Django i18n: Common causes for translations not appearing

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I am making a multilingual Django website. I created a messages file, populated and compiled it. I checked the site (the admin in this case,) in my wanted language (Hebrew) and most phrases appear in Hebrew like they should, but some don’t. I checked the source and these still appear as _('Whatever') like they should, also they are translated on the messages file, and yes, I remembered to do compilemessages.

What are some common causes for translations not to appear like that?

Maybe the translated strings are marked as fuzzy?

Just got hit by one. I had the locale/ directory in the root of my project, but by default Django looks for translations in the INSTALLED_APPS directories, and in the default translations. So it didn’t find the translations I added. But some of my strings were in the default translations that come with Django (eg “Search”) so a few strings were translated, which confused me.

To add the directory where my translations were to the list of places that Django will look for translations, I had to set the LOCALE_PATHS setting. So in my case, where the locale/ directory and were both in the root of the django project I could put the following in

from os import path
    path.join(path.abspath(path.dirname(__file__)), 'locale'),

I’m trying to provide a complete check list:

  • In, are USE_I18N, USE_L10N, LANGUAGE_CODE, and LOCALE_PATHS set properly?

    • See this list for all allowed values of language identifiers. Note that Simplified Chinese is specified by zh-hans, not zh-cn.
  • In, is django.middleware.locale.LocaleMiddleware included in MIDDLEWARE in correct order?

  • Have you (re)run django-admin makemessages -l <locale-name> with the correct local name, from the correct place?

    • You can see an incomplete list of allowed locale name by running ls your/path/to/python/site-packages/django/conf/locale/ on your machine, or by taking a look at the source code
    • Note that you have to use _ rather than - here. For example, to specify simplified Chinese, execute django-admin makemessages -l zh_Hans, not zh_CN or zh_hans or zh-Hans or anything else.
  • Have you removed all fuzzy tags in your PO file(s)?

  • Have you (re)compiled the OP file(s) with django-admin compilemessages?

  • Have you restarted the web server?

Additional notes:

  • If some of your translation is overridden by Django’s default translation, use contextual markers to bypass it. For example,

first_name = models.CharField(
    pgettext_lazy('override default', 'first name'),

last_name = models.CharField(
    pgettext_lazy('override default', 'last name'),


msgctxt "override default"
msgid "first name"
msgstr "?"

msgctxt "override default"
msgid "last name"
msgstr "?"

and you’ll see ?, ? instead of the default ??, ??.

I was having this problem with my project right now. I had the variable LANGUAGES on set this way:

('en', _('English')),
('pt-br', _('Brazilian Portuguese')),

And a folder structure with a locale folder, and a subfolder pt-br inside. Turns out that my translations weren’t loading. The LANGUAGES variable follows the pt-br pattern, and the folders must be on pt_BR pattern. At least that’s the only way it’s working here!

Hi just attach some fixes I had to do in the past:

  • Restart the webserver!

In the setting file
USE_I18N = True is needed

  • django.middleware.locale.LocaleMiddleware among middleware modules (but this is not your case for sure as long as Django will not care about your local at all)

  • django.core.context_processors.i18n among TEMPLATE_CONTEXT_PROCESSORS

for sure I had other issues related to translations but I don’t remember them all… hope this can help!

A possible cause is Lazy Translation.

In example, in you should use ugettext:

from django.utils.translation import ugettext as _

But in, you should use ugettext_lazy:

from django.utils.translation import ugettext_lazy as _

Another cause can be a wrong directory structure.

Read well the manage command’s error message about which directory to create before running the makemassages command for the app translation. (It must be locale for an app, not conf/locale.) Note that the management commands work fine even with the wrong directory structure.

I noticed that when I had % in my text, the translated text was not being used. There may be other characters that can cause this problem. I fixed the problem by escaping the % as %%.

My answer here, all my translations were working except for 2 DateFields that I was using in a ModelForm.
Turns out that I had a widget in my that was not working well with the translations.

I just removed it for now so I can enjoy Xmas =D

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