OEP-58: Translations Management#




Translations Management

Last Modified




Ned Batchelder <ned@edx.org>




Architecture Decision



Review Period

2022-11-07 - 2022-11-21


Follow-up Work


We will switch from using the edx-transifex-bot to the Transifex GitHub App, a stable app provided by Transifex. Benefits of this change include being easier to maintain and solving a lot of the pain points detailed below. In addition, translation files will be moved into their own repository. This will make using the Transifex GitHub App more streamlined and straightforward, and facilitate the organization of translation files on Transifex. A CLI tool will be developed to move translation files from the repository that contains them to where they are needed for development or deployment.


The current method of managing and organizing translations files is overly complicated and unavailable to the majority of the Open edX community. For example: the edx-transifex-bot performs the automated upload of English translation source files to Transifex and download of translation files to GitHub. It currently runs on legacy infrastructure originally provided by a community member and is difficult to track why some PRs are merged by the bot, and some are not, and where the bot is creating and merging PRs. Most recently, it was discovered that the translations were not uploading properly but it has been impossible for most members of the Open edX community to debug exactly why. In the week before the Nutmeg release, this was a significant pain point.

Current State#

  • edx-transifex-bot is a potential security issue: The edx-transifex-bot requires admin rights on Transifex in order to function. Admin rights give access to private/sensitive information as well as the ability to permanently delete translation and configuration files. At some point, the login to the edx-transifex-bot user was lost, and without access to infrastructure that the bot uses to function, this edx-transifex-bot is a security issue most of the Open edX community cannot control or debug.

  • edx-transifex-bot is a black box for most of the community: the code for the edx-transifex-bot is in the ecommerce-scripts repository but it is impossible for most of the community to observe the work it is doing, or whether it is doing it correctly. In addition, there is no documentation for these important scripts.

  • The translations for the Open edX Maple Release were never uploaded to Transifex, because the automation handled by the edx-transifex-bot never uploaded it.

  • The underlying transifex-client library and Transifex API (V2) are being deprecated on November 30th, 2022. Prior to removing the transifex-client as a dependency, this led to inconsistent behavior by our tooling when we try to automatically manage translations. See this pull request for more details.

  • We have a complex process for managing translations for the named releases. As a result, the black box nature of the edx-transifex-bot and the unclear state of the underlying tooling, this has become more laborious to keep running. Especially because there are few people with Admin rights to Transifex and knowledge of the Transifex API; this could become a recurring problem with each Open edX release.

Rationale for migrating to the Transifex GitHub App#

  • This is an upgrade of a system we use regularly, but do not want to have to maintain regularly.

  • Upgrading from a bot (machine user) to an app/workflow is recommended by GitHub and makes the translation process more open source.

  • The Transifex GitHub App is developed and supported by Transifex

  • The Transifex GitHub App is very simple to configure and has many options. We can set Transifex Projects to automatically upload/download translation files from a repository once the translations are reviewed and accepted.

  • By using an app that is maintained by Transifex the organization, we reduce the maintenance burden and are more future proof of changes they might make since they maintain both the API and the Transifex GitHub App.

  • Transifex has a very robust notification system, and errors occurring there will notify the Transifex Admins and the Translation Working Group.

Rationale for consolidating translations files centrally#

  • Transifex only allows a one-to-one relationship between repositories and Transifex Projects. Organizing all of the translation files into one repository and one Transifex Project has a lower labor cost: projects are managed separately so we end up spending less time tracking translation progress, and debugging translation issues when all translation files are put in the same place. By decreasing the number of projects we need to maintain, we can add more content like the MFE translations.

  • A repository that only contains text/binary files, and uses branches to separate translations related to Open edX releases can make all interactions with translations very quick and simple due to the ability to clone and sparse-checkout the branch of a specific release and the directory (repository name) with translation files.


Move Translation Files to a New Repo#

Translation files (of types .mo, .po, and .json) currently exist amongst the code and documentation they translate. We will move these translation files from being amongst the code/documentation to their own repo. For example, a translation file for the openedx repository edx-platform located at edx-platform/conf/locale/en/LC_MESSAGES/django.po would be moved to the new repository with the name openedx-translations located at openedx-translation/edx-platform/conf/locale/en/LC_MESSAGES/django.po. For easier reintegration, translation files will be kept in the same directory structure as the code/documentation they translate.

Repositories that generate translation files will have their translation files generated and committed via a pull request to the openedx-translation repository via a GitHub workflow. Once the translation files from edx-platform and other repositories are moved to the openedx-translations repository, the Transifex GitHub App will link a Transifex project of a name such as “openedx-translations” to the openedx-translations repository. A Transifex GitHub Integration configuration file naming the files that are to be translated and the trigger that pulls translation files back into will be created in the openedx/translations repository. This link will allow for the Transifex GitHub App to automatically manage the push/pull of the translation files without the need for human intervention.

