Implementing in-app language change

Android resolves language- and culture-specific resources based on the system locale setting. This is a desired behavior that makes perfect sense. Despite it's officially not encouraged you may still need to write an app that allows the user to change its language without leaving it. In this article I will show you one of the possible ways to implement such feature.


The big picture

Before I start with the code, let me explain how this whole mechanism will work.

I'm going to translate all the strings visible on the current application screen during the lifecycle callbacks (e.g. Activity.onResume() and Fragment.onResume()). This approach is easy to implement and understand and it currently covers all my needs. I won't try to force the app to translate itself magically. This means some overhead in the code for re-initializing all the texts and views which need to be translated.

The following diagram illustrates the flow of getting a localized string by Activity:

Getting a string

The flow involves StringLocalization object which has a map containing all the available Resources and that uses AppSettings to get current language that was set by the user.

Storing user preferences

To keep the chosen language between app restarts, we will store the preference in SharedPreferences. But first, let's declare an enum class to represent our languages and an object with locale codes to avoid hardcoding values in various places.

object LocaleCodes {
    const val ENGLISH = "en"
    const val POLISH = "pl"
    const val GERMAN = "de"

enum class Language(val locale: Locale) {

    companion object {
        val DEFAULT = English

        fun fromLocale(locale: Locale): Language =
                values().firstOrNull { it.locale.language == locale.language } ?: DEFAULT

Additionally, the enum class has a static DEFAULT value and fromLocale function which we will use later on.

Now, let's implement a class for storing user preferences:

interface AppSettings {
    var currentLanguage: Language

class SharedPrefAppSettings(
    private val sharedPref: SharedPreferences,
    private val androidConfiguration: Configuration
) : AppSettings {

    private var currentLanguageCache: Language? = null

    override var currentLanguage: Language
        get() {
            val cachedValue = currentLanguageCache

            return if (cachedValue == null) {
                val storedValue = sharedPref.getString(APP_LANGUAGE_KEY, "")
                val storedLanguage = try {
                } catch (ex: Exception) {

                val language = storedLanguage ?: getDefaultLanguage()

                currentLanguage = language

            } else cachedValue
        set(value) {
            currentLanguageCache = value
            sharedPref.edit().putString(APP_LANGUAGE_KEY, value.toString()).apply()

    private fun getDefaultLanguage(): Language {
        val locale = if (Build.VERSION.SDK_INT >= Build.VERSION_CODES.N) {
        } else {

        return Language.fromLocale(locale)

    companion object {
        private const val APP_LANGUAGE_KEY = "app_language"

I don't like to say the code is self-explanatory so let me tell you what's going on. Storing the chosen language is quite simple: we cache its value in currentLanguageCache and store it in SharedPreferences at APP_LANGUAGE_KEY. Getting the language is a bit more complicated, especially when the app is launched for the first time:

  • we use the cached value if it's present

  • if we don't have it yet, we read from SharedPreferences

  • then we try to get our enum from that value

  • if we can't get it properly (because there was no value in SharedPrefereces or we read something that can't be represented by our enum), we get a default language using getDefaultLanguage()

    • we read the Locale the app was started with from Configuration (it comes from context.resources.configuration)
    • then we try to get our enum value from that Locale
    • in worst case scenario we end up with the Language.DEFAULT value
  • we cache the resulting language by calling the setter: currentLanguage = language

We will use Dagger to inject SharedPrefAppSettings implementation of the AppSettings interface thanks to this simple module:

class AppSettingsModule {
    fun provideAppSettings(context: Context, configuration: Configuration): AppSettings =
            SharedPrefAppSettings(PreferenceManager.getDefaultSharedPreferences(context), configuration)

Initializing locale-specific resources

In order to access resources defined for a specific locale, we need to do the following:

  • make a new copy of your current resources Configuration
  • set the desired locale with setLocale()
  • create a configuration context with context.createConfigurationContext()
  • get resources from the new context

so the code can look like this:

val conf = Configuration(context.resources.configuration)
val localizedContext = context.createConfigurationContext(conf)
val localizedResources = localizedContext.resources

Now we can generate a map of resources for each language. As usual, there are plenty of ways you can do it. In this example we use Dagger map multibindings.

First, let's define a LanguageKey annotation so that we can have a map with Language enum keys:

annotation class LanguageKey(val value: Language)

Next, we use it to generate multiple Resources:

class LocalizationModule {

    fun providesEnglishResources(context: Context): Resources =
        getLocalizedResources(context, Language.English.locale)

    fun providesPolishResources(context: Context): Resources =
        getLocalizedResources(context, Language.Polish.locale)

    fun providesGermanResources(context: Context): Resources =
        getLocalizedResources(context, Language.German.locale)

    private fun getLocalizedResources(context: Context, locale: Locale): Resources {
        val conf = Configuration(context.resources.configuration)
        val localizedContext = context.createConfigurationContext(conf)
        return localizedContext.resources

And voila, we can now inject Map<Language, Resources> with Dagger.

Providing string resources

Finally, it's time to add a helper class that will provide string resources from the generated map.

class StringsLocalization @Inject constructor(
        private val settings: AppSettings,
        private val resMap: Map<Language, @JvmSuppressWildcards Resources>
) {

    private val log = logger

    fun getString(@StringRes stringId: Int): String = resMap
            .getOrElse(settings.currentLanguage, this::getFallbackResources)

    private fun getFallbackResources(): Resources {
        val defaultLanguage =
                if (Language.DEFAULT in resMap) Language.DEFAULT
                else resMap.keys.firstOrNull()

        if (defaultLanguage != null) {
            log.error("Current language resources not found. Fallback to: {}", defaultLanguage)
            settings.currentLanguage = defaultLanguage

            return resMap[defaultLanguage]!!
        } else {
            throw ResourcesNotFoundException("String resources not found")

class ResourcesNotFoundException(message: String) : RuntimeException(message)

Both AppSettings (i.e. SharedPrefAppSettings) and the resources map will be injected by Dagger. You can see the getString() method that takes string resource ID, just like the regular Activity.getString() method. It will get the language from AppSettings and use it to retrieve the proper Resources from the map. If the map doesn't contain anything at that language key for some reason, we will use getFallbackResources() method as a last resort before failing to provide a string.

Making it work

All we have to do now is to inject StringsLocalization object into the Activities and Fragments and use it to translate whatever we need. But first, let's write a helper interface to make this task less boilerplate:

interface HasStringsLocalization {
    val stringsLocalization: StringsLocalization

fun HasStringsLocalization.getLocalizedString(@StringRes stringId: Int): String =

So now we can access strings with getLocalizedString easily like this:

class WelcomeActivity : AppCompatActivity(), HasStringsLocalization {

    override lateinit var stringsLocalization: StringsLocalization

    override fun onResume() {

    private fun setTranslatedTexts() {
        welcomeText.text = getLocalizedString(R.string.WELCOME)
        // and more...

Side note: I skipped some code here to make the example shorter and more readable. The full implementation could involve some kind of injection with Dagger, layout inflation, etc.