On her blog today, Elizabeth Smith has this new post highlighting a string class that she's created to overload the basic PHP types to handle multibyte or translated strings.
So my rather cumbersome three classes to handle translation and charsets is now ONE class. When the rest of the magic __toString stuff goes into php (estimated for 5.2, which I wouldn't know if I didn't read internals religiously) it makes it even easier to use.
Kal_String is the class itself. Basically it has TWO constructors - because there are a series of static settings and two static methods that deal with things like a default charset to use for all strings and a default language to look for. The language searching is set up with a callback - so you can write your own class using gettext or including straight php files or whatever you want. You can even manually load in translation strings for individual string instances if you're so inclined.
She gives examples of how to use the class, everything from just a simple output to the use of some of the more advanced "interpretation"-based features.