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TIL: ServerSide Translations w/ NextJS

Matt Thompson
Matt Thompson
January 5, 2023

You know the idea: if you have to spend a lot of figuring something out and/or it was hard to find on the interweb… you should probably write about it. If for no other reason than being kind to your future self. So, hello future me 👋🏼!

Recently I spent way too long trying to get translations to work ServerSide inside a NextJS API route. I did not expect it to become the issue it did. At first, I blamed the weak coffee, but then I continued to dive in. To my surprise there wasn’t a well-documented answer. I validated some claims in Discord, got a handful of responses that led me down a decent path, and now here I am to share my findings.

The Issue

So, what was I trying to do…

I’ve been working a ton with Twilio lately. I have started pulling together some concrete examples in an app for future us/me. Specifically, in this scenario, I was working with SMS and simply wanted to supply a translated body for the message going out. Easy enough, right? Grab the user's locale, translate the “Welcome, Johnny!” message, and fire away. In previous stacks translations become a class service util and, well, you just use them - anywhere and everywhere - without really thinking too much about it.

Off I go to do just that. I set up my public/locale folder. Created an sms namespace with my test message, added to my API call, and… 💥

Huh?!

Did I miss something in the config?

I decided to validate on screen via the client.

Yup, that worked?! What the…

After searching around I came to find out that the majority of React/NextJS pieces are client driven utils. Meaning all that config and setup is meant for the React useHook. There wasn’t a non-client facing utility to be found… or at least the weak coffee was not helping me find it. Then I went hitting all the channels to see what I could be overlooking.

The Solution

Create a global i18n instance that can be passed around for both the Server and the client and leverage i18next-fs-backend for our API routes. Below you’ll see we have three methods the main createI18nClient and two utils I created that wrap the client for quick use translator and translate. The translator returns the client mapped to the namespace, locale, and translate going ahead and doing the good thing by returning our translated body text.

// https://discord.com/channels/752553802359505017/1046900384481951754/1047052679492419614 import path from 'path'; import { readdirSync, lstatSync } from 'fs'; import i18n, { InitOptions } from 'i18next'; import i18nextFSBackend from 'i18next-fs-backend'; // import { i18n as i18nConfig } from 'next-i18next.config'; import { I18n, InitPromise, CreateClientReturn } from 'next-i18next'; let globalInstance: I18n; const localesFolder = path.join(process.cwd(), '/public/locales'); type TranslatorProps = { template: string; ns: string[]; args: object; lng?: string; }; type UseTranslatorProps = { ns: string[]; lng?: string; }; type CreateInstanceProps = { locale?: string; namespaces: string[] | readonly string[]; }; const createI18nClient = ({ namespaces }: CreateInstanceProps): CreateClientReturn => { let instance: I18n; const config: InitOptions = { initImmediate: false, fallbackLng: ['en'], // NOTE: pass in locale to make this dynamic -- originally imported from 'next-i18next.config' compile issue in CI // fallbackLng: i18nConfig.defaultLocale, ns: namespaces, // lng: i18nConfig.locales.includes(locale) ? locale : i18nConfig.defaultLocale, lng: 'en', // preload for server side -- preload ['en'] preload: readdirSync(localesFolder).filter((fileName) => { const joinedPath = path.join(localesFolder, fileName); return lstatSync(joinedPath).isDirectory(); }), backend: { loadPath: path.join(localesFolder, '{{lng}}/{{ns}}.json'), }, load: 'all', // return empty string instead of key if something went wrong saveMissing: true, saveMissingTo: 'all', missingKeyNoValueFallbackToKey: true, parseMissingKeyHandler: (key) => { console.log('Missing Key:', key); return ''; }, // useSuspense to avoid first render issues react: { useSuspense: true }, // debugging info debug: false, }; if (!globalInstance) { globalInstance = i18n.createInstance(config); instance = globalInstance; } else { instance = globalInstance.cloneInstance(config); } let initPromise: InitPromise; if (!instance.isInitialized) { instance.use(i18nextFSBackend); initPromise = instance.init(config); } else { initPromise = Promise.resolve(i18n.t); } return { i18n: instance, initPromise }; }; export default createI18nClient; // returns 't' as you would expect export const translator = ({ ns, lng = 'en' }: UseTranslatorProps) => { const { i18n } = createI18nClient({ namespaces: ns, locale: lng }); return i18n.t; }; // Just do the good thing... I don't care about my options here. export const translate = ({ template, ns, args, lng = 'en' }: TranslatorProps) => { const { i18n } = createI18nClient({ namespaces: ns, locale: lng }); const { t } = i18n; return t(template, { ...args, ns }); };

In Practice

Because this import is now global util — they both work consistently the same, as expected! 🎉

Client Side

import { translator } from '../utils/i18n-translator'; ... const t = translator({ ns: ['common'] }); const welcomeMessage = t('welcome', { firstName });

Server Side

import { translator } from '../utils/i18n-translator'; ... const t = translator({ ns: ['common'] }); const welcomeMessage = t('welcome', { firstName });

Conclusion

While there may be room for improvement here, I’m happy where this landed. I was able to start translating messages from my API as expected, and I now have a better understanding of NextJS and its translation setup.

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