Western and eastern hemispheres of the Earth

When we’re writ­ing soft­ware for a glob­al audi­ence, it’s nice if we can pro­vide it accord­ing to their native lan­guages and con­ven­tions. Translating all of the text can be a huge under­tak­ing, but we can start small by mak­ing sure that when we show the day and date it appears as the user expects. For exam­ple, to me it’s Tuesday, April 20, 2021; to my friend Paul in the UK it’s Tuesday, 20 April 2021 (note the dif­fer­ence in order), and to my oth­er friend Gabór in Israel it’s יום שלישי, 20 באפריל 2021 (note the dif­fer­ent direc­tion of the text, dif­fer­ent lan­guage, and char­ac­ter set).

Thankfully, we have a num­ber of tools to assist us:

  • The DateTime::Locale library, which enables our Perl soft­ware to rep­re­sent dates and times glob­al­ly and con­tains a cat­a­log of locales. It works with the DateTime library for stor­ing our dates as objects that can be eas­i­ly manip­u­lat­ed and formatted.
  • The HTTP Accept-​Language head­er, which lets a web brows­er com­mu­ni­cate to the serv­er what nat­ur­al lan­guages and locale vari­ants the user understands.
  • The HTTP::AcceptLanguage mod­ule, which helps us parse the Accept-​Language head­er and select a com­pat­i­ble locale.

Our sam­ple code uses the Mojolicious frame­work and is very sim­ple; almost half of it is just HTML web page tem­plates. You could eas­i­ly adapt it to oth­er frame­works or tem­plat­ing systems.

#!/usr/bin/env perl

use Mojolicious::Lite -signatures;
use DateTime;
use DateTime::Locale;
use HTTP::AcceptLanguage;

my %locales
    = map { $_ => DateTime::Locale->load($_) } DateTime::Locale->codes;

get '/' =>
    sub ($c) { $c->render( template => 'index', date => DateTime->today ) };

helper localize_date => sub ( $c, $date = DateTime->today, $format = 'full' )
    my $locale = $locales{ HTTP::AcceptLanguage->new(
            $c->req->headers->accept_language )->match( keys %locales ) };

    my $method_name = "date_format_$format";
    return $date->clone->set_locale($locale)
        ->format_cldr( $locale->$method_name );

@@ index.html.ep
% layout 'default';
% title 'Today';
    <li><%= localize_date $date %></li>
    % for my $format ( qw(long medium short) ) {
    <li><%= localize_date $date, $format %></li>
    % }
@@ layouts/default.html.ep
<!DOCTYPE html>
    <head><title><%= title %></title></head>
    <body><%= content %></body>

Lines 1 through 5 tell our code to use the Perl inter­preter in our exe­cu­tion PATH and load our pre­req­ui­site mod­ules. Note we’re using the micro ver­sion of Mojolicious, Mojolicious::Lite; lat­er you can grow your appli­ca­tion into a well-​structured Mojolicious app. We’re also using Perl sub­rou­tine sig­na­tures, which requires Perl 5.20 or lat­er (released in 2014).

Lines 7 and 8 pre­load all of the avail­able DateTime::Locale objects so that we can serve requests faster with­out hav­ing to load a new locale every time. We cre­ate a hash where the keys are the locale iden­ti­fiers (for exam­ple, en-US for United States English), and the val­ues are the locale objects.

Line 10 begins our route han­dler for HTTP GET requests on the default / route in our web appli­ca­tion. When a brows­er hits the home page of our app, it will exe­cute the code in the anony­mous sub in line 11, which is passed the con­troller object as $c. It’s a very sim­ple han­dler that ren­ders a tem­plate called index (described below), pass­ing it a date object with today’s date.

Lines 13 through 23 are where the smarts of our appli­ca­tion lie. It’s a helper that we’ll call from our tem­plate to local­ize a date object, and it’s anoth­er anony­mous sub. This time it’s passed a Mojolicious con­troller as $c, a $date para­me­ter that defaults to today, and a $format para­me­ter that defaults to full’.

