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Blog > Automated Spanish Translations

Automated Spanish Translations

By larzuk91 | Tech | Aug 24th 2022 |

We're happy to announce that from now on we'll deliver Spanish translations to our new tutorials (scripts and subtitles)... pretty much instantly. How did we make this possible? You might think that we hired a professional who takes care of translating the content. As lovely as humans are, we did not do this! As programmers, we love to automate processes, so, that's exactly what we did! We leverage DeepL: a powerful translation service based on an AI algorithm. And... it's surprisingly good! But, this time it wasn't as easy as making an API call. Nope, we had to heavily customize our content so that technical words and code blocks are not translated.


DeepL allows you to wrap your content with XML tags to give it a special meaning, for example, you can wrap a word with an "ignore" tag in case you don't want it to be translated, or, you can wrap a few text lines with a "non-splitting" tag to handle them as part of the same sentence (useful for not losing context on the subtitles).

To understand the challenge, let's look at an example from our Doctrine tutorial:

For example, one command is called `doctrine:database:create`. Cool, let's try it:


php bin/console doctrine:database:create


We want DeepL to translate the first two sentences, but not the technical word doctrine:database:create. We also want it to skip the terminal block entirely... and to just return it "verbatim" in the correct position. See, tricky!

This is how it would look like after the process:

For example, one command is called <deepl-ignore>doctrine:database:create</deepl-ignore>. Cool, let's try it:

<deepl-code-fence lang="terminal">
php bin/console doctrine:database:create

For this purpose, we had to implement a custom Markdown parser that converts MD tags into specific XML tags, and it even adds attributes. In this case, it added the lang="terminal" attribute that tells the language of the code block tag. And, after sending a script file to DeepL, we run a sort of inverse process for restoring the XML tags into Markdown, besides fixing a few flaws that comes from DeepL.

If you're curious, DeepL has an API simulator where you can see all of its features. We got to use them all!

By the way, this is how the API call looks like:

public function translate(string $text, string $glossaryId = null): string
    $ignoredTags = ['deepl-ignore', 'deepl-code-fence'];
    $nonSplittingTags = ['deepl-strike', 'deepl-subtitles-cue'];
    $splittingTags = ['deepl-split', 'deepl-list'];
    $response = $this->deepL->translate(
        Locale::LOCALE_DEFAULT, // source language
        Locale::LOCALE_SPANISH, // target language
        'xml', // tag handling
        'less', // formality
        'nonewlines', // split sentences
        1, // preserver formatting

    return $response[0]['text'];

The deepL object used in the previous example is just an instance of this handy third party library babymarkt/deepl-php-lib that we use to communicate with the DeepL API.

DeepL Glossaries

The API also comes with a glossary where you can define a set of words that you want to translate in a particular way. This is very useful, for example, to avoid translating library names.

Fun fact: Twig is translated into Ramita!

Script-clicking Feature

You may have noticed that if you click on the script text, the video will start playing at that specific moment. We manage to do that by synchronizing the script and video subtitle word-by-word, giving us the ability to know when each word in the script occurs with the subtitles, so it's very important to keep both files as similar as possible. To make this feature work on translated courses we need to translate the subtitles files as well. This is how a subtitle file looks:


00:00:01.056 --> 00:00:04.996 align:middle
Rendering a template is pretty common, so
there's a shortcut when you're in a controller.

00:00:05.966 --> 00:00:09.976 align:middle
Replace all of this code with a
simple return $this->render:

But this turned out to be a problem because we generate the Spanish translations from the output of an AI algorithm, which sometimes translates the script and subtitles content slightly differently. These slight differences break the script script-clicking feature! Fortunately, this is rare. And if the script-clicking feature fails on the translated content, we send an alert to one of the trusty folks at SymfonyCasts to fix it.

The StofDoctrineExtensionsBundle comes in to play

It's one thing to accurately translate a tutorial, but delivering a multi-language site is quite... a different thing to do. As you may have noticed, we partially translated the site into Spanish: you will see Spanish content only on tutorials that are translated. For this purpose we installed and configured the StofDoctrineExtensionsBundle in the application. You can learn more about the translatable behavior here.

Want to Help?

Since this is a process run by machines, you may notice some "misprints" or just... silly translations. Machines haven't quite taken over the world yet. But that's ok because we've also delivered a way where you can easily help improve or fix an error by sending a pull request to public GitHub repositories. Simply click the "Edit on GitHub" button which is at the right top corner of the script area, edit the script (or caption) file and commit the changes.

Oh, and right now, we're focused only on translating content into Spanish. We may expand to other languages in the future, but not immediately.

Have fun!

By the way, we translated this blog post using DeepL. Check it out here.