Do your regional websites talk funny?

By Chen Hui Jing / @hj_chen

i18n at Shopify 🧐


“What would happen if we translated this blog in a number of main languages like German, French, Spanish, and then Italian, Brazilian-Portuguese and then Japanese?”

–Someone from Growth…

Domain? Locale? Language?

Language: A system of communication used by a particular country or community

Script: A visual representation of verbal speech

Domain: An easy-to-remember address used to access websites

Locale: A set of language- or country-based preferences for a user interface has 6 CJK domains, which comprise of 3 languages and 4 writing scripts

  • [2017-Apr] Japan (/jp, formerly known as
  • [2020-Mar] Taiwan (/tw, formerly known as
  • [2020-May] Korea (/kr, formerly known as
  • [2020-Sep] Chinese Intl (/zh, formerly known as
  • [2020-Sep] Hong Kong (/hk, formerly known as
  • [2021-Jan] China (still and will probably always be

The “Billion” problem

The Chinese numeral system (also used by Japanese and Korean) has specific words for large numbers as per the traditional Chinese grouping of 10,000.

Simp. Chinese Trad. Chinese Japanese Korean
10 十 (shí) 十 (juu) 십 (ship)
100 百 (bǎi) 百 (hyaku) 백 (baek)
1000 千 (qiān) 千 (sen) 천 (cheon)
10,000 万 (wàn) 万 (man) 만 (man)
100,000,000 亿 (yì) 億 (ichioku) 억 (eok)
1,000,000,000,000* 兆 (zhào) 兆 (icchou) 조 (jo)

What translators see

Not this:

But this:

Over %{total_stores} businesses in %{total_countries} countries around the world have made over $%{total_gmv_billions} billion USD in sales using Shopify

The end result

The problem

We were literally saying our GMV is 200 ten million dollars, which is kind of a glaring grammatical error.

But why didn't Japan have this problem? 🤯

The Japanese team had worked around this issue previously by editing the locale files that reference our total GMV numbers like so:


Our Japan team spotted this error and made the adjustment of replacing 十 with a 0.

See solution, steal it

This will be how it looks for each respective language:

%{total_gmv_billions}0억 달러(USD)
%{total_gmv_billions}0 亿美元
%{total_gmv_billions}0 億美元

Lessons and best practices

  • Interpolate with caution
  • Do Not Manually Construct Sentences or Manipulate Text in Code
  • Let i18n Libraries Handle the Hard Stuff

Lessons From Linguistics: i18n Best Practices for Front-End Developers by Lucas Huang

Shopify Sans

Shopify Sans was designed by Commercial Type and based on their typeface, Graphik.
(We actually do not own it outright because of that)

The Vietnamese alphabets are listed in several non-contiguous Unicode ranges:

  • Basic Latin {U+0000..U+007F}
  • Latin-1 Supplement {U+0080..U+00FF}
  • Latin Extended-A, -B {U+0100..U+024F}
  • Latin Extended Additional {U+1E00..U+1EFF}
  • Combining Diacritical Marks {U+0300.. U+036F}
  • The Vietnamese đồng currency symbol is ₫ (U+20AB)

Unicode & Vietnamese Legacy Character Encodings

Missing Vietnamese glyphs (now fixed)

The :lang() pseudo-class

            :lang(vi) {
  font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, sans-serif;

Korean typographic issues (now fixed)

Korean typographic fixes

:lang(ko) {
  font-family: ShopifySans, -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, sans-serif;

  [class*='heading--'] {
    word-break: keep-all;




ありがとう ございます

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