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Multi-language features multi-lang
This is about using messages and menus in various languages. For editing multibyte text see multibyte.
The basics are explained in the user manual: usr_45.txt.
Vim picks up the locale from the environment. In most cases this means Vim will use the language that you prefer, unless it's not available.
To see a list of supported locale names on your system, look in one of these directories (for Unix): Unfortunately, upper/lowercase differences matter. Also watch out for the use of "-" and "_".
:lan :lang :language E197 :lan[guage] :lan[guage] mes[sages] :lan[guage] cty[pe] :lan[guage] tim[e] :lan[guage] col[late] Print the current language (aka locale). With the "messages" argument the language used for messages is printed. Technical: LC_MESSAGES. With the "ctype" argument the language used for character encoding is printed. Technical: LC_CTYPE. With the "time" argument the language used for strftime() is printed. Technical: LC_TIME. With the "collate" argument the language used for collation order is printed. Technical: LC_COLLATE. Without argument all parts of the locale are printed (this is system dependent). The current language can also be obtained with the v:lang, v:ctype, v:collate and v:lc_time variables.
:lan[guage] {name} :lan[guage] mes[sages] {name} :lan[guage] cty[pe] {name} :lan[guage] tim[e] {name} :lan[guage] col[late] {name} Set the current language (aka locale) to {name}. The locale {name} must be a valid locale on your system. Some systems accept aliases like "en" or "en_US", but some only accept the full specification like "en_US.ISO_8859-1". On Unix systems you can use this command to see what locales are supported:
:!locale -a
With the "messages" argument the language used for messages is set. This can be different when you want, for example, English messages while editing Japanese text. This sets $LC_MESSAGES. With the "ctype" argument the language used for character encoding is set. This affects the libraries that Vim was linked with. It's unusual to set this to a different value from 'encoding' or "C". This sets $LC_CTYPE. With the "time" argument the language used for time and date messages is set. This affects strftime(). This sets $LC_TIME. With the "collate" argument the language used for the collation order is set. This affects sorting of characters. This sets $LC_COLLATE. Without an argument all are set, and additionally $LANG is set. The LC_NUMERIC value will always be set to "C" so that floating point numbers use '.' as the decimal point. This will make a difference for items that depend on the language (some messages, time and date format). Not fully supported on all systems. If this fails there will be an error message. If it succeeds there is no message. Example:
Current language: C
:language de_DE.ISO_8859-1
:language mes
Current messages language: de_DE.ISO_8859-1
:lang mes en
Message files ( have to be placed in "$VIMRUNTIME/lang/xx/LC_MESSAGES", where "xx" is the abbreviation of the language (mostly two letters). If you write your own translations you need to generate the .po file and convert it to a .mo file.
To overrule the automatic choice of the language, set the $LANG variable to the language of your choice. use "en" to disable translations.
:let $LANG = 'ja'
(text for Windows by Muraoka Taro)
See 45.2 for the basics, esp. using 'langmenu'.
Note that if changes have been made to the menus after the translation was done, some of the menus may be shown in English. Please try contacting the maintainer of the translation and ask him to update it. You can find the name and e-mail address of the translator in "$VIMRUNTIME/lang/menu_<lang>.vim".
To set the font to use for the menus, use the :highlight command. Example:
:highlight Menu font=k12,r12


Unfortunately, the locale names are different on various systems, even though they are for the same language and encoding. If you do not get the menu translations you expected, check the output of this command:
echo v:lang
Now check the "$VIMRUNTIME/lang" directory for menu translation files that use a similar language. A difference in a "-" being a "_" already causes a file not to be found! Another common difference to watch out for is "iso8859-1" versus "iso_8859-1". Fortunately Vim makes all names lowercase, thus you don't have to worry about case differences. Spaces are changed to underscores, to avoid having to escape them.
If you find a menu translation file for your language with a different name, create a file in your own runtime directory to load that one. The name of that file could be:
Check the 'runtimepath' option for directories which are searched. In that file put a command to load the menu file with the other name:
runtime lang/menu_<other_lang>.vim


If you want to do your own translations, you can use the :menutrans command, explained below. It is recommended to put the translations for one language in a Vim script. For a language that has no translation yet, please consider becoming the maintainer and make your translations available to all Vim users. Send an e-mail to the Vim maintainer <[email protected]>.
:menut :menutrans :menutranslate :menut[ranslate] clear Clear all menu translations.
:menut[ranslate] {english} {mylang} Translate menu name {english} to {mylang}. All special characters like "&" and "<Tab>" need to be included. Spaces and dots need to be escaped with a backslash, just like in other :menu commands. Case in {english} is ignored.
See the $VIMRUNTIME/lang directory for examples.
To try out your translations you first have to remove all menus. This is how you can do it without restarting Vim:
:source $VIMRUNTIME/delmenu.vim
:source <your-new-menu-file>
:source $VIMRUNTIME/menu.vim
Each part of a menu path is translated separately. The result is that when "Help" is translated to "Hilfe" and "Overview" to "Überblick" then "Help.Overview" will be translated to "Hilfe.Überblick".
In Vim scripts you can use the v:lang variable to get the current language (locale). The default value is "C" or comes from the $LANG environment variable.
The following example shows how this variable is used in a simple way, to make a message adapt to language preferences of the user,
:if v:lang =~ "de_DE"
:  echo "Guten Morgen"
:  echo "Good morning"
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