Multilanguage support

PHPCR-ODM has multilanguage support built in. This is an additional feature not supported by PHPCR, but modeled on top of it.


You can mark any properties as being translatable and have the document manager store and load the correct language for you. Note that translation always happens on a document level, not on the individual translatable fields. The non-translated fields however are not duplicated to avoid redundancy.

The multilanguage support is built in a way to allow you to not explicitly handle language. You can tell the DocumentManager the current language and it will be used as default language when calling find methods and when persisting new documents.

When a document is read, its current language is stored with the document, to make sure changes go to the correct language.

Because every document may only exist once, and translations are considered the same document, you can not have multiple languages loaded at the same time.

For required fields (fields not having nullable=true), the behaviour is the same as with normal fields: On saving, an error is thrown when a required field is null. On loading, missing fields trigger no error. A translation exists as soon as at least one field in that locale exists.


To make a document translated, you need to define the translator attribute on the document configuration, and you need to map the locale field. Then you can use the translated attribute on all fields that should be different depending on the locale.

  • PHP
    use Doctrine\ODM\PHPCR\Mapping\Annotations as PHPCR;
     * @PHPCR\Document(translator="attribute")
    class MyPersistentClass
         * The language this document currently is in
         * @Locale
        private $locale;
         * Untranslated property
         * @PHPCR\Field(type="date")
        private $publishDate;
         * Translated property
         * @PHPCR\Field(type="string", translated=true)
        private $topic;
         * Language specific image
         * @PHPCR\Field(type="binary", translated=true)
        private $image;
  • XML
        <document class="MyPersistentClass" translator="attribute">
            <locale fieldName="locale" />
            <field fieldName="publishDate" type="date" />
            <field fieldName="topic" type="string" translated="true" />
            <field fieldName="image" type="binary" translated="true" />
  • YAML
      translator: attribute
      locale: locale
            type: date
            type: string
            translated: true
            type: binary
            translated: true

The translation strategy is telling the document manager which strategy to use to store and load translations for this document. The Locale field holds the current locale of the document. It is populated when finding the document, updated whenever you call bindTranslation and also taken into account when you flush the document, to save the correct translation. When you manually change the Locale after loading a document, it will be saved as the newly assigned language.

You can set any type of property as translatable, but should only set those that are actually language specific. All other properties should not have that annotation, then they are the same in all languages. However, you can not set any association annotations to translatable and translations will not propagate through associations (see the section "Limitations" for an explanation).

Having at least one property marked as translatable will require the whole document to have a translator strategy and a Locale field.

You need to be careful when refactoring documents that have existing data. When you change fields to be translated or no longer translated, or change the translation strategy, you need to migrate the data.

See Refactoring Multilanguage Documents for more information on the tools to do the data migration.

Interacting with translations

When reading, DocumentManager::find() uses the default locale (see below how to set that). This means your reading code does not need to be aware of content translations happening.

If you need to access a document with an explicit locale that might be different from the default locale, you can use DocumentManager::findTranslation().

When loading a document with findTranslation that was already loaded with this DocumentManager session, the DocumentManager will not create a copy of the document but change the fields of the existing document. This means you can not have two languages of the same document in memory at the same time.

The reason for this is that otherwise we could run into inconsistencies if any of the non-translatable fields is changed in one of the two document instances that are the same document.

To get a list of all available locales for a document, use DocumentManager::getLocalesFor.

When writing, you can use DocumentManager::persist() as normal. Persist will respect the locale set in the Locale field, and fall back to the default locale if that field is empty.

During DocumentManager::flush(), if you edited a document, the current value of the Locale field is respected as well. If you want to flush more than one language in one go, you can use DocumentManager::bindTranslation() repeatedly and update the translated fields of your document before each call to bindTranslation. (See the example below).

Choosing the right translation strategy

A translation strategy needs to be selected by adding the translator parameter to the document mapping. The translation strategy is responsible to actually persist the translated properties.

There are two default translation strategies implemented and automatically available:

  • attribute stores the translations in attributes of the node containing the translatable properties
  • child stores the translations in a child node of the node containing the translatable properties

Thus, if you do not have many fields, the attribute strategy puts less load on the content repository. On the other hand, if you have a lot of fields on your document, you may want to use the child strategy.

