#translations

In my last post I talked about setting up Symfony2 entities for translation and integrating it with Sonata Admin. One of the trickier parts of moving from a non-translatable entity to a translatable one is the migration of your data.

To understand some of the complexities with the migration you must understand the changes to the database that occur when taking an entity from being a regular entity to a translatable one. Any columns that are translatable will now live on a separate table and the old column is no longer used. Let’s use the following pre-translation entity DB schema as an example:

For this entity we’ll make visible_label translatable, following the instructions in my previous post. This will result in the following final schema:

The column “visible_label” has moved from the regular entity table to the entity’s translation table. If you had data in the visible_label previously it would be lost as that column no longer exists. Since we had tons of data in our case this wasn’t acceptable.

To make sure we didn’t lose data, we did the translatable migration in two stages. First, we kept the columns we were translating in the original entity and only removed the getters and setters. The reason we removed the getter and setters is we wanted to utilize the magic __call() method so it would return values from the translatable entity. All that was left was the original column declaration. At first it seemed like making the column variable public for the time being would be a quick and easy solution, then run a script that reads the public variable and migrates it to the translation. The problem with this approach is Twig will read out the public variable rather than calling through the __call() method to the translatable entity. Since we were testing at the same time as trying to build the migration, we needed the tests to access the translatable entity and not the old public variable. We ended up using Reflection Classes and keeping the column declared as a private. With reflection you can change properties to be accessible outside of the class even though they are declared private. For example:

By using the reflection we’re able to access the original “visible_label” column and migrate the data to the translation entity. We built similar routines for each of the entities that we had to migrate. After the migration and everyone confirmed that the live site was functioning properly, we removed the translated columns from the original entity and database.

By taking this two staged approach we were able to move to translatable entities while not losing any data in the migration. In our case we also marked (//START TRANS, //END TRANS) on each entity the start of translatable columns and end so that we could use sed to go through all of them and remove the old columns once the migration was finished.

Happy translating!

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We’ve worked on a number of projects which require the UI to be translated using the standard Symfony2 translator and YAML files. Recently we came into a few projects which also required different entities to have certain fields translated. Most of our applications we build use Sonata Admin for the admin backend so making sure we could integrate with it nicely was important. Looking around on Google and Stackoverflow it was clear that there are several different ways to go about getting your entities translated from the Gedmo Translatable, KnpLabs Translatable, to A2LiX I18n. Many of the packages have different takes on the “proper” way translation should be setup for the project. There are other nuances between each package such as supporting a fallback locale.

In the end we settled on using the KnpLabs Translatable bundle as it ticked all the boxes we wanted in functionality including fallback locale and a nice integration with the form (more on that later in this post). Installing the bundle follows the standard add it to composer and enable it in the kernel. From there setting up an entity was pretty straight forward:

Taking a look at how it actually works. First in the main entity you use the Translatable trait. Then in the translation entity (which is your original Entity with the name Translation appended to it) you add what fields you want translated, as well as the Translation trait. From there you can do something like $entity->translate(‘en’)->getName(). In our case we had a fairly large application already built and having to go through everywhere to update it to $entity->translate(…)->getXXX() would of been a huge pain and time waste. Luckily there is a fairly easy way to get around this. Using PHP’s magic __call method you can intercept all the calls so that it will go through the translations automatically:

The reason that it checks if arguments were passed in is that the Symfony2 property accessor doesn’t support passing arguments. We wanted to use it though when no arguments were passed since twig would otherwise first try on entity.name a call of “$entity->name()” which would fail as no name exists. You could wrap a few checks to make sure the method exists, instead since majority of our gets from twig do not pass any parameters we opted to just use the property accessor if no arguments were passed. This fixed the problem of {{ entity.name }} in Twig causing an error that the callback doesn’t exist and causing a 500. We ended up making our own Translatable trait which included this special __call override.

The final piece of advice on getting the translations working is when you add new translations to make sure you call $entity->mergeNewTranslations(). If you don’t you’ll be confused on why for it seems that none of your translations are being saved. This is documented, I just had looked over it first.

Now our second goal was a nice integration with Sonata Admin and any other forms we needed to use the translatable fields on. Luckily the A2LiX Translation Form Bundle already existed and we went forward with using it. Using the bundle was very easy. It was a simple as installing it, configuring it(just indicating what locales you want to use), and then updating the different form fields/admin setups. One thing to note is in the documentation it uses $form->add(‘translations’,’a2lix_translations’) as a bare minimum use case. At first, like me, you may think that the “translations” field is one of your field names. In fact that is used to load all translatable fields from your entity. It drops it into a nice tabbed input box. If you want to customize the field types and other options you can pass an array of options to set each field up in terms of labels, field type, etc. All in all it was really a huge time saver to have this bundle and was very easy to use from both a developer and user standpoint.

For the most part this is how we went about enabling translations on different entities in our application. In my next post I’ll write up the steps we used to migrate all the data from our existing entities to the new translations.

Update: My post on how to migrate your data to translatable entities is now available.

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