Localisation in Java

We’ve recently had a problem where we wanted to produce a website in multiple languages including Russian, Czech, Romanian, and other eastern European languages. No problems, we thought, we can just use Java properties files and the fmt:message JSTL tags.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple because properties files cannot be UTF-8, so getting the source languages into properties files proved to be nigh on impossible. There is a program native2ascii provided in the Java JDK, but this only copes with files in the current native locale, it can’t cope with UTF-8 files either.

So, in the end we wrote a little utility to do it for us. It’s actually very straight forward, just a single
function does the trick:

    String encodedString(String line) {
        StringBuffer out = new StringBuffer();
        line = toUTF8(line);
        char[] chars = line.toCharArray();
        for (int i = 0; i < chars.length; i++) {
            char aChar = chars[i];
            if (aChar > 127) {
                out.append(String.format("\u%04x", new Object[]{new Long((long) aChar)}));
            } else {
        return out.toString();

All we have to do is go through each character and if it is larger than 127, then we just write it out
in the uxxx format.

You can take this code and call it from a loop that reads in a text file and then outputs it again (though you might have to tell Java what the encoding of the file is).

We decided to put it in a web page. Here we found another wrinkle, the string that you get when you call request.getParameter(...) is encoded as ISO-8859-1. So you have to take the request parameter and convert it to UTF-8 as follows:

String source = new String(request.getParameter("source").getBytes("ISO-8859-1"), "UTF-8");

However, to save you the hassle, we’ve decided to put our web-based converter up on our website as a free service. So if you need to convert some strings, go to our converter!.

One thought on “Localisation in Java”

  1. native2ascii *does* understand UTF-8 and other encodings, you just have to pass the source encoding as a command line argument. Otherwise the default will be used.

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