Language packs for WordPress themes and plugins

Sam Sidler announced today on Make WordPress Plugins that WordPress plugins will soon be able to utilize the WordPress.org language pack feature that ships with WordPress core.

Language packs were introduced to core in WordPress 3.7. As I noted then:

Translating WordPress to more languages is a clear way for the platform to continue staggering growth. As I noted in my primer on l10n and i18n, nearly a third of all WordPress installs are non-English. But even beyond that, only about 750 million people count English as a first or second language, so most of the world that could be using WordPress would struggle mightily without a translated version.

Now — If I'm remembering correctly — more new WordPress installs are non-English than they are English. So it makes sense to bring the now much simpler core WordPress language pack feature set to WordPress themes and plugins. And it's happening:

As of today, all themes have been imported into translate.wordpress.org and can take advantage of language packs (see also). We chose to import themes first to work out any weirdness with translate.wordpress.org, which has never seen this many projects. There were a few bumps along the way, but language packs are now flowing for themes and we’ve added a number of improvements to translate.wordpress.org to make it the process easier for translators.

Now, it’s time to do the same for plugins.

What this means is that plugins with translations included will be imported into the new system so that language packs can be updated and managed independent from the plugin. And existing translations will be imported — so Sam warns plugin authors to get your translations updated for that initial import.

Sam offers more as to why plugin authors should want this:

WordPress.org provides translations in dozens of languages and is ever expanding as new contributors join. (There are currently 140 locales on translate.wordpress.org, but not all are active.) While you may have translated your plugin into a few languages (or none at all), there are likely more translators on WordPress.org in more languages.

But that’s not all! Plugins in the WordPress.org directory will be able to take advantage of language packs! That means smaller download sizes for users, because plugins will no longer need to ship translations. Eventually, we also plan to give priority to localized plugins in localized directories; e.g., someone searching the Romanian plugin directory will see Romanian plugins prioritized over English-only plugins.

A great example of what your plugin will look like in a translated directory is Akismet.

This is big deal territory for WordPress plugins. I know from experience that people English speakers tend to yawn and ignore translation stuff, but you should pay attention to this. Sam answers a lot more questions plugin authors may have.

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