Localizing Asterisk for China

This last week, we set up a bunch of the IT infrastructure at Mozilla’s new Chinese office. My primary part of the process was setting up their phone system. We used Asterisk, of course, seeing as how we already use that for our phone systems in Mountain View and Toronto. Asterisk has a really cool feature that lets you put localized sound files in for the voice prompts, and each device and incoming phone line can be set up to default to a particular language. It will use the localized files for that language, if available, and fall back on the English ones if they aren’t. You can also allow users to change which language they get with a little careful scripting (“Press 1 for English”, etc). We set it up so that dialing from any phones in the Beijing office will get Chinese prompts, dialing into the Beijing office from outside will get Chinese prompts, and dialing into the Beijing office via the links to our other offices will get English prompts.

One of the difficulties we’ve run into is that there’s no official Chinese language pack for Asterisk, and the only unofficial Chinese language pack we could find is fairly incomplete. You’ll be listening to something in Chinese (like the instructions for voicemail) and suddenly get a word or two of English in the middle of it. :) I ended up spending a fair portion of this week trying to set up a nice friendly web app the folks in the office can use to easily see which files have been localized and which haven’t, and allow them to record their own localized files and have them automatically go where they need to go. Other folks might find it useful, so I’ll try to get it posted somewhere once I get it fixed up a little (it’s a bit of a quick and dirty hack still right now, but it’s getting there).

19 thoughts on “Localizing Asterisk for China”

  1. Pretty well actually, they’ve been enjoying it. The app I mentioned setting up I just actually got to the point of being usable a couple weeks ago. It’s still kind of incomplete. But it would make a nice tool for anyone trying to make a new language pack for Asterisk. I’ll see if I can get it packaged up any this next week.

  2. I’m in the exact same situation, we’ve installed asterisk for our office here and it’s working great but the chinese language files…………are far to incomplete. I would love to recreate a 1:1 of all the files but it’s quite daunting without a nice tool to do it all…..let me know! I can help. Plus, once I’m done with the voicepack I can release it to the community (one of our staff has a nice mandarin voice)

  3. Yeah, I completely forgot about this :( I still want to get this tool out there for people to use. I managed to get phone system upgrades onto my goals for the coming quarter, so I should have an excuse to get a chance to play with this again shortly.

  4. Hi!

    I was curious to know more about your experience in VoIP in China. Do you have a PSTN interface or you went for pure SIP DID+Termination? Thanks!


  5. We are also translating our IVR into Chinese. We also need to translate the Asterisk directory recordings “dir-*” and some others. However, we feel like the structure is not even right for the Chinese syntax. For instance the “Please wait while we are transfering you to extension : 3-0-3.” is more like “Please wait while to the extension 3-0-3 we are transferring you.” Did you run into problems like that? If so, how did you solve it? Thanks again!

  6. Good question. I don’t speak Chinese, and the people in the office in question never brought it to my attention. So apparently they either didn’t notice it or don’t really care or something.

  7. I have been looking for Asterisk sound files in Mandarin for some time now.
    Do you have these files and can I acquire them?

  8. Hi Dave, really interesting reading! We are in the midst of launching our service in China and need to find someone to help us set up our telephony. It has been an ordeal to say the least! We have used asterisk in our Australian and New Zealand operations but need to find a local company to help us set it up. Any suggestions of where we could find this?

    Kind Regards,

  9. We have experience in setting up Asterisk (Trixbox and Elastix) in China. Also we have solutions and experience to provide cost effective IP Phones, Asterisk TDM card. If you have heavy PSTN traffic, you may want to consider your own Cisco voice gateway and E1 line(s). We could help you line up with local telecom companies to get PSTN lines.

    One of our recent installation is for a European company using the system for their offices in 5 cities in China. We also provided the IP phones (over 150 IP Phones in total).


  10. Hey Dave,

    I’ve been running Asterisk for a while now in China (Shanghai specifically) and the language pack has come in handy, so I thank you very much for that.

    I do have a couple of issues I’d love to get your thoughts on with Asterisk/E1 setup if you have some time.

    Kind Regards,

  11. Hello,

    The .zip file above for Chinese is oriented for a PBX and voice mail. I’m looking for a Chinese language pack for Asterisk that is geared for a prepaid calling card IVR. Can someone direct us where we can get this without recording all the prompts ourselves?



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