When talking about WordPress localization and translation, you can find terms such as «translation ready theme», «multilingual ready theme», «fully translation-ready», «compatible WPML theme», etc. In this post I try to explain these terms, beginning with the concepts of internationalization, localization and RTL.
WordPress is used all over the world, it is a good idea to prepare themes so that it can be easily translated into other languages. Adding internationalization, localization and RTL support in a WordPress theme can greatly increase its market. Let’s review before these concepts to understand better the internationalization process.
1. Internationalization (i18n), localization (l10n) and RTL
- Internationalization is the process of developing a WordPress theme so it can easily be translated into multiple languages. This process is often abbreviated as i18n (there are 18 letters between the i and the n). This is done by the original developer. Developers do this by marking “front-facing” text strings in a way that makes them easy to extract later on.
- Localization describes the subsequent process of translating an internationalized WordPress theme. It’s abbreviated as l10n (there are 10 letters between the l and the n). Localization can be done by a translator or by any user who wants to translate the code to their language.
Localization process can be done using a software called Poedit with three types of language files: POT file (that contains a list of all translatable messages in the WordPress theme), .PO file (created when you translate a POT file to a particular language) and .MO file (a binary file that is created automatically by Poedit and is not human-readable).
Localization process includes:
1. Translation into other languages, which is a large part of localization (can sometimes be facilitated with automatic language translation).
2. Details as time zones, currency, national holidays, date formats, local color sensitivities, etc.
WordPress developers may not have time providing localizations and translations for all users however, any translator can localize the theme without needing to modify the source code itself.
- RTL means right to left. Only a few languages in the world use right to left text direction, but these languages cover over a billion people. By creating an RTL stylesheet, the theme can “flip” certain elements so they appear correctly when used with an right to left language
2. «Translation ready themes»
There is some confusion about what does «Translation ready theme» (or «Multilingual ready theme») mean. «Translation ready themes» can be divided into 4 groups:
A) Translation ready themes that only come with a .POT file
You can find translation ready themes that only come with a .pot file (and sometimes with an English version of .mo and .po files). These files can be used to translate the theme into other languages. These themes don’t provide translations to other languages, but you have the tools needed to localize the WordPress theme (l10n).
Example: I’m using in this website a WordPress Genesis theme called Elbe Blake (Web Savvy Marketing). Elbe Blake theme is fully-translation ready and come with a .pot file (elbe-blake.pot) as well as English version (en_US.mo and en_US.po). However they don’t provide translations into other languages. So I’ve used these files to translate the theme into Spanish (es_ES.mo and es_ES.po).
B) Translation ready themes with translations into other languages
You can find translation ready themes that come with .pot file and also come with translations into other languages. These translations usually have been done by translators, volunteers or any user.
Example: Responsive theme (free) is currently translated into over 45 languages. For example, ru_RU.po and ru_RU.mo for the Spanish version.
C) Translation ready themes compatible with WPML
Also there are translation ready themes that come with .pot file, come with translations into multiple languages and also have been tested with a translation plugin such as WPML.
- ElegantThemes are translated to English, German and Russian. Also the entire collection of themes has been tested to work with WPML.
- Also you can find Themeforest themes compatible with WPML. WPML plugin uses a «Multilingual Ready» icon that means that they tested the theme and certified it. You can check the list of WPML compatible themes.
D) Translation ready themes using an integrated multilingual system
Recently have appeared translation ready themes that come with translations into other languages and using an integrated multilingual system to translate contents.
Example: All AitThemes are multilingual right out of the box. Themes come with built-in multilingual support, no third party plugin is required. Themes come with AIT Languages plugin to create easily a multilingual website. Also all parts of the theme, back-end and front-end are already translated to over 18 languages.
I hope this article has helped you understand the term «translation ready theme»
Final note: If you want to make a multilingual WordPress website note that you can use other options not mentioned in this article such as WordPress multisite or using a translation proxy. Read this article for more info: How To Make A Multilingual WordPress Site.
- Theme Functionality / Internationalization. WordPress.org
- Theme Functionality / Localization. WordPeress.org
- Don’t You Forget About Me. Carrie Dils
- Internationalizing And Localizing Your WordPress Theme. Smashing Magazine.