How to Change the Language of Your WordPress Dashboard

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While the default language of WordPress is of course English, changing it to something else is extremely easy. There are two aspects to this – the content, and the default WordPress interface. The first refers to modifying your actual content to another language, and the second talks about the WordPress interface itself. In this article we look at how to install WordPress in another language so that the dashboard, messages to the users etc. are all different. All you need is FTP access to your hosting account.

In this example, I will convert my regular test WordPress blog into French. There are three steps to this:

  1. Downloading the “mo” file;

  2. Creating the language directory;

  3. Modifying wp-config.php.

Downloading the “Mo” File

Translations to the default WordPress interface are stored in files with the extension .mo . Each language has a separate file that is named according to a specific convention and consists of two parts – the language in the country. The language code is defined on the ISO-639 standard. In our example of French, the language code is “fr”. The second is the country code as defined here in capitals. The two parts are separated with an underscore. So for French as spoken in France, the name of the file would be “”.

You can obtain the various language files either on the section of the WordPress Codex dealing with languages, or on the repository itself. If you still can’t get what you want, a simple Google search will surely turn up a language file you can download to your computer.

Creating the Language Directory

Now we need to upload this file into our WordPress installation. There are two possible locations for this namely wp-includes and wp-content. Because I like to restrict all of my customizations to the wp-content folder, I will be using this directly in my example. As shown in the screenshot below, go to the folder of your choice and create a “languages” subdirectory.

new folder

Once this is done, simply upload the .mo file into it.

Changing wp-config

Now that we have created the basic resources for modifying our WordPress language, we need to finally inform WordPress about the language of our choice. Make a note of the specific file name we constructed earlier with the language and the country code. Next, navigate to the root directory of your WordPress installation and FTP the wp-config.php file onto your desktop. Then using a textbased editor like Notepad++, open it up and search for the phrase “wplang”. You should see a line like this:

define('WPLANG', '');

We now simply replace the second argument with the filename enclosed in single quotes instead of the empty string that is there by default. So in our example, we would replace the above line with:

define('WPLANG', 'fr_FR');


Save the wp-config.php file and overwrite your existing one with it on your remote directory. Just to be on the safe side, make sure that you take a backup of the original file first by renaming it to something else in case something goes wrong.

If you have some kind of caching plug-in or reverse proxy, you should empty them both before viewing your site. In our example, here are two screenshots showing how the new WordPress looks like in French.



If something goes wrong with your file name for example, don’t worry! WordPress will simply revert the default back to English so you won’t break your site. With a simple configuration change and the appropriate language file, you can now translate WordPress into any language of your choice.

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