For the first time in WordPress’ history, download of non-English version surpassed the number of English version downloads in 2014. And about 30% of the 18 million WordPress.com blogs aren’t written in English.

These numbers clearly indicate that a sizeable portion of the 76.5 million blogs using WordPress is operated in a different language than English. And consequently, it is clear that a lot of people visit websites in various other languages.

If you want to create WordPress site in a non-English language, you need to translate your WordPress theme. Once you translate the different texts into your desired language, they will be displayed accordingly on your website. In today’s post, I will show you how to translate a WordPress theme properly.

Is Your Theme Translation-ready?

Before we get started, you need to make sure that your theme is ready for translation. It is not possible to translate just about any WordPress theme into other languages. Rather, you need to choose a theme which is developed in the GNU gettext framework. WordPress uses this framework for the translation purpose.

During the early days, a lot of developers didn’t put too much importance on developing translation-ready themes. Therefore, if you are using an old theme, make sure the theme could be translated.

Fortunately, most new themes work with the GNU gettext framework. If you are downloading a free theme from the official theme directory, there’s an easy way to ensure that.

First of all, make sure you are in the WordPress Theme Directory. Then, click on the ‘Feature Filter’ icon, find out the “Features” section and check the “Translation Ready“.

Next, click the “Apply Filters“. This will show the translation ready theme only. At the time of writing this, there were 1641 themes which met this filter.

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WordPress-Theme-Directory

And if you are thinking about a premium theme, most of these themes are translation ready. However, ask the theme developer to ensure this. Once you have got a translation ready theme, download and extracted the theme in your computer. Now, you are ready for the next step.

How to Translate a WordPress Theme?

There are two ways to translate a WordPress theme –

  1. Use Poedit or
  2. Use Loco Translate.

Let’s find out more about each process.

#1. Translating WordPress Theme with Poedit

First of all, download and install Poedit on your computer. Open the software. You will be provided with an interface like the following –

POEDIT - How to Translate a WordPress Theme

As you can see, there are four default actions. And one of them is specifically for translating WordPress themes or plugins. But using that feature requires you to upgrade to the pro version. In this post, I will discuss the free method.

Click on the “Create new translation” option. This will open a pop-up window. Here, you have to load the language file of your theme.

You will find the file in WordPress -> wp-content -> themes -> your-theme -> languages folder.

Obviously, “your-theme” means the name of your chosen theme.

Once you load the language file, you will be asked to choose the translation language. Select your desired language from the drop-down list and click “OK“.

Translating-WordPress-Theme-with-Poedit

At this point, Poedit will show you all the available text that could be translated. Click on a text to translate it. At the bottom end, you will find two sections – Source Text and Translation.

The Source text section will display the original text. And you will type the translation in the next box. As Poedit will automatically save the translation when you type them, you don’t have to do anything other than keep writing.

Using-Poedit-to-translate-WP-Theme

If you are connected to the internet, Poedit will automatically show some translation suggestions on the right sidebar. If appropriate, you can choose any of them or edit them as necessary.

As you keep translating, you should save your progress. You can do that by clicking the “Save” button on top or hitting Ctrl + S. There are some specific naming conventions for saving the file, and you have to follow them closely.

For example, the file name should be zh_CH.po for Chinese translation and tl_PH.po for Philippines translation. You will find the language and country codes in the GNU gettext manual.

Once you have translated all the available text files, click the Save button. WordPress needs a po and a mo file for any language to work properly. Poedit will automatically create the mo file for you.

At this point, you should have completed the translation process. Now you have to upload the theme. Depending on your experience, you may choose to upload only the language files, or install the theme on your WordPress site.

#2. Translating WordPress Theme with Loco Translate

Now that you know how to translate WordPress themes with Poedit let’s see how to do it by using Loco Translate.

Unlike the previous method, this process will be done on your website. That means you won’t have to upload the theme after finishing the translation.

To use the plugin, install and activate it on your WordPress site. It will create a new menu item titled “Loco Translate” in your website dashboard.

Go to the Loco Translate -> Manage translations page to start the translation process. This page will display the language details of your installed themes and plugins.

Translating-WordPress-Theme-with-Loco-Translate

Find out the theme you want to translate and make sure it has a .pot file and has the file permissions. If not, you have to provide the write permissions from your web server. This is necessary to retain your translations after updating the theme.

Once everything is set up, click the “+ New language” link for your desired theme. This will take you to a page like the following –

Using-Loco-Translate

At this point, you have to choose the language in which you will translate the theme. Here, you have two options to choose the language. You can either choose from a list of the common languages or provide the language code in the box below. Once you have chosen the language, click the “Start translating” button. You should be taken to a page like the following –

Loco-Translation

This page will provide you with a list of the available text which needs to be translated. Just below the list, you will find the “Source text” and the “Translation” sections. Choosing any text from the list will display it in the source text section. You have to provide the translated text into the translation section.

The plugin will automatically save the translations. As you keep translating, don’t forget to click the ‘Save‘ button on top. You will find a statistic of the translation process on the top section.

Using the Translation

By default, WordPress uses English as the website language. If you want to use your language, you have to inform WordPress about that. To do that, log in to your web server or connect to the FTP server.

Find out the wp-config.php file and add the following code in that file –

define (‘WPLANG’, ‘zh_CN’);

Remember, this code is for the Chinese language. You should change the ‘zh_CN‘ part with the code of your language. Adding this code block will instruct WordPress to use the translated text instead of the default English text.

As you have translated only the theme, adding this code block will only change the front end of your website. That means your visitors will see the translated text while the backend will remain English.

If you want to change the backend language too, you can do that by going to Settings -> General and choosing your desired “Site Language“.

Tips for Theme Translation

When translating a theme, you need to keep certain things in mind. WordPress codex has listed some important points. Let’s get a quick overview of the most important steps –

  • Instead of translating literally, you should translate according to the actual meaning. Each language has different structure, syntax and styles. Your translated text doesn’t have to follow the ones of English, the original language. That will reduce the readability and will not convey the proper meaning. Instead, you should take the general idea from the original text and write it naturally in the translated language.
  • Depending on the context, the original English text could be formal or informal. Your translations should follow the mode as closely as possible. Whenever possible, you should stick to the original tone and maintain this in the translated text.
  • Along with the styles and tones, different languages also have some localized versions or audience-specific terms. When translating a WordPress theme, you should avoid both of these. Using such terms could make the text difficult to understand for visitors from other regions or people who are not familiar with the trends.
  • If you are feeling confused about the ideal approach, you should check out the other translations in that language. If there are other WordPress themes available in that language, you can get some essential idea from them. Alternatively, you can look for ideas in other software or digital product.

Now Read: Translation Ready RTL WordPress Themes

Final Words

There are several steps in translating a WordPress theme to another language. I hope this article has provided you with a clear idea about the whole process. However, if you are still confused about any step, let me know by leaving a comment below. I will try to make it clear for you.

How to Translate a WordPress Theme Quickly?
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