How to Use Python with Multiple Languages (Locale Guide)


By squashlabs, Last Updated: November 23, 2023

How to Use Python with Multiple Languages (Locale Guide)

Basics of Using Locale in Python

Related Article: How to Execute a Program or System Command in Python

Understanding Locale in Python

Locale is an essential aspect of software development that deals with language, cultural conventions, and formatting preferences. In Python, the locale module provides functionalities to handle various locale-related tasks. It allows developers to format numbers, dates, times, currencies, and sort data based on different cultural conventions.

import locale

# Set the locale to the user's default
locale.setlocale(locale.LC_ALL, '')

# Get the current locale
current_locale = locale.getlocale()

Formatting Numbers with Locale

The locale module enables you to format numbers according to specific cultural conventions. By using the format() function along with the appropriate locale settings, you can achieve localized number formatting.

import locale

# Set the locale to French (France)
locale.setlocale(locale.LC_ALL, 'fr_FR')

# Format a number using French number formatting rules
formatted_number = locale.format_string("%.2f", 12345.6789)

Formatting Dates and Times with Locale

In addition to numbers, you can also format dates and times based on different local conventions. The strftime() function allows you to customize date and time representations using format codes.

import datetime
import locale

# Set the locale to German (Germany)
locale.setlocale(locale.LC_ALL, 'de_DE')

# Format the current date and time using German conventions
formatted_datetime ="%A, %d %B %Y - %H:%M")

Related Article: How to Suppress Python Warnings

All Features of Python Locale

Numeric Formatting with Locale

The locale module provides various features for numeric formatting. You can format numbers as currency, percentages, or scientific notation.

import locale

# Set the locale to the user's default
locale.setlocale(locale.LC_ALL, '')

# Format a number as currency
formatted_currency = locale.currency(12345.67)

# Format a number as percentage
formatted_percentage = locale.format_string("%.2f%%", 0.75)

# Format a number in scientific notation
formatted_scientific = locale.format_string("%.2e", 12345.67)

Date and Time Formatting with Locale

In addition to basic date and time formatting, the locale module allows you to format timestamps, weekdays, and months according to specific cultural conventions.

import datetime
import locale

# Set the locale to Spanish (Spain)
locale.setlocale(locale.LC_ALL, 'es_ES')

# Format a timestamp using Spanish conventions
formatted_timestamp ="%c")

# Get the full weekday name in Spanish for Monday (1)
weekday_name =, 1, 31).strftime("%A")

# Get the abbreviated month name in Spanish for February (2)
month_name =, 2, 1).strftime("%b")

Related Article: How to Measure Elapsed Time in Python

Use Cases for Python Locale

Multi-Language Support in Web Applications

Python’s locale module is often used in web applications that require multi-language support. By utilizing different locales based on user preferences or browser settings, developers can dynamically display content in various languages.

Internationalization of Financial Applications

Locale plays a crucial role in financial applications that deal with currency conversions, exchange rates, and formatting. Python’s locale module allows developers to handle these aspects efficiently, ensuring accurate and localized financial information.

Related Article: How to Execute a Curl Command Using Python

Best Practices for Utilizing Python Locale

Use Unicode Strings

When working with locales, it is essential to use Unicode strings to avoid encoding issues. By using Unicode strings throughout your codebase, you can ensure seamless compatibility with different languages and character sets.

Avoid Hard-Coding Locale Settings

To make your code more flexible and adaptable, avoid hard-coding specific locale settings. Instead, consider retrieving the user’s preferred locale from their profile or using browser headers to determine the appropriate settings dynamically.

Related Article: How to Parse a YAML File in Python

Performance Considerations for Python Locale

Caching Locale Settings

In scenarios where locale settings do not change frequently, caching them can significantly improve performance. By storing frequently used locale settings in memory or database systems, you can minimize the overhead of retrieving and setting them repeatedly.

Avoid Overusing Dynamic Formatting

Dynamic formatting functions provided by the locale module can be resource-intensive. Avoid excessive use of dynamic formatting in performance-critical sections of your code to prevent unnecessary slowdowns.

