In my 10 years of experience with WordPress I have worked with many websites and have found myself in the situation of having to translate WordPress without plugins; wordpress plugins and themes. One of the biggest mistakes I see all the time is the overuse of plugins in WordPress.
The thing is that you can translate WordPress without plugins even if you don’t speak English, Spanish or the particular language you want to translate to. In this article, I will show you the best way to translate WordPress without plugins and which tools I use.
Note: In this article, I will not talk about how to create a multilingual site, but how to translate WordPress templates or plugins. You will also need basic knowledge about the WordPress file structure.
Stay away from automatic translation plugins
The thing is that translating a website takes some time and automatic translations are usually of pretty poor quality because they don’t distinguish the context in which the translation is done. There are some that automatically translate your website such as Weglot or GTranslate, but if you want a quality translation you will have to do it manually or semi-automatically.
Automatic translation plugins tend to slow down the loading speed of your website or create unnecessary entries in the database to store all the translations. I’m going to show you how to translate WordPress without plugins using WordPress native functions.
How do translations work on WordPress?
To display one language or another, WordPress uses translation files with .po and .mo extension. In the file system, each template or plug-in has a folder called languages. That is where the translations of that template or plug-in are located. The format of the file name has to be the following: name of the plug-in followed by the code of the language to which we translate, for example for Spanish it would be es_ES and for English en_EN. You can find a list with all the language codes here.
Each language has an associated .po file and a .mo file. When you change the language of your WordPress site from Settings>General, it will search within each plugin or template, the translation version corresponding to that language and load it. If the corresponding translation is not found, the original language in which the plugin or template was created will be displayed.
Plugins or templates without translation but prepared for translationSometimes, developers do not create any translation of their plug-ins or templates, but leave everything ready to be translated in the future through a .pot file extension. POT files can be opened in special translation programs (see below) to create translations in any language.
Tools to translate WordPress without plugins quickly
To translate WordPress without plugins I work with two fundamental tools. Poedit and Deepl.
Poedit – Translate WordPress quickly and accurately
For me the translation tool par excellence is Poedit. I have been using the Pro version for years. It is a very simple and powerful software that is able to pre-translate your templates or plug-ins with amazing accuracy so that you only have to review the translations. The most outstanding feature of this tool is the translation suggestions.
Poedit uses millions of online translations to suggest the best translation and even shows you what percentage of users have used the same translation and whether it is a human translation or a translation suggested by Microsoft Translate. Another very useful feature to speed up the translation process is that we can select the translation suggestion we want with keyboard shortcuts so you can forget about copying and pasting.
The free version of Poedit only offers 10 translation suggestions per file, but at the time of publishing this article, the paid version costs 30€ with a one-time payment without subscription and is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. It’s definitely worth it to be able to translate your website into languages you won’t even need to speak in order to translate.
Deepl – Online translator with artificial intelligence
If you want to translate some text manually, quickly and without making a fool of yourself, forget about Google Translate and meet Deepl. Although at the beginning of the article I advised you to avoid automatic translations, Deepl plays in another league. The automatic translations of this translator are so good that you will be surprised.
With this translator, you will be able to translate long passages of text with incredible semantic precision. It is capable of translating 26 languages, and you can use it for free online or as a desktop application for Mac or Windows. The desktop version is amazing, as it automatically translates the text you copy to the clipboard if you press Ctrl+C twice.
Summary – How to translate WordPress without plugins
My philosophy is to have as few plugins installed as possible. To translate WordPress templates or plugins, use the .po and .mo files to create your own high quality translations with Poedit or Deepl. You will find the translation files in the Languages folder of any well-made WordPress plugin or template. Also make sure the files are correctly named and contain the localization code for the language you are translating to.
Tip: To make sure your translation is found by WordPress, place the files in the languages folder of your plugin/template and also in the wp-content/languages/ folder.