Lines 14 through 18 in the helper get our locale. Working from the inside out, we get the HTTP Accept-​Language head­er from the request on line 16, cre­ate a new HTTP::AcceptLanguage object in line 15 for pars­ing that head­er, and then match it against the keys in our glob­al %locales hash in line 17. That matched key then looks up the appro­pri­ate DateTime::Locale object from the hash.

DateTime only allows you to set a locale at object con­struc­tion time, so in line 19 we cre­ate a new object from the old one, set­ting its locale to our newly-​discovered $locale object. Finally, in lines 21 and 22 we deter­mine what method to call on that object to retrieve the CLDR (Common Locale Data Repository) for­mat­ting pat­tern for the request­ed for­mat and then return the for­mat­ted date.

Finally, line 25 starts the appli­ca­tion. To run it using the devel­op­ment serv­er includ­ed with Mojolicious, do this at the com­mand line:

$ morbo perl_date_locale.pl

There are oth­er options for deploy­ing your appli­ca­tion, includ­ing Mojolicious’ built-​in web serv­er, inside a con­tain­er, using oth­er web servers, etc.

The rest of the above script is in the __DATA__ por­tion and con­tains two pseudo-​files that Mojolicious knows how to read in the absence of actu­al tem­plates and lay­outs. First on line 28 is the actu­al index.html.ep HTML page, which uses Mojolicious’ Embedded Perl (ep) tem­plat­ing sys­tem to select a lay­out of shared HTML to use (the layouts/default.html.ep file start­ing on line 39).

Lines 32 through 37 ren­der an HTML unordered list that runs through the var­i­ous for­mat­ting options avail­able to our localize_date helper, first with the default full’ for­mat­ting, and then a loop through long’, medi­um’, and short’. Note that we call our helper as an expres­sion, with an equals (=) sign after the per­cent (%) sign.

If you want to test dif­fer­ent locales with­out chang­ing your brows­er or oper­at­ing sys­tem set­tings, you can invoke the script from the com­mand line along with the HTTP request and head­ers to pass along. Here’s an exam­ple using German:

$ perl perl_date_locale.pl get -H 'Accept-Language: de' /
[2021-04-17 16:39:57.81379] [5425] [debug] [LcCSBKMVd90t] GET "/"
[2021-04-17 16:39:57.81408] [5425] [debug] [LcCSBKMVd90t] Routing to a callback
[2021-04-17 16:39:57.81610] [5425] [debug] [LcCSBKMVd90t] Rendering template "index.html.ep" from DATA section
[2021-04-17 16:39:57.81714] [5425] [debug] [LcCSBKMVd90t] Rendering template "layouts/default.html.ep" from DATA section
[2021-04-17 16:39:57.81792] [5425] [debug] [LcCSBKMVd90t] 200 OK (0.004118s, 242.836/s)
<!DOCTYPE html>
    <li>Sonntag, 18. April 2021</li>
    <li>18. April 2021</li>

And here’s Japanese:

$ perl perl_date_locale.pl get -H 'Accept-Language: ja' /
[2021-04-17 16:40:56.10840] [5478] [debug] [Wmr6cN5KUJlP] GET "/"
[2021-04-17 16:40:56.10874] [5478] [debug] [Wmr6cN5KUJlP] Routing to a callback
[2021-04-17 16:40:56.11101] [5478] [debug] [Wmr6cN5KUJlP] Rendering template "index.html.ep" from DATA section
[2021-04-17 16:40:56.11255] [5478] [debug] [Wmr6cN5KUJlP] Rendering template "layouts/default.html.ep" from DATA section
[2021-04-17 16:40:56.11360] [5478] [debug] [Wmr6cN5KUJlP] 200 OK (0.005164s, 193.648/s)
<!DOCTYPE html>

A full list of sup­port­ed locales is pro­vid­ed in the DateTime::Locale::Catalog documentation.

I hope this arti­cle has helped demon­strate that it’s not too hard to make your Perl web appli­ca­tions respect glob­al audi­ences, if only with dates. For more on local­iza­tion and Perl, start with the Locale::Maketext framework.

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