How to Translate Your WordPress Admin Dashboard

Having a translation ready WordPress admin (back end) can be a wonderful feature, especially for those websites that are managed by a globally and linguistically diverse group of people. It’s great to foster camaraderie and equal status among all your various WordPress back end administrators and/or organization employees.

Translation-ready WordPress themes will let you translate this admin area (all the theme related features – Descriptions, theme options, etc.) to a language specified by a particular back end user. Since WordPress core itself has been translated and is available in over 70 global, widely spoken languages, the rest of the dashboard is taken care of.

Translation-ready themes will let you put the ‘Appearance’ settings and controls section under that umbrella too.

In order to make this seamlessly translated admin dashboard a reality, you need to lay out the groundwork as follows:

1. Translation-Ready WordPress Theme

WordPress.org Theme Repository and countless premium, WordPress standard compliant themes are available across various trusted sources on the internet that can be tagged as ‘Translation Ready’. This tag essentially means that the theme’s backend options are ready to be translated (not that ‘they are already’ translated).

The first step is therefore to find a good translation ready theme for your WordPress website. These are the themes with .po/.mo files included, and this feature is almost standard in good quality WordPress themes for all website types and niches.

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2. Add Translation

Translation ready themes mean i18n features have been added to the theme. What you need to do is use the files (.pot) to translate the theme features into a language of your choice.

These translation files are typically available in /languages directory within your Theme folder. The .pot file will be there, empty but existing still. And you can use it with a translation editor program like PoEdit or Loco Translate tools.

2.1. Create New

WordPress specific translation options are available for PoEdit pro users only. For free version users, you can start by creating a new translation.

Browse and select the specific theme’s .pot file and open it. The tool will then ask for language option – and here you can select the language you want to translate the file in.

2.2. Translating

Context-based translation is supported, but for the admin side appearance settings, you won’t need those. All you need to do is translate the bits of text placed in front of you from default language (Generally English) to your chosen language. You can save half finished translations to work on them later too.

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2.3. Translation Properties

Make sure to check the translation properties before you go on to save your work. Go to Catalogue > Properties and look up your Plural Forms in order to reconfigure the translation rules for your specific language. If you are unsure of the language rules (and the syntax that will be acceptable), simply look them up on any Search engine on internet and you’ll find it pretty easily. The char set (UTF-8, also default and recommended for WordPress) can also be changed to different ones (ISO 8859-1, etc.) to make sure that special characters of your chosen language show up properly. A list of these is found on W3C’s checklist.

2.4. Save Format

Always remember to save the file and name it properly with the correct format, this usually involves a country and the correct language code at the end of the file name so that WordPress or other language switching features can find the file when requested.

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WordPress get text editor language-country codes are easy to keep a track of (relatively). So you need to name the file, add an underscore, add the language code after it, then an underscore, and then the country code. For instance, a Spanish translation file can be named Como-estas, but it has to be saved as Comoestas_es_ES to be usable.

3. Uploading Translation

Now that your translation is completed and ready to be put to use, you need to save this translation file (in your /languages sub directory within the theme folder, along with an extension .po or .mo) and save the entire theme folder. Upload this modified/ translation included theme to your server.


Keep in mind that you need to translate the theme yourself, even if they are translation ready. The core contributor team of poly linguists have already translated WordPress admin interface for better usability across different users of wide variety of languages. The ‘appearance’ settings are left up to themes because there is no way to predetermine the settings a theme developer may or may not include.

Tracey Jones is a professional web developer building highly custom websites for businesses. Presently, she is employed with HireWPGeeks Ltd. a top-notch company which provides WP development services including Drupal to WordPress theme conversion to our global clients. She also loves to share her thoughts with others on the web.