of Translation instances to be saved later.

When you eventually call, the pre_save signal is sent. If you followed the example above, that means olympia.translations.fields.save_signal is then called, and it unqueues all Translation objects and saves them. It’s important to do this on pre_save to prevent foreign key constraint errors.

When deleting

Deleting all translations for a field is done using olympia.translations.models.delete_translation(). It sets the field to NULL and then deletes all the attached translations.

Deleting a specific translation (like a translation in spanish, but keeping the english one intact) is implemented but not recommended at the moment. The reason why is twofold:

  1. MySQL doesn’t let you delete something that still has a FK pointing to it, even if there are other rows that match the FK. When you call delete() on a translation, if it was the last translation for that field, we set the FK to NULL and delete the translation normally. However, if there were any other translations, instead we temporarily disable the constraints to let you delete just the one you want.

  2. Remember how fetching works? If you deleted a translation that is part of the fallback, then when you fetch that object, depending on your locale you’ll get an empty string for that field, even if there are Translation objects in other languages available!

For additional discussion on this topic, see

Ordering by a translated field

olympia.translations.query.order_by_translation allows you to order a QuerySet by a translated field, honoring the current and fallback locales like it’s done when querying.