Website translation

How to Translate a WordPress Theme: Step by Step Guide

How to Translate a WordPress Theme: Step by Step Guide
Merve Alsan
Written by
Merve Alsan
Merve Alsan
Written by
Merve Alsan
Merve Alsan
Reviewed by
Updated on
June 19, 2023

WordPress powers an astonishing 37% of the web, so you’re probably one of the millions of WordPress users trying to enhance their website’s quality.

Whether you’re a developer using WordPress to carve out a corner of the internet for your clients, or you run your own site, you’re bound to encounter an issue uniting all WordPress users: translation.

WordPress out the box doesn’t make it easy to translate a website into a new language, but the benefit of localization is undisputed. English is used for 71% of WordPress content. However, for 75% of the internet, English isn’t the preferred language. Consequently, by translating your copy into other dialects, your website is better positioned to cater to audiences in new geographics, giving you a competitive edge. 

With all that in mind, let’s explore WordPress translation in greater detail.

Translation is the Gateway to the International Stage 

If you run a blog that surpasses a variety of cultures or sell products internationally, failing to localize your site could significantly limit your ability to engage with global audiences. 

If localizing your website is something you’re struggling with, never fear. You’re not alone. In fact, The Challenge Initiative (TCI) faced this same problem when attempting to spread awareness of reproductive health education in communities located in East Africa, Francophone West Africa, India, and Nigeria. 

Initially, their website was available only in English. This quickly proved to be an issue as this wasn’t an accessible language for the majority of their target audience. 

Display of The Challenge Initiative Website

This is where Weglot came into its own. Weglot is a simple-to-use SaaS solution that helps you transform your site into a multilingual website – without the need for web developers.

This translation solution provided a quick and comprehensive translation tool that converted their site from English into French and Hindi.

Thanks to Weglot’s automatic translation tools, TCI was able to provide information to those that needed it most and continues to make an incredible difference to the lives of thousands. 

A Better Way to Translate WordPress Themes

Translating WordPress themes was possible long before Weglot made it more convenient. But there were several obstacles WordPress users had to overcome to translate their site. To convert WordPress the old way, you needed to manually create a compatible theme and download the MO files (machine object), POT files (portable object template) or PO files (portable object), and translation files. 

The old way of translating a WordPress theme also required a Windows or Mac OSX desktop application such as Poedit. You would need to open Poedit, start a new catalog, define WPLANG and the country code for each new translation, do all the translating yourself, and then update your wp-config.php file with the text domain for each of your theme’s languages.

This all assumes that the theme you’re using on your WordPress site is translation-ready to begin with. If you’re a theme developer, each text string needed to be translated and manually uploaded to the theme. This required you to create WordPress templates with a multilingual integration so that your theme can be localized through the GNU gettext framework and support translations within the theme’s languages folder. Then on top of that, you (or your web developer) would also need to perform maintenance-related tasks with your theme’s language folder and keep all your language files up to date. Alternatively, if you’re an end-user, you would have to purchase a compatible theme that conforms to this framework – and make sure your translations aren’t broken with each new theme update!

In other words: translating your site the old-fashioned way is inefficient, difficult to maintain, and a massive time commitment. It requires you to dig deep into the WordPress theme to access and edit the necessary text strings. As such, making small tweaks and corrections to your translation was incredibly frustrating.

This is where Weglot comes to the rescue. Weglot is a translation plugin that can translate ANY WordPress theme, right out of the box. It’s also compatible with all WordPress plugins, including WooCommerce, for good measure too.

Display of Weglot Homepage

The Benefits of Using Weglot for Automatic Translation

Over 50,000 website owners realize the benefit of using Weglot for automatic translation. This is hardly surprising when you consider Weglot boasts 1,000+ five-star reviews on WordPress’s plugin repository. The plugin allows you to translate your website into one or more languages in minutes. It automatically collects all your website’s text strings and source text, including buttons, plugins, and widgets. Then it organizes them for translation inside an intuitive dashboard.

Machine Translation with a Human Touch

Automatic translation takes seconds. But after Weglot’s AI and machine learning works its magic, you can then go back and edit each string manually and override any suggestions. 

Weglot uses machine learning providers like Microsoft, DeepL, Google Translate, and Yandex to provide accurate translations for over 100 available site languages.

While machine-translation gets the basics right, you can harness a human translator’s expertise to ensure perfect copy. You can invite your own collaborators to work inside your Weglot dashboard or engage one of Weglot’s professional translation partners to fine-tune your website content. 

Through a combination of AI software and human touch, your website’s guaranteed to boast high-quality localization.

Access to a Visual Editor

Weglot also allows you to edit translations from the front-end of your WordPress theme. This gives you a convenient preview and helps ensure translated strings don’t interfere with the overall web design.  

