Run a Qt app in a different language?

I’m working on a Qt application that used to be a KDE application. In the old days, I just had to use some syntax like:

KDELANG=de ./my_app

That ran my_app in German, and only my_app. It might not have been KDELANG, but it was some environment variable like that.

I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to coax this answer out of Google, and I give up. There must be some way to run a Qt (4.5 if that matters) application in some other language without switching over my entire locale to get there.

I tried it with the KDE game Kolf and

(export LANG=de_DE.UTF-8; kolf)
(export LANG=en_US.UTF-8; kolf)

did the trick for me to switch it into German or English.

I verified it with the QT application qtparted

(export LANG=de_DE.UTF-8; qtparted)

also comes up in German on my English desktop. Obviously I had to install the German language files to get the translated app working.

Just like any other Linux application, Qt applications follow a rather convoluted way how the application message locale is selected: environment variable LANGUAGE is given preference over LC_ALL, LC_ALL over LC_MESSAGES, LC_MESSAGES over LANG (details).

So any one of the following commands works to change the application’s locale for messages, as returned by QLocale::system().name():

LANGUAGE=de ./my_app
LANGUAGE=   LC_ALL=de ./my_app
LANGUAGE=   LC_ALL=   LC_MESSAGES=   LANG=de   ./my_app


  • I tested this with Qt 5.12 under Lubuntu 19.10 (means, using the LXQt desktop).

  • It is entirely up to the Qt application how to adapt to the application locale as returned by QLocale::system(). It may not evaluate QLocale::system() at all, or fail to find its translation files etc..

  • You can also give the above commands in the form env LANGUAGE=de ./application. The env command has some more options to control which environment its child process will see.

  • The locale values specified in the environment variables (here de) do not have to correspond to any locale that is installed system-wide and listed in locale -a.

  • When specifying only a language (like de), Qt will automatically expand it with a default country and return that in QLocale::system().name(), for example de_DE.

  • When specifying a wrong value (such as xy), Qt will return the default C locale from QLocale::system().name().

OK, it’s a long story, but it turns out the translations are, in fact, busted, and that’s the whole underlying problem here. The obvious thing I tried first works fine. Since this isn’t KDE, I just used plain:

LANG=de ./my_app

Now that I’ve fixed the bug in the debugging code (oh, the irony) I can plainly see that the translation files (which do exist) aren’t getting loaded. Ah. Alrighty then. Carry on. Nothing to see here.

If you are using plasma desktop, install language package from under System Setting -> locale
and run app as follow : KDE_LANG=fr ./appName
fr represents french, you can choose language of your interest.

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