Joe Gornick

Zend Framework Best Practices – Part 2: I18n

For the second part of my Zend Framework Best Practices series, I’d like to show you what I’ve found to be a simple and solid implementation of internationalizing your website.

Zend Framework already contains components like Zend_Locale and Zend_Translate to assist in internationalizing your website. You use the Zend_Locale instance in conjunction with the Zend_Translate to know what current locale is being used and how to translate the content. I’m going to show you how to implement these into your website.

If you haven’t read the first part of this series, I would recommend it as all my examples here will be based on that structure.

To start off, let’s talk about how we are going to allow our website to know what locale to use. What I’ve found to be a common practice to switch locales is based off of the URL. For example, a sample format may look like Locales are usually represented with a language_REGION combination. However, locales in our case are specified by only the language code. You can find a list of language codes here. If you wanted your site to be in Japanese, you would use the language code of ja. An example of the URL might look something like On top of specifying the locale in the path of the URL, I’ve also provided a way to determine the locale based off of the TLD in the URL. For example, let’s say our also has a Japanese TLD like When a request comes in and we find a supported TLD, we set the localed based on it.

Enough talk, let’s look at some code.

Let’s start by setting up our Zend_Locale. In the application.ini, we use the Zend_Application_Resource_Locale to setup the locale component and set our default locale. In our case here, I’m setting the default locale to English.


# Locale
resources.locale.default = "en"

Next, we need to tell our application which locales are supported and also specify our TLD mappings. We do this by specifying front controller parameters in the application.ini.


# Front Controller Params
resources.frontController.params.locales[] = "en"
resources.frontController.params.locales[] = "ja" = "ja"

If you notice from the configuration above, I’ve added English and Japanese as my supported locales and I also mapped the jp TLD to use the ja language code. More on how we use those later.

Before I show the rest of the configuration needed, let me explain how the process works.

In order for your application to recognize when a locale is specified in the URL, you need to create special routes to parse out the locale. The approach I took was to override the existing Zend_Application_Resource_Router and implement the ability to automatically add locale routes to the application when enabled.

The process in which I added routes to my application was done previously in my Bootstrap.php with the _initRoutes() method. I’ve removed that code and moved the routes to be configured in the application.ini. Now that the routes are specified in the application.ini, it allows us to easily add/edit/remove routes from our application. There is also a benefit to doing this in regards to caching, which I will explain in a future article.

First, let’s take a look at how we will load the custom router application resource and override the existing application resource.


# Custom Resource Plugins
pluginPaths.My_Application_Resource = APPLICATION_PATH "/../lib/My/Application/Resource/"

Now the application is setup to load custom application resources for the namespace specified. Since I am overriding the Zend_Application_Resource_Router, let’s look at My_Application_Resource_Router:


class My_Application_Resource_Router extends Zend_Application_Resource_Router
    public $_explicitType = 'router';

    protected $_front;
    protected $_locale;

     * Retrieve router object
     * @return Zend_Controller_Router_Rewrite
    public function getRouter()
        $options = $this->getOptions();

        if (!isset($options['locale']['enabled']) ||
            !$options['locale']['enabled']) {
            return parent::getRouter();

        $bootstrap = $this->getBootstrap();

        if (!$this->_front) {
            $this->_front = $bootstrap->getContainer()->frontcontroller;

        if (!$this->_locale) {
            $this->_locale = $bootstrap->getContainer()->locale;

        $defaultLocale = array_keys($this->_locale->getDefault());
        $defaultLocale = $defaultLocale[0];

        $locales = $this->_front->getParam('locales');
        $requiredLocalesRegex = '^(' . join('|', $locales) . ')$';

        $routes = $options['routes'];
        foreach ($routes as $key => $value) {
            // First let's add the default locale to this routes defaults.
            $defaults = isset($value['defaults'])
                ? $value['defaults']
                : array();

            // Always default all routes to the Zend_Locale default
            $value['defaults'] = array_merge(array( 'locale' => $defaultLocale ), $defaults);

            $routes[$key] = $value;

            // Get our route and make sure to remove the first forward slash
            // since it's not needed.
            $routeString = $value['route'];
            $routeString = ltrim($routeString, '/\\');

            // Modify our normal route to have the locale parameter.
            if (!isset($value['type']) ||
                $value['type'] === 'Zend_Controller_Router_Route') {
                $value['route'] = ':locale/' . $routeString;

