How to Change the Default Language in WordPress

How to Change the Default Language in WordPress

By default, WordPress is presented in U.S. English. But you can easily change that if you’d prefer another language.

Do you want users to see your WordPress site in Spanish, French, Chinese, Arabic, etc.?

There are two ways you can go about this: either doing it the super-duper easy way or manually. We’ll take a look at both ways.

First up – the super-duper easy way.

Translate WordPress with the Built-In Language Selector

WordPress sites have a very convenient built-in feature for changing the default language.

Not only does WordPress allow you to change the language, but it also allows you to easily switch between languages in the blink of an eye.

You can do it in 3 clicks or less.

First, go to Settings > General.

WordPress General Settings screen.
Go to the General Settings screen.

Next, select a language from the Site Language dropdown menu. Over 120 languages are currently available.

For this example, we’ll select German.

WordPress General Settings - Site Language
Select a language.

The language pack for the language you have selected will be automatically downloaded and installed into WordPress.

Remember to save your settings.

WordPress instantly translates your site into that language.

A WordPress Site translated into German.
A WordPress Site translated into German.

It’s as easy as that and you can change languages as often as you like.

Manual Installation of Language Files

First, you’ll need to get the language pack of the language you want. You can do that here.

For some languages, you will need to download the .mo language file. For other languages, a complete version of WordPress is available, and you will need to download that.

If you don’t want to manually install a complete version, you can dig into the files and simply upload the languages folder to your site. Or you can dig into  /wp-content/languages folder and get the .mo language files.

If you are working with individual .mo language files, you’ll need to make a new languages folder in your /wp-content or /wp-includes directory (note: that’s either one), and place that file there.

Once you have that file uploaded, you’ll need to go to the root of your installation and find your wp-config.php file. In that file, search for the following line:

define ('WPLANG', '');

Add the language to that line between the two quotation marks. The end of the file name will tell you the abbreviation you need to put in.

In my example, I’m installing a Spanish language pack from Spain. I look at my file, and I see the following:


And so I put the “es_ES” in the line mentioned above so that it looks like this.

define ('WPLANG', 'es_ES');

The first two letters tell you the language (“es” in this case stands for español) and the last two letters tell you which version of Spanish. In this case, it’s Spanish from Spain (España), and so there’s an “ES” there. If we were to install the Spanish language pack from Peru, the abbreviation would be “es_PE”.

You may also find .po files to download. These files allow you to add to or customize the translations.

And that’s it.

WordPress Translations

If you’re interested in learning more about translating WordPress, you can do that here.

Also, check out our Ultimate Guide to WordPress Translation and Localization.

Have you translated your WordPress site? Share your thoughts and comments on WordPress Languages below.

Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch Martin Aranovitch is a blog writer and editor at WPMU DEV. He is a self-taught WP user who has been teaching businesses how to use WordPress effectively almost since the platform began. When he is not writing articles and tutorials, he’s probably off bushwalking in the mountains. Connect with Martin on Facebook, and his WordPress client training manual and free content management course websites.