Exporting WordPress sites for professional translation: Here’s how to do it

Shelf in front of a red wall with an English dictionary and boxes
Current figures show that 63% of all website operators use WordPress to present their content and products online (source: Hostpress, September 2020). This makes it the most widely used content management system (CMS) around the world. No wonder – WordPress offers countless design options and extensions. It offers a particularly useful function for anyone planning a website translation: you can export and import your WordPress site as an editable file. In our step-by-step guide, we’ll explain how to export your site from WordPress, which data formats are supported and how you can import the entire thing back into your site.

Extensible markup language: Exporting and importing XML files

In WordPress, you can export and import either individual pages or an entire site as an XML file. This function is included in the standard version, so you don’t need to add any WordPress export plugins.

Step-by-step instructions: Exporting WordPress content as an XML file

  1. Log into the WordPress backend.
  2. From the left sidebar, navigate to the menu item Tools and select Export data.
  3. Select the content to be exported from WordPress. You can only export blog posts, landing pages or the entire website.
  4. Click Download export file.

Video tutorial on exporting XML files

This video demonstrates how to export all pages in WordPress in XML format:

Importing your translated XML document

So, you’ve finished your translation and need to upload the target file back into WordPress? Here’s how:

  1. In the left toolbar, navigate to Tools and click on Import.
  2. If you haven’t already, install the WordPress import plugin.
  3. If you’ve already installed this free plugin, select Run importer.
  4. Then use the Select file section to upload the translated XML file.
  5. Confirm your selection by clicking Upload file and import.

Et voilà! Your translation is now imported and the target language texts are now available under Pages and/or Posts.

TIP

After importing and publishing the translated URLs, it’s best to have the front end proofread or copy edited. Seeing the text in context makes it easier to identify small tweaks and final improvements.

Benefits and drawbacks of XML exports: Key things to bear in mind

Benefits

  • No additional plugins required
  • Function included in the standard version of WordPress and does not entail additional costs

Drawbacks

  • Widgets are not always exported, which means that some text modules may be missing in the exported file
  • Depending on how a page is structured, it can take longer to prepare a file for translation using CAT tools, which can affect the turnaround time and price

XLIFF exports for efficient website translation

Another way to export data from your WordPress site is to use a fee-based WordPress plugin called WPML, which allows you to export page content in XML Localization Interchange File Format (or XLIFF for short) and reimport after translation.

There are numerous benefits of this method. For one, exporting content as an XLIFF file ensures that the page is exported in full, with all content in the exported file. In addition, all commonly used CAT tools can process XLIFF files, which drastically reduces the preparation and processing time. Texts are filtered so that only the text to be translated is left – all the coding is hidden without having to spend time on extensive configuration. At the price of $79.00, WPML is decidedly affordable if you consider that it can take many hours to prepare XML files for translation.

CAT (computer-assisted translation) tools

Almost all translation agencies use CAT tools to translate texts. Kolibri Online is no exception. The tools we use include memoQ and Trados Studio.

XLIFF exports with WPML: How it works

  1. Log into the WordPress back end.
  2. In the Translation Management submenu, set a check in the checkboxes beside the content to be translated.
  3. In the translation options further down the page, select the target languages for the pages/posts to be translated.
    Note: You define source and target languages when you install the plugin. However, you can change these at any time under the menu item WPML > Languages.
  4. Click Add selected content to translation basket to confirm your selection.
  5. Navigate to the Translation Basket tab and click Send all items for translation.
    Note: Before you can check out items for translation, you need to assign translation roles. You can do this in the tab of the same name.
  6. By navigating to WPML > Translations you can now extract content as XLIFF 1.2 files.

Video tutorial on exporting XLIFF files

Here’s an example of how to export XLIFF files for a single landing page for translation into English:

The route back: Reimporting XLIFF files

Once your texts have been translated, importing the files again is child’s play. Here’s how:

  1. Call up the submenu WPML > Translations
  2. In the lower part of the export and import section, click Select file
  3. Select the XLIFF document you want to import
  4. Click Upload

Benefits and drawbacks of XLIFF exports

Benefits

  • Export tailored to CAT tools saves time and money
  • Pages are exported in full (incl. widgets/modules etc.)

Drawbacks

  • Fee-based (one-off payment of $79.00, plus a further $59.00 per subsequent year)
  • Additional plugin that must be installed in advance

TIP

No matter which format you choose, before you embark on having your site content translated by a specialist, the translation agency should always send back a pseudo-translation so you can run a trial import to make sure that the target file can be imported into WordPress without any issues.

Free and fee-based WPML alternatives

Of course, WMPL isn’t the only plugin that allows you to export and import XLIFF files. There are various other candidates, such as Weglot, Polylang and MultilingualPress. However, if you look at the functionality of free tools and the prices of fee-based plugins, WPML appears to be the best choice.

Summary: Cost-effectiveness is key

If you’re planning to have your WordPress website translated, you can choose between two formats, XML and XLIFF, as described above. Both options have their benefits and drawbacks. Exporting data as an XLIFF file makes it easier to translate a website using one of the CAT software tools employed by professional translation agencies, as you can load this format directly into the software, allowing translators to start work right away. Of course, translation agencies can also work with XML files, but will usually charge extra for the hours it takes to prepare the file for translation.

About the author

Translation Project Manager Marco Lupo from the Kolibri team
Marco Lupo
Senior Project Manager for Specialist Translations and Content Marketing +49 40 5247774-17 m.lupo@kolibri.online

Kolibri Online GmbH
Bernstorffstrasse 128
D-22767 Hamburg