Translating WordPress Plugins & Themes

Step 3: Producing the final MO file

We’re now in the final leg of the localization process and only one more step stands between us and a beautifully translated theme or plugin: compilation. This may sound like something reserved for programmers, but in the case of GNU gettext it simply refers to turning the text PO file into a high-speed binary file.

If you are using poEdit then this step will already be finished – that’s quick work! Every time you save the PO file, poEdit will automatically compile and save a MO file too.

If you are using GNU gettext then you will need to issue something similar to this command:

msgfmt -o fr_FR.po

Change the output filename and input filename fr_FR.po according to your situation.

And that’s it! You can now copy this MO file into the theme or plugin directory (taking care about naming conventions for plugins) and test it out. You may discover that some translations are not accurate and you will have to re-edit and re-compile a few times until you are happy.

Remember that when you distribute the localized files please do include both the PO and MO files as this means it is possible for someone else to carry on the translation process in the future.

Final thoughts

A translation does not have to be into a different and it is possible to use the methods described in this guide to make your own specialized versions of WordPress and without changing any code. For example, the WordPress administrative dashboard greets users in English with a ‘Howdy’. For a business site you may decide this isn’t appropriate and want to change it to ‘Welcome’. One method would be to search through the WordPress code and change the text itself, but a neater way is to create a special localization. In this example it would be translating from English to English. All text would remain the same apart from the one you wanted to change:

msgid   "Howdy %s"
msgstr  "Welcome %s"

You now have your own personalized version of WordPress!

Multilingual WordPress

61 thoughts on “Translating WordPress Plugins & Themes”

  1. WordPress汉化手册…


  2. i used your redirect plugin, to translate it to Arabic, Saudi Arabia, utf-8, i added the path of the extracted plugin, i put the keyword(–,-e,-ngettext:1,2), then i pressed ok, it did some scan put nothing appeared in the list & no .pot file was created. thanks for your time in advance.

  3. Very helpful article. I have a question about the catalog path settings. The poEdit help states that the path information is relative to the location of the .po file. This is a little different than what you’ve said here. If I follow the help and the .po file is in c:/thisplace/lang then the path for the source files are relative. (This is what the help file states). In practice, however, this doesn’t seem to work. Setting additional paths to “../src” with a basepath of c:/thisplace.lang” yields ‘no source files found in ../src”. Setting a complete path to a plugin directory under say under “c:/mypath/wp-contents/plugins/myplugin” will allow it to locate source files if the additional path “src” is added. The ‘#:’ statement contains “src/somefile.php:” – this seems ‘non-portable’ to me somehow. The ‘src’ file is relative to the base path but not relative to the location of the .po file – as a result translations don’t appear to work. I say ‘non-portable’ because not everyone is going to have the same path as the developer. Most .pot files I’ve looked at have a base path of ‘.’ – this makes more sense to me because the basepath is the ‘current directory’.

    I’m not understanding this and the help file isn’t much help. Maybe you could shed some light on this.

    – thanks –

  4. Hi…its very ice post!
    In way translating my WordPress, I have big problem. PLS help me.
    I translating English vertion to Uighur language version(Arabic). Uighur later writing from right side to left( likes Arabic). How can I make it from left to right side?

  5. Hello,

    I have translated the theme I’m using for my site into two languages; Danish and Arabic.
    My Danish site shows the translation, but the Arabic one doesn’t, it uses the Danish translation.

    I can’t see what the problem is.. Any idea?

  6. No, I mean to configure WP to use a localization – putting the files in the directory is not enough, you need to tell it to use the files too

  7. Hello again,
    I added the following code to wp-config.php:
    define (‘WPLANG’, ‘ar_BH’);

    That means I have these to lines now:
    define (‘WPLANG’, ‘da_DK’);
    define (‘WPLANG’, ‘ar_BH’);

    But nothing happened..

  8. Great post, I have been using Global translator plugin for WP as I did not think that I was up to writing something of my own, but it has led to being banned from Google translation I suppose due to not having the /en /fr /de etc folders nofollowed or blocked in my robots.txt file. I am now left with a whole bunch of links in google in different languages that now cannot be reached. Since our blog does not change that frequently other than the items in our nextgen gallery I will definately explore the options you have outlined above. Thanks very much for these options.

  9. Great article! It looks to take a bit of time to setup WordPress for other languages but when I have the time I am definitely going to move forward using this article.

    Thanks for the research,

  10. And it would be very very nice to have a tag for themes on which just says “localizable” or “i18n”! Otherwise you always have first to download a nice looking theme to find out if it is using the __ or _e functions so that you could easily tranlate it into german or turkish for a customer. If not you only have a nice looking theme and nothing else. (Maybe english theme editors are too lazy to care for l10n or i18n…)

  11. Great Tutorial! Unfortunately you didn’t mention anything about using: load_theme_textdomain() for including the theme file. Took me some time, a break and then another 5 minutes 😉 Thanks anyway for this introduction to gettext.

  12. Great post and very useful but I have a problem and it’s killing me , I have my plugin in this path
    I wrote in the Base path :
    and in the paths
    well it give me an error that there is no files in this path , my question is : what kind of files does it searches for ??
    because I only have mine.php inside it .
    Could you please help ?

    Feras Allaou

    1. Feras, instead of full Windows paths, use relative paths in Poedit, defined via “.” (the dot character) in your Catalog Settings. I’ve found the following path settings work for me, when translating John’s plugins on Windows.

      – Base path: .
      – Paths: ..

      As far as I can tell, single dot means “this folder” and 2 dots mean “one level up”. Since John has the language files always under the sub folder ‘locale’, Poedit needs instructions to look one level up in the folder structure for source code files, thus the “..” path.

      I suggest you use Poedit’s Catalogs Manager for all your translation projects. There, when staring a new project, you get to choose the project’s folder via convenient ‘Browse’ button. Poedit scans this folder for language files and presents you with a list. Open the desired language file (catalog), go to ‘Catalog’ > ‘Settings’ and define the paths with dots. As a final thing, make sure that on the ‘Catalog’ > ‘Settings’ ‘Keywords’ tab, the PHP gettext language variables “_e” and “__” are defined.

      If you get the ‘Paths’ and ‘Keywords’ right you can do a catalog update every time the plugin source code has been updated to let Poedit find the changed strings for you. It’s very, very convenient.

      Hope this helped.

  13. I have generatet two .po files from Icanlocalize.
    One for wp-admin, which is allready localized. And one for wp-content.

    My question is, how can I integrate my second .po file from wp-content, in the first one?
    And afterwards convert this to a new .mo file.

    Or is this the right way to do this?

  14. Finally found an in-depth explanation for localization. Thanks for the detailed how to on name conventions.

  15. there is something missing here. where to put this pluginname-fr_FR.po file? in the directory of plugin or a sub-directory called langues or smilar?

  16. Hi, I am trying to translate wordpress network site into icelandic and translations are not showing. Does anyone have a clue if there is some solution to translation of wordpress network sites?