Related Article: How to Automatically Create a Requirements.txt in Python

Code Snippet Ideas: Formatting Dates and Times

import datetime
import locale

# Set the locale to French (France)
locale.setlocale(locale.LC_ALL, 'fr_FR')

# Format a date using French conventions
formatted_date =, 12, 31).strftime("%A %d %B %Y")

# Format a time using French conventions
formatted_time = datetime.time(14, 30).strftime("%H:%M")

Code Snippet Ideas: Number Formatting and Localization

import locale

# Set the locale to German (Germany)
locale.setlocale(locale.LC_ALL, 'de_DE')

# Format a large number with localized thousand separators
formatted_number = locale.format_string("%d", 1234567890, grouping=True)

# Parse a localized number string into an actual number
localized_number_string = "1.234.567,89"
parsed_number = locale.atof(localized_number_string)

Code Snippet Ideas: Currency Formatting and Exchange Rates

import locale

# Set the locale to British English (United Kingdom)
locale.setlocale(locale.LC_ALL, 'en_GB')

# Format a currency value with the appropriate symbol
formatted_currency = locale.currency(1234.56, grouping=True)

# Convert an amount from one currency to another based on exchange rates
amount_in_euros = 1000.00
exchange_rate_usd_to_eur = 1.18
amount_in_usd = amount_in_euros * exchange_rate_usd_to_eur
formatted_amount_in_usd = locale.currency(amount_in_usd, grouping=True)

Related Article: How to Pretty Print a JSON File in Python (Human Readable)

Code Snippet Ideas: Sorting and Collation with Locale

import locale

# Set the locale to Spanish (Spain)
locale.setlocale(locale.LC_ALL, 'es_ES')

fruits = ['manzana', 'naranja', 'plátano', 'limón']
sorted_fruits = sorted(fruits, key=locale.strxfrm)

Advanced Technique: Customizing Locale Settings in Python

Creating a Custom Locale Object

In Python, you can create custom locale objects with specific settings. This allows you to define and use unique locale configurations tailored to your application’s requirements.

import locale

# Create a custom locale object with specific number formatting
custom_locale = locale.localeconv()
custom_locale['thousands_sep'] = ' '
custom_locale['decimal_point'] = ','

# Set the custom locale as the current locale
locale.setlocale(locale.LC_ALL, custom_locale)

# Format a number using the custom locale settings
formatted_number = locale.format_string("%d", 1234567890)

Related Article: How to Manage Memory with Python

Advanced Technique: Handling Multiple Locales in a Single Application

Using Context Managers for Locale Switching

In scenarios where an application needs to support multiple locales simultaneously, context managers can be used to temporarily switch between different locales for specific sections of code.

import contextlib
import locale

def temporary_locale(new_locale):
    original_locale = locale.setlocale(locale.LC_ALL)
        yield locale.setlocale(locale.LC_ALL, new_locale)
        locale.setlocale(locale.LC_ALL, original_locale)

# Example usage:
with temporary_locale('fr_FR'):
    formatted_price = locale.currency(1234.56)

with temporary_locale('de_DE'):
    formatted_price = locale.currency(1234.56)

Advanced Technique: Working with Time Zones in Python Locale

Related Article: How to Unzip Files in Python

Converting Time Zones

Python provides modules like pytz for working with time zones. By combining the capabilities of the locale module with time zone conversion libraries, you can handle localization and time zone-related tasks effectively.

import datetime
import pytz

# Set the timezone to UTC
timezone_utc = pytz.timezone('UTC')

# Set the locale to French (France)
locale.setlocale(locale.LC_ALL, 'fr_FR')

# Get the current date and time in UTC
utc_now =

# Format the UTC date and time using French conventions
formatted_datetime = utc_now.strftime("%A %d %B %Y - %H:%M")

More Articles from the Python Tutorial: From Basics to Advanced Concepts series:

How to Use Regex to Match Any Character in Python

Python's regex is a powerful tool for matching any character in a string. This step-by-step guide will show you how to use the Dot Metacharacter to match any character,... read more

How to Download a File Over HTTP in Python

Guide on using Python to download a file from a URL via HTTP. Learn how to download files using the requests library and the urllib module. Best practices and... read more

How to Use Python dotenv

Using Python dotenv to manage environment variables in Python applications is a simple and effective way to ensure the security and flexibility of your projects. This... read more

How to Get Logical Xor of Two Variables in Python

A guide to getting the logical xor of two variables in Python. Learn how to use the "^" operator and the "!=" operator, along with best practices and alternative... read more

How to Write JSON Data to a File in Python

Writing JSON data to a file in Python can be done using different methods. This article provides a step-by-step guide on how to accomplish this task. It covers two main... read more

Tutorial: Subprocess Popen in Python

This article provides a simple guide on how to use the subprocess.Popen function in Python. It covers topics such as importing the subprocess module, creating a... read more