Add Transifex GitHub App to openedx Organization#

The Transifex GitHub App will need to be added to the openedx GitHub organization in order to grant the app permissions to push/pull the translation files. Currently, we manage the push/pull permissions for the edx-transifex-bot through a number of GitHub user groups. The Transifex GitHub App once installed in an organization, is granted permissions to push/pull on a repository basis, and by moving all the translation files to a single repository we eliminate separate translations user groups.

Connect the New Translation Repository to Transifex#

The Transifex web-app accepts a Transifex GitHub Integration configuration file for each Transifex project. By connecting the single repository containing all translation files, we only need to make a single Transifex GitHub Integration configuration file that allows the Transifex GitHub App to manage the translation files. Based on the Translation Working Group’s instruction on acceptable translation/review percentages, we can set parameters that automatically push and pull translation files.

Copy Transifex’s Translation Memory and Combine Translators#

As a last step we will reorganize the openedx Transifex organization by combining translators and reviewers across Transifex projects into the new project associated with the new repository. In addition, we can save all the progress the Open edX translators have accomplished by copying the Transifex’s Translation Memory, the auto-translation feature that allows for Projects with similar strings to be automatically translated, from the old projects to this new one. Once older projects are made redundant by the new project, they will be deprecated. By moving all the translation files to the same repository we can increase the reach of the Transifex’s Translation Memory feature to help translate similar strings across the entire code/documentation base.

Get Translations Back for Deployment/Development#

A new CLI tool called openedx-atlas will be created to enable the placement of the translation files kept in openedx-translations into locally cloned repositories for development and containers containing the code translation files are formed from. This tool will manage the placement of translation files through an editable atlas configuration file (atlas.yml) kept in the repositories that have translation files kept in openedx-translations. The atlas.yml file will support options that allow for the concatenation, reorganization, and reformatting of translation files as they are copied to their locations amongst the code. The atlas.yml file will also support selecting which languages to be included in an Open edX deployment. The tool will have to be used/ran as part of the setup of a repository, whether for development or deployment. The openedx-atlas tool can also be run without configuration files through CLI parameters that override atlas.yml. This tool is still in development, and while the language the tool is written in may change, the commands and purpose will not change.


Impact on Translators#

As we approach the end of the translation upgrade process, we will need to tactically move from multiple Transifex projects to a single project. This will require coordination with our translators to ensure that moving forward they are providing translations in the right place.

Impact on Site Operators#

Currently the translation files for any given service or library is stored at the same place as the code, which has generally simplified the deployment story in the past. With this change, the translations files will move to their own repository. As we deprecate the old translations files, the relevant deployment tooling will need to be updated to pull down the translations from the new repository as a part of the deployment process. This will impact both the old Ansible based tooling as well as any new Docker based tooling.

Impact on Developers#

While it won’t directly impact the day-to-day workflow of developers (unless you are developing or testing with translation files), due to the same reasons that we impact site operators (new translations location), we will have to update development tools as well. In addition, we will create new instructions for developers on how to enable translations for a new service/repo when it comes online. Information about the use of the openedx-atlas CLI tool will also be added to READMEs and Makefiles as necessary.


Dumps of the translation/localization files from Transifex for the Open edX Releases already exist in the repository openedx-i18n. A new repository named openedx-translations will have a similar role, but it will contain the translation files for all languages and for all repositories within the GitHub openedx organization. This OEP will deprecate openedx-i18n since it will contain strings for all languages, repositories, and will follow the regular minor/major release schedule.

The Transifex GitHub App will be installed in the openedx organization. Similar to how the Build-Test-Release Working Group creates a new branch for each new named release of edx-platform, translation releases will also be kept in branches corresponding to edx-platform releases.

Rejected Alternatives#

Rewriting the Current Tooling for the New API#

The source code for the edx-transifex-bot can be found in ecommerce-scripts. We could rewrite the current tooling to try to solve the problems encountered in the last two Open edX releases and upgrade to the new API, but this approach is a patch-up job that will not address several other issues mentioned and would have to be undertaken by the community member with exclusive access to the legacy infrastructure currently running the edx-transifex-bot.

Making a Transifex Project for Each Repository#

As translation support is provided for more repos, the effort to maintain the translations infrastructure increases. A Transifex Project contains the content to be translated and needs to be created before any content can be added for translation. Transifex Projects can only support one GitHub repository each and need to be maintained separately. Maintaining a Transifex Project involves adjusting configuration files, adding new languages, assigning translators to projects, as well as any other miscellaneous irregular tasks that would be time-consuming at a larger scale. If we add a Transifex Project, each Transifex Project will need to be maintained separately, making debugging issues or tracking the progress of each Transifex Project time-consuming. In addition, the Transifex editor does not support editing strings across multiple projects making it extremely time consuming for users to translate strings from many projects.