HowTo: Change the Language of WordPress

So, you have built a WordPress site or WordPress multisite and now want the WordPress dashboard and site frontend to use Spanish or German or Italian or another language. It is easy.

Whether you are looking to:

  • Change the language used in the WordPress dashboard
  • Change the WordPress backend language
  • Change the WordPress front end language
  • Change the language used by WP plugins, or
  • Use a different language for your theme

Follow the instructions shown here.

How to Change the WordPress Language

  1. Visit http://svn.automattic.com/wordpress-i18n/
  2. Find the directory with the same name as your language code e.g es_ES for Spanish
  3. Enter that directory, click tags, choose your WordPress version (or the one closest to it), click messages then download the .mo files
  4. Use an FTP program like FileZilla or your cPanel file manager to access your server space
  5. Navigate to wp-content and create a directory called languages
  6. Upload the .mo files to /wp-content/languages
  7. Open your site’s WordPress dashboard and navigate to Settings > General
  8. Scroll to the bottom of the General settings page and select your desired backend language before clicking save.

That is all there is to it.

Any theme or plugin that has its own language sub directory will also display text in the same language that you have configured WordPress to use provided there is a .mo language file for your chosen language installed in the theme’s or plugin’s language directory.

Where should plugin language files go?

All plugins are stored in /wp-content/plugins/[plugin name]. Those plugins that can use language translation files have a languages directory under them. For example, /wp-content/plugins/gravity-forms/languages. Get language translation files (.mo files) from the plugin developer’s home site then upload them to the plugin’s languages directory.

Use google if the plugin developer does not have a language file for your chosen. search for [plugin name] wordpress language-xx_XX.mo where “xx” represents the language code. For example gravity forms spanish-es_ES.mo.

Where should theme language files go?

Themes are stored in /wp-content/themes/[theme name]. Do the same for themes as you would plugins.

For example, if you use StudioPress themes you would go to this forum thread at StudioPress, find and download the language files you need then upload them to /wp-content/themes/genesis/languages/ or /wp-content/themes/genesis-child-theme/languages/.

What about multisites?

Plugins and themes only use their language files when the site is configured to use a language other than the root site’s language. Different sites in a multisite network can use different languages independently so one subdomain or subdirectory site can use Spanish, another can use English and another German or Chinese without it affecting any of the other sites within the network.

In Pictures

Visit http://svn.automattic.com/wordpress-i18n/ and find the directory named with your language code e.g es_ES for Spanish

Enter the directory and click tags

Choose your WordPress version (or the one closest to it)

Click messages

Download the .mo files

Use an FTP program like FileZilla or your cPanel file manager to access your server space and navigate to wp-content

Create a directory called languages

Upload the .mo files to /wp-content/languages

Open your site’s WordPress dashboard and navigate to Settings > General. Scroll to the bottom of the General settings page and select your desired backend language before clicking save.

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