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Wiki > Main > DocsIndex > LangFiles

Lang Files Explained

Creating new languages

Copy the english.lang to [your language].lang and change all strings within the <dest> and <voice> tags.

Prerequisites to be able to translate

First of all, you need to speak the language you're translating to fluently. This cannot be stressed enough. You should either be a native speaker, or having spoken the language daily for years. High-school classes are not enough. Machine translations are completely unacceptable.

To avoid manual (and error-prone) diffing, copy and pasting and so on, use the script called updatelang.

Note: If you don't have or want a build environment, it should be possible to download the script to your pc and do it all without the build environment. Get a perl interpreter if you don't already have one, for example ActivePerl.

So be sure you can start the updatelang script either way, or opt for the hard way by doing it all yourself.

Preparation every time you update

The translation is always done "from" English (UK), so is the master file. Monitor this file if you want to be sure to keep "your" language up to date.

The only one step of preparation you have to do every time you want to update "your" language is to run that script:

Bring yourself to the /apps/lang/ directory (or to the directory where english.lang and yourlang.lang reside if you work without build environment). Don't forget to update the file). Run updatelang like the following line:

 ../../tools/updatelang apps/lang/english.lang yourlang.lang yournewlang.lang

This assumes you are working "from" English, as usual, your outdated language file is called yourlang.lang and you want to get the merge to newyourlang.lang.

Now that updatelang has merged the new changes from English to newyourlang.lang, you can go ahead with the actual work of translation, by opening the file in your favorite text editor. The new file has added comments starting with ### marking where you (might) need to edit the file.

The lang file format

I'm afraid we have to look into the format of lang files now. Every string needed in RockBox has a voice clip, this is why we can call such a pair a "phrase". Every phrase has absolutely unique identifier (called id), it has a description that tells you the context so you can select the wording (called desc), it has the original English string (called source), it has a string specially for the voice clips (called voice) and it finally has the string in your language (called dest).

All source/dest/voice strings must be written within double quotes ("). There are a few keywords that can be used that don't use quotes, but they are special and are detected by the absence of quotes.

When updating a language, you are asked to solely change the dest and voice strings. Changing id, source or desc will either break-up everything or turn the subsequent update job into real pain.

Comments start with the hash-sign ('#', also called hash (UK) or pound (US) key in English; 'Raute', 'Viereckchen', 'Lattenkreuz' in German; or 'Kanalgitterchen' in Austrian. No joke, but funny smile )

Lang files must be saved with UTF-8 encoding.


As of April 4 2006, we've converted to a new language file format and system. We now allow different strings for different targets, and you can now make sure that the string is correctly saying things for each model. All phrases have a default string like: *: "default" that will be used if no other string matches for the particular model you build the language for. If you want a particular string for the iriver iriverh300 series you'd write it like: iriverh300: "iriverh300-specific string" (and of couse use the default string too on the line below).

The target names used for this are picked from the configure script and are set in the MODELNAME variable in the root Makefile. This is an incomplete list:
Target Target string
M3 iaudiom3
M5 iaudiom5
X5 iaudiox5
Cowon D2 cowond2
1G and 2G ipod1g2g
3G ipod3g
4G gray ipod4g
Color/Photo ipodcolor
Video (5G) ipodvideo
Mini 1G ipodmini1g
Mini 2G ipodmini2g
Nano 1G ipodnano1g
Nano 2G ipodnano2g
iriver H10 20GB iriverh10
iriver H10 5GB iriverh10_5gb
iriver H100/115 iriverh100
iriver H120/140 iriverh120
iriver H320/340 iriverh300
M-Robe 100 mrobe100
M-Robe 500 mrobe500
YH-820 samsungyh820
YH-920 samsungyh920
YH-925 samsungyh925
c200 sansac200
Clip sansaclip
e200 sansae200
e200 Rapsody sansae200r
e200v2 sansae200v2
Fuze sansafuze
Gigabeat F/X gigabeatfx
Gigabeat S gigabeats

The translation

Mainly said, any resource that needs attention has a '###'-comment. I will now list the 'scenarios' I know and how I think they have to be handled.


If a string is not needed anymore, it's not allowed to delete it in the master file. Therefore, they are marked by writing "DEPRECATED" to the description. The todo-comment that will appear in the file you're editing is "### The 'desc' field differs from the english!" followed by the OLD description line. This is by far the simplest work to do when updating language files.

A deprecated string is not needed anymore.

A deprecated string should be written as the following in the lang file. This example snippet deprecates the destination string for all targets:

  id: LANG_FOO
    *: ""
    *: deprecated
    *: ""

Added Strings

If a new string has been found in english.lang, updatelang will prepare a resource for you, so you only have to remove the comments and translate the string. Example:
### This phrase below was not present in the translated file
  desc: in sound_settings 
    *: "Stereo width"
    *: "Stereo width"
    *: "Stereo width"

String Removal

The lang format allows you to completely remove a string for a particular target's language file by using the none keyword:

     *: "fancy LCD bitmap rotation enabled"
     player: none

Note however that this completely removes the string from the output and thus it may very well break backwards compatibility when you do this. Carefully consider deprecating the string instead.

Translation style

The translation should feel as correct as possible to speakers/readers of your native language you're translating this to. This means that you should follow the rules of the language you're translating to, and not try to imitate the English version. For example with capitals, you should not capitalize anything other than what would be done if you were writing the text from scratch. Also try as much as possible to avoid using English words, as tempting as it may be, unless it's very commonly known and in daily use in your language (and not just among tech-interested people).

Your main work is done if you can't find any '###'-comment anymore :-)
Now, go ahead and see if you made a mistake before posting your work in the patch tracker.
If you are able to create a patch with your changes against current git we prefer that but the whole .lang file is just fine. Be sure to drop a line on the mailing list or IRC after that so your updated file will get committed as soon as possible. It would be a bummer if the changes never get merged, or someone else repeats your work some time later.

Safety checks

Note: strings are always "within double quotes", even the empty ones

Just for safety, I do a few checks. I use a file differ (BeyondCompare, will be available for linux too in a while) for this.

  1. check: comparing the newyourlang.lang to yourlang.lang. This allows you to see WHAT you changed, just in case you made a big mistake.
  2. check: comparing the newyourlang.lang to english.lang. These files should only differ in new-strings and comments.
  3. check: the updatelang+genlang flow complains when making a binary .lng file. This can easily be done by placing yourlang.lang inside the apps/lang directory inside your source tree and performing a 'make'.
  4. check: Upload the language file to and have it tell you what's wrong.
  5. check: the experiment on oneself: copy the yourlang.lang to your rockbox (/.rockbox/lang), switch the language, and try it out.

If you have a Rockbox development environment set up, this can be done from the command line with the following swithches:
==tools/updatelang apps/lang/english.lang yourlangfile.lang /tmp/tmplangfile.lang==

You can then diff yourlangfile.lang with tmplangfile.lang, warnings and errors will show up prefixed with ###. This is the same mechanism that the web site uses for its sanity checks.

Current status

Translations status overview on

I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
langstatusEXT langstatus manage 1.6 K 23 Aug 2006 - 03:09 JonasHaeggqvist Language status script, generates the table on this page
r59 - 23 Apr 2024 - 16:06:23 - SolomonPeachy

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