Easily change the language of a WordPress installation


I love using WordPress for my sites as it’s very easy to install, easy to use, easy to maintain, easy to customize and easy to update. I have been struggling however with changing the language of a WordPress installation. Until I found the trick I’ll show below.

Automatic updates for WordPress

As described above, WordPress is very easy to update. I’m managing a few dozen WordPress installations and I’m hosting them on my own webhosting. You can image that I care about security. Few things can be more damaging to a web server then outdated web scripts. So I loved the feature that it can be updated by a click of a button in the Dashboard. Recently, WordPress even got the option to be updated automatically. For now this is only for minor updates. Through the Installatron package on my web server, automatic updates for WordPress are even possible for major releases.

The one click update feature will prove to be useful also for other things later on in this guide.

Why change the language

Installatron Dashboard

Through the Installatron dashboard it is extremely easy to install WordPress on a hosting account. It literally takes me 5 minutes at most to have WordPress up and running. In this hurry I sometimes forget to set the correct language, which in my case often should be Dutch. Only after I spend one or two hours adding content to the site and customizing the installation I notice that it has the wrong language. Not only is this language for the back-end. But more important is that it is relevant for the front-end of the site. The content might have a local language, while the meta information like “home”, “author” and “comments” is in the default language which is English.

two language wordpress
two language wordpress

This is not good for my users and therefore not good for my Search Engine Optimization (SEO). That’s why I change the language of WordPress.

How to change the language of a WordPress installation

Changing the language of the WordPress installation takes a 3-step approach.

  1. Create a backup of your current site
  2. Change which language WordPress has according to its configuration file
    1. Open the configuration file wp-config.php in the root of your WordPress installation. This can be done either by the dashboard of your webhosting, or through an FTP client.
    2. Search for the following line:

      define (‘WPLANG’, ”);

    3. and insert your language of choice:

      define (‘WPLANG’, ‘nl’);

    4. Save and close wp-config.php
  3. Update WordPress with one click
    1. Open the WordPress Dashboard
    2. Go to Dashboard –> Update
    3. Now the following line became available which wasn’t there before

      You can update to WordPress 3.8.1–nl_NL automatically or download the package and install it manually:

    4. Press the “Update Now” button

You will now see the WordPress Dashboard in the language of your choice. And also the front-end will now completely have the single language of your choice.

one language wordpress
one language wordpress

I hope this guide helped you converting the language of your wordpress installation. Let me know your results below!

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By Leendert

Leendert van Achteren is a Business Analyst and part-time Web Entrepreneur. He's building and managing websites with SEO in mind He's writing about anything that has his interest, but especially focusing on market transparency for consumers.

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