                $value['reqs']['locale'] = $requiredLocalesRegex;

                $routes['locale_' . $key] = $value;
            } else if ($value['type'] === 'Zend_Controller_Router_Route_Regex') {
                $value['route'] = '(' . join('|', $locales) . ')\/' . $routeString;

                // Since we added the local regex match, we need to bump the existing
                // match numbers plus one.
                $map = isset($value['map']) ? $value['map'] : array();
                foreach ($map as $index => $word) {
                    $map[$index] = $word;

                // Add our locale map
                $map[1] = 'locale';

                $value['map'] = $map;

                $routes['locale_' . $key] = $value;
            } else if ($value['type'] === 'Zend_Controller_Router_Route_Static') {
                foreach ($locales as $locale) {
                    $value['route'] = $locale . '/' . $routeString;
                    $value['defaults']['locale'] = $locale;
                    $routes['locale_' . $locale . '_' . $key] = $value;

        $options['routes'] = $routes;

        return parent::getRouter();

In order for this custom application resource to override the existing one, the key is public $_explicitType = 'router';. Now when routes are setup in the application.ini for the router resource it won’t use the Zend_Application_Resource_Router, but rather My_Application_Resource_Router.

This application resource sets up the Zend_Controller_Router_Rewrite by parsing the specified options parsed from the application.ini. Notice this custom application resource extends from the original Zend_Application_Resource_Router which allows us to have the application resource perform the default actions if the locale option is not enabled in the configuration. By default, the custom router application resource will perform the default actions to the routes. You need to explicitly specify in the application.ini that the router is locale aware.

My_Application_Resource_Router simply takes in the specified routes from the application.ini and adds locale routes automatically so you don’t have to chain/duplicate routes in the configuration.

Let’s look at our application.ini to see how we are setting up the router to be locale aware and adding a route.


# Router/Routes
resources.router.locale.enabled = true
resources.router.routes.action_index.route = ":action/*"
resources.router.routes.action_index.defaults.controller = "index"
resources.router.routes.action_index.defaults.action = "index"

In the previous configuration snippet, we enable our router application resource to be locale aware and add a basic Zend_Controller_Router_Route which is the same as specified previously in our Bootstrap.php. When the router application resource is finished adding the routes to the router, there will be two:

  1. :action/*
  2. :locale/:action/*

Currently the My_Application_Resource_Router supports Zend_Controller_Router_Route, Zend_Controller_Router_Route_Regex and Zend_Controller_Router_Static routes. When these routes are specified and the router application resource is locale aware, it will automatically create routes for the supported locales.

We’ve covered a lot already, but there are still a few more steps involved. We are almost finished, I promise!

At this point, we have specified our default and supported locales and setup our routes using our custom router application resource. Now we need to do one more thing and that is to determine which locale to load and create our Zend_Translate instance.

In order for us to determine which locale, if any, has been specified in the request, we use a controller plugin to parse the request and set the correct locale and setup our translation component.

First, we need to enable the controller plugin in our application.ini.


# Front Controller Plugins
resources.frontController.plugins.I18n = "My_Controller_Plugin_I18n"

Next, let’s look at the controller plugin source:


class My_Controller_Plugin_I18n extends Zend_Controller_Plugin_Abstract
    * Sets the application locale and translation based on the locale param, if
    * one is not provided it defaults to english
    * @param Zend_Controller_Request_Abstract $request
    public function routeShutdown(Zend_Controller_Request_Abstract $request)
        $frontController = Zend_Controller_Front::getInstance();
        $params = $request->getParams();
        $registry = Zend_Registry::getInstance();

        // Steps setting the locale.
        // 1. Defaults to English (Done in config)
        // 2. TLD in host header
        // 3. Locale params specified in request
        $locale = $registry->get('Zend_Locale');

        // Check host header TLD.
        $tld = preg_replace('/^.*\./', '', $request->getHeader('Host'));

        // Provide a list of tld's and their corresponding default languages
        $tldLocales = $frontController->getParam('tldLocales');

        if (array_key_exists($tld, $tldLocales)) {
            // The TLD in the request matches one of our specified TLD -> Locales
        } else if (isset($params['locale'])) {
            // There is a locale specified in the request params.

