2. Quickstart

2.1. Define a multilingual model

Defining a multilingual model is very similar to defining a normal Django model, with the difference that instead of subclassing Model you have to subclass TranslatableModel and that all fields which should be translatable have to be wrapped inside a TranslatedFields.

Let’s write an easy model which describes Django applications with translatable descriptions and information about who wrote the description:

from django.db import models
from hvad.models import TranslatableModel, TranslatedFields

class DjangoApplication(TranslatableModel):
    name = models.CharField(max_length=255, unique=True)
    author = models.CharField(max_length=255)

    translations = TranslatedFields(

    def __unicode__(self):
        return self.name

The fields name and author will not get translated, the fields description and description_author will.

2.2. Create a translated instance

Now that we have defined our model, let’s play around with it a bit. The following code examples are taken from a Python shell.

Import our model:

>>> from myapp.models import DjangoApplication

Create an instance:

>>> hvad = DjangoApplication.objects.language('en').create(
    name='django-hvad', author='Jonas Obrist',
    description='A project to do multilingual models in Django',
    description_author='Jonas Obrist',
>>> hvad.name
>>> hvad.author
'Jonas Obrist'
>>> hvad.description
'A project to do multilingual models in Django'
>>> hvad.description_author
'Jonas Obrist'
>>> hvad.language_code
>>> hvad.save()

This is the most straightforward way to create a new instance with translated fields. Doing it this way avoids the possibility of creating instances with no translation at all, something one usually wants to avoid.

Once we have an instance, we can add new translations. Let’s add some French:

>>> hvad.translate('fr')
<DjangoApplication: django-hvad>
>>> hvad.name
>>> hvad.description
>>> hvad.description = 'Un projet pour gérer des modèles multilingues sous Django'
>>> hvad.description_author = 'Julien Hartmann'
>>> hvad.save()


The translate() method creates a brand new translation in the specified language. Please note that it does not check the database, and that if the translation already exists, a database integrity exception will be raised when saving.

2.3. Querying translatable models

Get the instance again and check that the fields are correct:

>>> obj = DjangoApplication.objects.language('en').get(name='django-hvad')
>>> obj.name
>>> obj.author
u'Jonas Obrist'
>>> obj.description
u'A project to do multilingual models in Django'
>>> obj.description_author
u'Jonas Obrist'

We use language() to tell hvad we want to use translated fields, in English. This is one of the three ways to query a translatable model. It only ever considers instance that have a translation in the specified language and match the filters in that language.

Other ways are untranslated(), which uses a fallback algorithm to fetch the best translation within a list of languages, and direct, vanilla use of the queryset, which does not know about translations or translated fields at all.

Back to our instance, get it again, in other languages:

>>> obj = DjangoApplication.objects.language('fr').get(name='django-hvad')
>>> obj.description
u'Un projet pour gérer des modèles multilingues sous Django'
>>> DjangoApplication.objects.language('ja').filter(name='django-hvad')

See how, in the second query, the fact that no translation exist in Japanese for our object had it filtered out of the query.


We set an explicit language when calling language() because we are in an interactive shell, which is not necessarily in English. In your normal views, you can usually omit the language simply writing MyModel.objects.language().get(...). This will use get_language() to get the language the environment is using at the time of the query.

Let’s get all Django applications which have a description written by 'Jonas Obrist' (in English, then in French):

>>> DjangoApplication.objects.language('en').filter(description_author='Jonas Obrist')
[<DjangoApplication: django-hvad>]
>>> DjangoApplication.objects.language('fr').filter(description_author='Jonas Obrist')

Notice how the second query only considers French translations and returns an empty set.

Next, we will have a more detailed look at how to work with translatable models.