Drupal 8 multilingual tidbits 1: language first

Up to date as of October 16th, 2015.

Starting a new series

The Drupal 8 Multilingual Initiative was announced on May 9th, 2011. Since it's inception, the heroic efforts of people on the initiative resulted in hundreds of issues resolved but there are always more to perfect. We have made huge advances in terms of multilingual support in Drupal 8 thanks to all these changes and you can still help to make it perfect.

I'd love to highlight some of the great improvements that we made to make you excited about what is coming and point out some related places where you can still help to perfect what we have so far. This is number one in a series of short posts to discuss these improvements.

Language first in the installer

Drupal 8 makes language occupy the prominent first step in the installer. And compared to Drupal 7 where you were presented with a wall of textual instructions as to how to locate and download a translation file, place into a specific directory and reload the page, Drupal 8 comes with the realization that these are all tasks we can automate. So we show you about a 100 languages to choose from to install Drupal 8 in.

The new Drupal version also comes with highly improved browser based language detection capabilities, so it will attempt to automatically identify your preferred language for this installation based on what your browser tells us. So in most cases, you'll likely just hit the button to continue and not think much about this.

We not only present you with the list of languages, we also download and import the translations to your system proper. So all the steps you did manually before are now automated. The installer can also fully show up in right to left languages.

Also, if you pick a foreign language here, English will not be among your site's languages anymore either. Drupal 8's assumption is that if you install in a foreign language, you likely want a foreign language website without English showing up at all kinds of places as an option. Compared to Drupal 7 where English was not possible to remove.

Issues to work on

  • DONE! Now that language settings are before install profile selection, distributions cannot have programatic control over what is displayed on the language selection screen. https://drupal.org/node/1351352 would deal with introducing distribution level settings, but there is not too wide an interest for this sadly.
  • The original design for the language selector called for a bigger widget that demonstrates the language versatility better. https://drupal.org/node/1337628 would deal with implementing that design but it is currently stuck.
  • There are people interested in various options to be added to the installer to be able to configure multilingual behavior in the installer. There is a proposal to be able to select multiple languages in some way (https://drupal.org/node/2010008) and/or to be able to configure the administration language or just make it possible to still add English as well (https://drupal.org/node/1988112).
  • Even if no further options are added to the installer, a user tour of the base functionality would be great to have. See and contribute at https://drupal.org/node/1940590
  • DONE! If language files are already available on your system, only those are displayed. This lets custom distribution packaging to limit to certain languages (although not with the tools available on drupal.org). This may be confusing. See https://drupal.org/node/1974048
  • DONE! There are too many steps in the installer that deal with language now (for technical reasons). We should cut down on the number of those steps to make it friendlier. https://drupal.org/node/1993452

Wanna be involved but need some guidance? We hold regular meetings on IRC! See http://www.drupal8multilingual.org/events for upcoming event information.


gagarine's picture


I don't really understand the idea of the "langcode: XX" exported in configuration.

If you use another language than English to install Drupal (say french) you will have config files with "langcode: fr" but the config content is in English (???). Then when you switch the administration language... the "langcode" change depending of the language. What is the purpose of the default language?

It's quickly become very messy.

This design bring a lot of bugs and side effect. For example you can't translate fields anymore if you have different language.

I feel you should always use English to install Drupal8 if you have multilingual site but in this case the installer is misleading.

P.S. Asked that on IRC... but no reply.

Gábor Hojtsy's picture

When you install a French only site, I don't think you want to have shipped configuration as English. If that would be the case, you would create your own site specific views, fields, etc. in French and maintain all the stuff that came with Drupal in English and would need to translate it. Let's say you need to modify the behaviour of the content listing page that came with Drupal, you would go to edit the view. But if you need to change some labels, you cannot do it there, because its English, you would need to go do the changes in the translation.

A year later when you decide to add a couple more languages to the site, we need to support this scenario of course. So what we do for a foreign language install is we try to update the translations of configuration inlined within the configuration as much as the community translations allow us to do.

Bernt Andreas Drange's picture

Hi, I opened all the "issues to work on" in this list that are not struck out, and all of them are stuck in some outdated fashion. So I guess they won't ever be worked on..

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