        // Now that our locale is set, let's check which language has been selected
        // and try to load a translation file for it. If the language is the default,
        // then we do not need to load a translation.
        $language = $locale->getLanguage();
        if ($language !== $locale->getDefault()) {
            $i18nFile = APPLICATION_PATH . '/data/i18n/source-' . $language . '.mo';
            try {
                $translate =
                    new Zend_Translate('gettext', $i18nFile, $locale, array('disableNotices' => true));

                Zend_Registry::set('Zend_Translate', $translate);
            } catch (Zend_Translate_Exception $e) {
                // Since there was an error when trying to load the translation catalog,
                // let's not load a translation object which essentially defaults to
                // locale default.

        // Now that we have our locale setup, let's check to see if we are loading
        // a language that is not the default, and update our base URL on the front
        // controller to the specified language.
        $defaultLanguage = array_keys($locale->getDefault());
        $defaultLanguage = $defaultLanguage[0];

        $path = '/' . ltrim($request->getPathInfo(), '/\\');

        // If the language is in the path, then we will want to set the baseUrl
        // to the specified language.
        if (preg_match('/^\/' . $language . '\/?/', $path)) {
            $frontController->setBaseUrl($frontController->getBaseUrl() . '/' . $language);

        setcookie('Zend_Locale', $language, null, '/', $request->getHttpHost());

To start, notice this plugin listens on the routeShutdown() method. We use this because our request has gone through our router and the request is now setup and ready to be processed. In the routeShutdown() method, we first load our Zend_Locale instance from the registry where it was set up in our application.ini. Next, we need to determine which locale, if any, needs to be set. By default, we’ve set our locale to use English (en) in our application.ini. We will parse out the TLD from the host and see if it maps to one of our specified TLD locales. If that doesn’t exist, then we will look in the request to see if the locale param was set. If both of the checks can’t find a specified locale, we then simply use the default.

Since our locale is now setup, we need to load a translation file. In my example provided, I use gettext translation files. I place these files in the app/data/i18n folder. The file naming scheme looks like source-{locale}.mo. Another example would be if we had a Japanese translation file, it would look something like The plugin will try to load the translation file based on the locale language specified and add it to our Zend_Registry and tell our Zend_Form it’s default translator.

Finally, our plugin uses the specified locale language to determine if we need to update our base URL in the front controller. We want to set the base URL to the specified locale which allows other components like Zend_Navigation to persist the locale in the links produced.

There you have it! You’re site is now internationalized and ready for it’s content to be translated.

But wait, that’s not all! I’ve also provided a view helper which produces a locale switcher. This view helper simply creates elements that contain images of the specified locale and shows the enabled/disabled locale while allowing you to click on the image and switch the current locale.


class Default_View_Helper_LocaleSwitcher extends Zend_View_Helper_Abstract
    public function localeSwitcher()
        $output = array();
        $frontController = Zend_Controller_Front::getInstance();

        $locales = $frontController->getParam('locales');
        $request = $frontController->getRequest();
        $baseUrl = $request->getBaseUrl();
        $path = '/' . trim($request->getPathInfo(), '/\\');

        if (count($locales) > 0) {
            $locale = Zend_Registry::get('Zend_Locale');
            $localeLanguage = $locale->getLanguage();
            $defaultLocaleLanguage = array_keys($locale->getDefault());
            $defaultLocaleLanguage = $defaultLocaleLanguage[0];

            array_push($output, '<ul id="locale_switcher">');

            foreach ($locales as $language) {
                $imageSrc  = 'img/i18n_';
                $imageSrc .= $language . '_' . ($localeLanguage == $language ? 'on' : 'off');
                $imageSrc .= '.gif';

                $urlLanguage = $defaultLocaleLanguage == $language
                    ? ''
                    : '/' . $language;

                if (strlen($baseUrl) === 0) {
                    $localeUrl = $urlLanguage . $path;
                } else {
                    $localeUrl = preg_replace('/^' . preg_quote($baseUrl, '/') . '\/?/',
                        $urlLanguage . '/', $path);

                array_push($output, '<li>');
                array_push($output, '<a href="' . $localeUrl . '">');
                array_push($output, '<img src="' . $this->view->assetUrl($imageSrc) . '" alt="' . $language . '" />');
                array_push($output, '</a>');
                array_push($output, '</li>');

            array_push($output, '</ul>');

        return join('', $output);

I’ve included an updated Zend Framework Best Practices zip file which contains all of the files/directory structure we’ve discussed so far in the series.

The original gist of this process can be found here:

That’s it for now. Until next time!

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