More Gatsby i18n Tips And Tricks

A follow-up to my article about the internationalization of Gatsby websites.

Dec 24, 2020

#gatsby #react #javascript #i18n

Photo by pure julia on Unsplash

Earlier this year (2020), when I was publishing a blog post every day during the lockdown, I shared my solution to internationalize website build with Gatsby.

The past few days, I have re-build from the ground up the website of DeckDeckGo with the goals to extract static content from our editor for slides and, to develop the foundation to internationalize our platform.

At first, I was looking to experiment a new method but, did not find any which worked well for me. That’s why I developed this new website with Gatsby using my own recipe, again.

Doing so, I learned a couple of new tricks and also improved, I hope, the solution.


This article is a follow-up to my March 2020 blog post: Internationalization With Gatsby.

The current post was written in December 2020 using Gatsby v2, gatsby-plugin-i18n v1, React v17 and react-intl v5.

Its code snippets are taken from our open source website on GitHub.

JSON Translation Files

In the previous article, I was relying on JavaScript files to handle translations (i18n/en.js).

module.exports = { hello: "Hello world" };

Needless to say, I was never a big fan of such method. That’s why in our new website, I replaced these by JSON data (i18n/en.json).

{ "hello": "Hello world" }

These JSON files can then be imported in their respective language Layout component as I used to do with JS import (layout/en.js ).

import React from "react"; import Layout from "./layout"; // Previously with JS // import messages from '../../i18n/en'; // New with JSON import messages from "../../i18n/en.json"; import "@formatjs/intl-pluralrules/locale-data/en"; export default (props) => <Layout {...props} messages={messages} />;

I did not make any changes in the common Layout component itself. It still declares the layout and wrap the children in a IntlProvider .

import React from "react"; import { useStaticQuery, graphql } from "gatsby"; import { IntlProvider } from "react-intl"; import "@formatjs/intl-pluralrules/polyfill"; import { getCurrentLangKey } from "ptz-i18n"; export default ({ children, location, messages }) => { const data = useStaticQuery(graphql` query SiteTitleQuery { site { siteMetadata { title languages { defaultLangKey langs } } } } `); const { langs, defaultLangKey } =; const langKey = getCurrentLangKey(langs, defaultLangKey, location.pathname); return ( <IntlProvider locale={langKey} messages={messages}> {children} </IntlProvider> ); };

Multiple JSON Data

Don’t know if this idiom exists in English but, in French, with can say something such as “Don’t put all the eggs in the same basket”. Indeed, we might not want to handle all our translations in a single file but, split these in multiple data.

Thanks to JSON, I was able to resolve this need quite easily. For example, I created two separate files i18n/index.json and i18n/common.json .

Important to notice, I prefixed the translations’ keys with keywords, such as index or common, to avoid duplicate keys.

// A new file i18n/index.json { "index.hello": "Hello" } // Another file i18n/common.json { "common.hello": "Hello" }

Each files can finally be imported and concatenated, thanks to destructing objects, to the list of translations in their related language layout (layout/en.js in this example).

import React from "react"; import Layout from "./layout"; import index from "../../i18n/index.json"; import common from "../../i18n/common.json"; import "@formatjs/intl-pluralrules/locale-data/en"; export default (props) => ( <Layout {...props} messages={{ ...index, ...common }} /> );

Using this method, we can split our translations in as much separate files as we would like, we “just” have to import and concatenate each new file we would create.

Placeholder, alt, aria-label and title

In an article of Daniel Yuschick I discovered that react-intl now exposes a useIntl hook which turns out to be kind handy to translate placeholder, alt, aria-label and title.

import React from "react"; import { useIntl } from "react-intl"; export const Contact = () => { const intl = useIntl(); return ( <section> <textarea placeholder={intl.formatMessage({ id: "" })} name="message" rows={4} /> <img alt={intl.formatMessage({ id: "hello.yolo" })} src="./yolo.png" /> </section> ); };


Translations sometimes contain HTML elements such as links. A sentence such a The source code on <a href="...">GitHub</a> is super. would either need multiple entries for the translations or, a handy react-intl solution 😉.

The trick can be done by introducing a “placeholder” for the link in the translation (such as for example {githubLink} ).

{ "source.code": "The source code is available on {githubLink}." }

When using the FormattedMessage component provided by react-intl, we can then parse, or replace, this “placeholder” with the effective link (HTML element).

<FormattedMessage id="source.code" values={{ githubLink: <a href="">GitHub</a> }} />

Overwrite Main Index.js

Even though, as displayed in my previous article, I configured the website to route root path queries to the default language, I noticed that it is safe(r) to deploy the website with an index.js file.

// ./gatsby-browser.js exports.onClientEntry = () => { if (window.location.pathname === "/") { window.location.pathname = `/en`; } };

Because I don’t want to maintain multiple entry files manually, I created a pre-build script which copy index.en.js (my main index file) to index.js at build time.

In addition, the script also adds a comment at the start of the target file, so that I will remember that I should not edit it manually 😅.

// copy-index.js const fs = require("fs"); try { fs.copyFileSync("./src/pages/index.en.js", "./src/pages/index.js"); const content = fs.readFileSync("./src/pages/index.js"); const comment = "/**\n * Do not modify! This file is overwritten by index.en.js at build time.\n */\n"; fs.writeFileSync("./src/pages/index.js", comment + content); console.log(`index.en.js copied to index.js!`); } catch (err) { console.error(`Cannot copy index.en.js`); }

I set up this script by adding a prebuild target to my package.json .

"scripts": { "prebuild": "node ./copy-index.js", "develop": "gatsby develop", "start": "gatsby develop", "build": "gatsby build", "serve": "gatsby serve", "clean": "gatsby clean" },


There might be some other easier solution to translate Gatsby website but, for having use my own recipe twice now, I am happy with the result and, the developer experience as well. That being said, I might search again for another solution next time, afterwards, never stop learning is what makes development fun.

Merry Christmas 🎄. To infinity and beyond!