How to Change Site Language in WordPress?

WordPress is one of the most powerful content management systems available for creating websites. No matter, you are a blogger, webmaster, agency or business owner; you can create customized websites with the help of WordPress. However, there are simple settings people misunderstand easily and spoil the fun of publishing. On such thing is setup or change language in WordPress. In this article, we will explain how to change the language in WordPress site and the SEO impact of doing so.

Default WordPress Language

As a popular CMS, WordPress supports different languages to create your website. WordPress comes with 70+ different languages to support the admin panel interface. American English is the default WordPress language most of the bloggers choose to use. You can anytime change the language settings of your site.

Check out the official WordPress site for the details of available language and the current status.

Understanding What Changes with Language

Remember, when we talk about language setup, it is the one supporting your admin panel and not the language you publish content. You have to write content on your own language for publishing and WordPress will NOT offer translation or writing help on this. The entire admin panel interface with menus, customizer settings, comments, etc. will change to the language you choose for installation.

In order to make the understanding better, below is the look of WordPress admin panel with one of the Indian languages Hindi.  

WordPress Admin Panel in Hindi Language
WordPress Admin Panel in Hindi Language

Setup Language in WordPress

You can install WordPress manually by downloading the package from the official site or use one-click installer through hosting account. When you install WordPress manually, the first step in the process is to choose the language for your site. You can select preferred language before moving on to configuring other stuffs.

Choosing WordPress Installation Language
Choosing WordPress Installation Language

Change Language in WordPress

There are many reasons you may need to change the site language in WordPress.

  • When you use one-click installers, mostly you will have the default American English for admin panel interface. In this case, you have to change the language setting before start publishing content.
  •  Someone helped to setup WordPress for you and you want to change the language later.
  • You have purchased the site from someone and wanted to re-setup as per your preferences.
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In order to change language in WordPress admin panel, go to “Settings > General” section. Under “Site Language” section, choose your language from the dropdown.

Change WordPress Site Language
Change WordPress Site Language

Save your changes to change the language. WordPress will use the selected language pack and change all admin text items. This will be useful when you have multiple authors from different locales editing the site.

RTL Support

WordPress support both Left to Right (LTR) and Right to Left (RTL) languages. You do not need to setup any additional setting for this. Simply selecting the correct language will automatically support this. For example, selecting Arabic from the languages list will change the entire admin interface to RTL.

Publishing Content in Specific Language

As mentioned, changing or setting up language will affect the admin interface and not the language of content you publish. You can continue to write content on any language and publish from the editor. However, this will affect the search engines and browsers hence SEO and user experience of your site.

Language Settings and SEO Impact

Search engines like Google understands the primary language of a webpage based on a HTML lang attribute. Generally, you can see the language key in WordPress sites by looking into the source code. It should look like below:

<html lang=”en-US”>

This will inform search engines and other crawlers about primary language of the page’s content. WordPress will add this tag automatically based on the site language you select in admin panel. Therefore, it is evident the site language you choose for the admin interface will have an impact on the content you publish. It is necessary and important to follow the content and admin interface in the same language.

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What Happens with Different Languages in Admin Panel and Published Content?

Unfortunately, WordPress by default does not have any option to set language for individual pages on your site. Below are some of the impact of using different languages:

  • You may lose search ranking in local searches. For example, if your competitor’s page is in local language with correct lang attribute, it may take advantage over your pages with English.
  • Translation tools and browsers may misunderstand your content language and offer translation.
  • You may lose advertising revenue as crawlers can wrongly interrupt the language of your site.

It is like using US English template in Microsoft Word and typing Russian language. Word will underline each word in the document showing it has spelling error. The solution is to change the template language or type as per the template language. It is the exact thing you need to do with WordPress site as well.

How to Manage Multiple Languages?

The correct way is to make sure your WordPress language is same as your content language. However, many of us keep the admin interface in native language while writing content in English. In such case, you can use third party plugins to change the language definition in HTML source.

This is not necessary for having very few pages in different language than WordPress language. However, if you are having thousands of pages with language difference, it makes sense to update the correct language using plugins. TranslatePress is one of the popular plugin you can use for this purpose. As you can see on their website, this plugin will help you to setup HTML lang attribute properly.

TranslatePress Features
TranslatePress Features

The best example of using multiple languages is to look at the official WordPress site. It will automatically detect the geographical location based on the IP address and offer the translation option. When you choose, it will show a different page with content in the selected language.

Multi-Language WordPress Example
Multi-Language WordPress Example

Final Words

As we mentioned at the start, WordPress is an ecosystem that you need to understand to use the features properly. Simply changing the language of your existing website may result in unexpected ranking change and impact user experience. We recommend using the site as per WordPress language setting, otherwise use translation plugins to setup the language correctly.  

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