Multilingual SEO!

Weglot also localizes your website’s URL. With each different language you translate your website into, you’ll get a subdirectory that correctly indexes your site on search engines across the globe. 

For example, your site might initially be written in English. But, if you translate it into German, your website will receive a DE subdomain. This automatically appears when German visitors click on your site; they’re immediately greeted with a website and URL in their own language from the get-go. This enhances the user experience, which should increase engagement, which, of course, is fabulous for your SEO.

Plus, on top of that, translated websites in general are more likely to rank higher in search engines for global visitors, which is great for extending your reach.

How to Translate a WordPress Theme Using Weglot

In this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn how to install and set up Weglot on your WordPress website. Once you have this up and running, you can automatically translate your WordPress theme within minutes. 

As a side note, Weglot also integrates with other platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, and Squarespace.

Install Weglot for Comprehensive Theme Translation

Log into your WordPress Dashboard and head to the sidebar to add a new plugin. Use the search bar to find Weglot and click activate. Weglot will then send you an activation email where you’ll have to click on a link that takes you to your API code. WordPress will request this code to set up the translation app.

Display of Weglot Plugin

Translate Your WordPress Theme

On the same page (in your WordPress admin area), you can choose the target languages you want to convert your site into. The free plan allows you to translate your WordPress theme into a second language (up to 2,000 words of content). 

The paid plans increase the number of languages you can localize to, offering fewer word count restrictions. You can translate your site into 3, 5, and 10 languages (depending on which paid subscription you opt for).

If you’re unsure which languages to start with, here are some of the top 10 countries that use WordPress. Localizing with these audiences in mind could open new doors for your content:

  • Germany (100K users)
  • Vietnam (114K users)
  • Iran (280k users)
  • Brazil (123k users)
Display of WordPress Admin Panel

Once you’ve chosen the languages you want your WordPress theme to automatically translate into, you can customize the language buttons that are added to your website.

These allow users to toggle between your available languages. This button can either be text or a small flag icon. You can place a language button either in the main navigation menu or within a sidebar or footer widget. You can also upload your own icons to fully customize the appearance.

When you’re happy, hit save, and Weglot will translate your website into your desired languages within seconds.

Yes, automatic translation is as simple as that! 

Once you navigate back to your site, you can now switch between your translation ready themes. My example has translated the website from the native language into Spanish. You can choose whichever languages you need.

Display of a Demo Website that has been translated into Spanish

Optimize Your Translations With the Help of Professional Collaborators

Now that you’ve successfully translated your WordPress theme into one or more languages, you’re halfway to ensuring international visitors enjoy a professionally translated website.

Machine translation is very good and gets better all the time, but a human check is always useful.

Weglot makes this easy: you get full control over each aspect of the website translation process. Navigate to your Weglot dashboard to edit any string inside your translated WordPress theme. From there, you can override any automated suggestions. All of this can be done on the online backend, and changes are made immediately. No downloading files or dealing with wp-content required!

Weglot also enables you to define specific words that should remain exempt from translation. For instance, you can specify that brand names or slogans are always translated in a particular way. You can also search for words and review each word/phrase on a case by case instance. Weglot also lets you view your translated metatags and image descriptions from its dashboard.

If you’re unsure about any of the translations, Weglot’s paid plans allow you to engage a professional collaborator. Weglot’s vetted translation partners can help you translate your WordPress theme. Simply add a collaborator and get connected with a partner that speaks the language you’re looking to translate your website into. Every string they edit is marked as ‘human-reviewed,’ which makes tracking their progress a breeze!

Display of Weglot's translation tracking feature

Double-Check Everything Looks Good, with Weglot’s Visual Editor

Sometimes, translated text strings over-run and are too wordy to fit into a previously well-fitted box. This can disrupt your theme’s design, making it look clunky and unprofessional! You can easily avoid this, thanks to Weglot’s visual editor

As previously touched on, this permits you to edit translations within the context of your website’s structure. Navigate your way to Weglot’s dashboard and launch the visual editor by clicking “start editing.” Then simply shorten any strings that seem too long or short either by yourself or with a collaborator!

Display of Weglot's Visual Editor feature

Translate Your WordPress Theme – Reach New Audiences

Whether you’re optimizing your own or a client’s website, localization is an aspect you cannot ignore. The potential for increased revenue and better outreach alone makes translation worthwhile. Additionally, the SEO benefits are worth their weight in gold for extending your reach.

Weglot makes your WordPress theme easily translatable by taking the hassle out of what was once a tedious and challenging process. Sign up for Weglot’s free plan today to check this translation ready solution for yourself!

Discover weglot

Ready to display your website in multiple languages?

Try Weglot on your website for free (no credit card required).

Icon blog

In this article, we're going to look into:
No items found.
Try for free