How to Contribute to WordPress by Translating It Into Your Language

Published in Community.

The best thing about WordPress, what makes it special, what has made it stand out is its open source nature. WordPress is distributed under a GPL license, which gives users four freedoms:

  1. Freedom to run the program for any purpose
  2. Freedom to study how the program works and change it to make it do what you wish
  3. Freedom to redistribute
  4. Freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others

The beauty of free software lies in the communities it enables. Since developers have access to the source code, anyone can propose corrections to bugs, improvements, etc. But what if you’re not a developer? Can’t you contribute to the project?

If you’re a happy WordPress user and want to contribute to the project, but you don’t have any programming skills, don’t worry—you too can help! Why not join the translation team? It’s relatively simple and I’m sure your local translator team will welcome you and offer you a good time.

WordPress Translations

Some time ago I wrote a post for developers explaining what they had to do if they wanted their plugins or themes to be translatable. Making our source code translatable is the first step towards a localized WordPress version. But once this is done, we need someone to actually translate it…

WordPress - Get Involved
There’s a lot of areas in which you can contribute. Get involved in WordPress!

On the official WordPress project page there is a section called Get Involved where you can see the different areas that, as a member of the community, you can contribute to. One of these areas is Polyglots (or translations 😉).

How to Get Involved

If you want to translate WordPress (its code, the documentation, its plugins and themes, mobile apps, etc) into your language, you will first need an account on WordPress.org. If you don’t have one yet, you can create one from this page. If you already have an account, log in.

Bear in mind that translating is not easy. You have to know the source language well (usually English) and you have to know the target language even better (Spanish, Catalan, German, French…) The first thing I recommend is that you read the Polyglots handbook carefully, as you will find very good advice there, including:

  • Don’t translate literally, translate organically. As a translator, you undoubtedly know that each language is unique. Given that, try to avoid composing your translation in the same structure as the original English string, while sounding natural and still conveys the same message.
  • Try to keep the same level of formality (or informality). WordPress messages (informational messages in particular) tend to have a politely informal tone in English. Try to accomplish the equivalent in the target language, within your cultural context.
  • Keep it consistent. Translations are collaborative work involving a lot of people. Use a glossary and a style guide to make sure that everybody is on the same page and your work is consistent.

Translation Teams

As you can imagine, WordPress is available in a lot of languages besides English: Spanish, German, French, Italian… Translations into each language are managed by their own team. The members of these teams have different roles:

  • General Translation Editor (GTE) is the person in charge of validating strings on all projects of a given locale. The only way to become a GTE of a language is for another GTE of that same team to do it (probably after having actively contributed in that language for a long time and with high quality translations).
  • Project Translation Editor (or PTE) is similar to a GTE, but they can only validate strings on a given project of a given locale. For example, I (as a native Catalan and Spanish speaker) am a PTE of Nelio’s plugins in Spanish and Catalan. Project translation editors are appointed by a GTE after a request by the project author or by the contributors themselves.
  • Translation Contributors are volunteers who translate the different projects into their language. In these cases, their translations are considered “suggestions” and must be approved by a GTE or a PTE. You’ll start as a contributor 😉

Translation Guidelines and Glossaries

As I was saying, one of the most important things when translating into your language is consistency—translators shouldn’t do as they please, but follow some rules and principles. This guarantees that, no matter who translated what, the final result will look coherent and professional.

For instance, in Spanish (Spain) we have a style guide and a glossary that define how a Spanish translation should look like. As a Spanish translator, it’s extremely important that you read those carefully before translating anything and adhere to the rules. Some of these rules are:

  • Plugin and theme names should not be translated.
  • Don’t use Google Translate or other tools to suggest translations.
  • Use the informal form of you () and not the formal version (usted).

The glossary is also extremely interesting. Translators will often face certain words that might have multiple valid translations in the target language. Which one should they use? Well, in these cases, a glossary can come very handy, as it’ll tell us what’s the preferred alternative:

Spanish (Spain) Glossary
The Spanish (Spain) team compiled a complete and detailed glossary to unify their translations.

Translation Process

Once you’re familiar with the style guide and the glossary, it’s time to get started. Choose the plugin or theme you want to translate (I recommend you start with one you use, as you’ll be familiar with it and it’ll therefore be easier to translate), find what strings aren’t translated, and suggest your translation.

For example, let’s assume you want to contribute to Yoast SEO translations. Go to the plugin page on WordPress.org, click on the Development tab, and click on the Translate “Yoast SEO” into your language link:

Translating a Plugin like Yoast SEO
Plugins listed in WordPress.org have a section that allows users to contribute to the plugin’s translations.

This takes you to the translations page of the plugin. This screen is very interesting because you can see the status of each locale. In Catalan, for example, we see that this plugin has several strings that need translating:

Translation Status in a Certain Language
You can easily see the translation status of every single language.

Strings are organized as follows:

  • Development (trunk) are UI strings. They belong to the development version of the plugin, so they might change in the near future.
  • Development Readme (trunk) contains all the strings that will appear in the WordPress plugin directory. Again, since this is the development version, the strings are subject to change.
  • Stable (latest release). are the strings that appear in the stable version of the plugin itself and, therefore, what current users see.
  • Stable Readme (latest release) are the text strings that describe the plugin right now in the WordPress plugin directory.

When translating one of the previous sections, this is what you’ll see:

User Interface for Translating Strings
Translating a (set of) strings in WordPress is extremely easy.

Filter the list of strings so that only untranslated strings are shown and get the job done.

Slack Channel

Finally, it is worth mentioning that translation teams usually have a Slack channel or similar so that members can talk to each other and coordinate their work. In the case of the Spanish community (from Spain), for example, we have a Slack channel:

Slack of WordPress Spain
Slack of WordPress Spain.

One of the funniest things about being part of a free software community is, precisely, interacting with other users. So don’t stay home alone translating; get Slack and join your team!

It’s Your Turn

Now it’s your turn. If you’re a happy WordPress user and want to help more people adopt it, this is how you can contribute. Translate WordPress into your language and make WordPress better!

Featured Image by Joshua Fuller on Unsplash.

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