If needed, it is possible to implement other strategies to persist the translations.

Implementing your own translation strategy

You may want to implement your own translation strategy to persist the translatable properties of a node. For example if you want all the translations to be stored in a separate subtree of you content repository.

To do so you need to implement the Doctrine\ODM\PHPCR\Translation\TranslationStrategy\TranslationStrategyInterface.

Then you have to register your translation strategy with the document manager during the bootstrap:

use Doctrine\ODM\PHPCR\Translation\TranslationStrategy\TranslationStrategyInterface;

class MyTranslationStrategy implements TranslationStrategyInterface
    // ...

$dm = new \Doctrine\ODM\PHPCR\DocumentManager($session, $config);
$dm->setTranslationStrategy('my_strategy_name', new MyTranslationStrategy());

my_strategy_name would be the value for the translator attribute to use your custom strategy.

Configure the locale chooser strategy

The language chooser is used when loading translated documents. If no language is specified, it provides the default language. If the requested language is not available for this document, the strategy is asked for a fallback order of other languages to try in order to find the best available translation.

On reading, PHPCR-ODM tries to find a translation with each of the languages in that list and throws a not found exception if none of the languages exists.

The default language chooser strategy Doctrine\ODM\PHPCR\Translation\LocaleChooser\LocaleChooser returns a configurable list of languages based on the requested language. On instantiation, you specify the default locale. This should be your application default locale. It is used to get the default locale order which usually should not vary based on the current locale. Based on your HTTP request or whatever criteria you have, you can use setLocale() to have the document manager load your document in the right language.

When you bootstrap the document manager, you need to set the language chooser strategy if you have any translatable documents:

use Doctrine\ODM\PHPCR\DocumentManager;

$localePrefs = array(
    'en' => array('de', 'fr'),
    'fr' => array('de', 'en'),
    'it' => array('de', 'en'),

$dm = new DocumentManager($session, $config);
$dm->setLocaleChooserStrategy(new LocaleChooser($localePrefs, 'en'));

The above says: When en is requested but you do not find it, then try de and finally fr.

You can write your own strategy by implementing Doctrine\ODM\PHPCR\Translation\LocaleChooser\LocaleChooserInterface. This is useful to determine the default language based on some logic, or provide fallback orders based on user preferences.

Full Example

use Doctrine\ODM\PHPCR\DocumentManager;

// bootstrap the DocumentManager as required (see above)

$localePrefs = array(
    'en' => array('fr'),
    'fr' => array('en'),

$dm = new DocumentManager($session, $config);
$dm->setLocaleChooserStrategy(new LocaleChooser($localePrefs, 'en'));

// then to use translations:

$doc = new Article();
$doc->id = '/my_test_node';
$doc->author = 'John Doe';
$doc->topic = 'An interesting subject';
$doc->text = 'Lorem ipsum...';

// Persist the document in English
$dm->bindTranslation($doc, 'en');

// Change the content and persist the document in French
$doc->topic = 'Un sujet intéressant';
$dm->bindTranslation($doc, 'fr');

// locale is updated automatically if there is such an annotation
echo $doc->locale; // fr

// Flush to write the changes to the phpcr backend

// Get the document in default language
// (English if you bootstrapped as in the example)
$doc = $dm->find(null, '/my_test_node');

// Get the document in French
$doc = $dm->findTranslation(null, '/my_test_node', 'fr');
$doc->title = 'nouveau';
$dm->flush(); // french is updated as the language is tracked by the dm

Querying Translated Properties

The translation strategy will store translated strings into specific properties. When using the PHPCR SQL2 queries, you will need to look into implementation details to make them work.

When using the PHPCR-ODM query builder, it will detect translated fields and adjust the query accordingly. By default, the current locale will be used, but you can manually call $qb->setLocale($locale) if you need a different locale.

Read more in the query builder documentation.


Translations and references / hierarchy

For now, Child, Children, Parent, ReferenceMany, ReferenceOne and Referrers will all fall back to the default language. The reason for this is that there can be only one tracked instance of a document per session. (Otherwise what should happen if both copies where modified?...).

For more details, see the wiki page.