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October 11, 2021

This tutorial explains how to translate sites that are built with the Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) plugin and WPML.

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Getting Started

Start by installing and activating the following plugins:

If you’re new to WPML, check out our Getting Started Guide. It quickly walks you through different translation options you can use.

Making the ACF Fields Translatable

WPML’s Translate Everything feature can translate all of your site’s content instantly, including values stored in your ACF fields. The only thing you need to do is set the correct translation option for your ACF fields.

Setting the Translation Preferences for ACF Fields

Go to the WPML → Settings page and scroll to the Custom Fields Translation section. Select the translation options for your ACF fields.

Setting the translation options for ACF fields from the WPML Settings page

You can also select the fields translation options when editing your custom fields settings in ACF.

Setting the translation options for an ACF field when editing it

Setting the Translation Preferences for Repeater and Flexible Content Fields

Setting your translation preferences for Repeater and Flexible Content fields is similar to setting the translation preference for other ACF fields. In the example below, we cover the steps for setting the translation preference for Repeater fields which is exactly the same for setting the translation preference for Flexible Content fields.

These field types are only available with the Pro version of Advanced Custom Fields.

  1. We recommend setting the translation preference to Copy once for the main Repeater field, or the main Flexible Content field.
Setting the translation preference to Copy once

By setting the main Repeater field to Copy once, you can have a different number of Repeater fields for different languages. Edit the translated version of the post or page to have any number of Repeater fields you want.

You can also disable the synchronization of the Repeater field across languages. This means you can manually set the order of the fields for each language. To do this, uncheck the Sync repeater sub-fields positions in post translations box that appears under the Repeater field in the post or page.

If you set the translation preference of the main Repeater field or Flexible Content field to Don’t Translate, Copy, or Translate, you will see a yellow bulb tooltip icon. By hovering over the tooltip icon, you will see a message that recommends setting the Repeater field or Flexible Content field to Copy once, in case you encounter any issues with translating subfields.

Tooltip recommending to set the translation preference to “Copy”
  1. You can choose any translation preference for subfields. If you set translation preference for subfield, each subfield you create on post edit screen will have this translation preference applied.
Setting the translation preference of the main Repeater field is applied to all subfields

WPML automatically sets ACF system fields to Copy which guarantees to display the secondary language repeater field values on the front-end.

Setting the system field to “Copy”

Translating ACF Fields

Now that we have set the translation preferences for our custom fields, it is time to translate the custom field values (texts). In the example below, we have set the field group Location Rule to Post type is equal to Post. If you set the location rule to show the fields in a specific custom post type such as properties, books, recipes, you will be able to translate the custom fields in a similar fashion.

  1. Create a post in the default language and add values to the custom fields.
  2. Publish the post.
Creating a new post and adding values to the custom fields that you created
  1. In the Language section, click the plus icon. You will be taken to the Advanced Translation Editor page. The post content along with the values of the custom field that are set to Translate are available for translation.
Clicking the plus icon to start translating the post
  1. Click the Translate automatically button to add the machine translations. Review the translations and make sure they’re accurate.
  2. Click Complete to publish the translations.
Translating the content automatically

To learn how to send the content to be translated by others, visit our page about translating your WordPress site.

For the choice fields such as the Select and Radio Button fields, please note that if you navigate to the secondary language editing page you will see the choices untranslated showing the default language texts although you have translated them. This is not a bug and it doesn’t affect the functionality as the translated texts are stored correctly in the database. Accordingly, the correct values will be displayed on the front-end.

Translating Options Page Custom Fields

The ACF Options Pages provide a set of functions to add extra admin pages to edit ACF fields. Check out ACF’s documentation on creating Options Pages.

To create an Options Page custom field group and translate its fields, follow the steps below:

  1. Create a custom field group for the desired Options Page.
Creating the Options Page custom field group
  1. Set the custom field(s) translation preference to Translate. Also, set the location to match the Options Page. Once done, Publish the field group.
Setting the custom fields translation preference
  1. Navigate to the Options Page and add a value to the default language custom field then click the Update button.
Add a value to the custom field
Adding a value to the custom field
  1. Use the admin bar language switcher to choose the language you want to translate your field text into.
Use the language switcher to choose the language
Use the language switcher to choose the language
  1. Fill in the translated text then click the Update button.
Add the translated text and update the page
Adding the translated text and updating the page

Translating ACF Blocks

The ACF block content can be translated as any other default WordPress Gutenberg block. For more information on how to create and use ACF Blocks, check out this post.

In our example, we have created a simple Testimonial block with ACF. Let’s see how to set the block’s ACF field translation preference and translate the block’s content using WPML’s Translation Editor.

  1. Create the block field group by navigating to Custom Fields → Add New.
  2. Fill in the field group name and add the custom fields.
  3. When creating the custom fields, make sure that you set the appropriate Translation preferences.
  4. In the Location box, set the field group to show when the Block is equal to Testimonial. Once done, don’t forget to Publish.
Creating the block’s custom field group
  1. Let’s insert the ACF block that we created into a post. Navigate to Posts Add New and fill in the post title. Click the plus icon in the content editor and choose the Testimonial block.
Creating a new post and inserting the Testimonial block
  1. Fill in the block content and Publish the post.
Filling in the Block’s content
  1. In the Language box, click the plus icon corresponding to the language you want to translate your post into. You will be taken to the WPML Translation Editor. There, fill in the translated content and publish the translation.
Starting the post translation

This is how the translated page that includes the Testimonial block looks on the front-end:

Translated block on the front-end

Translating ACF User Interface

Besides being able to translate the values of ACF fields that are shown on the front-end, WPML allows you to also translate the ACF user interface. This means that when translators are translating posts and pages that feature ACF fields, the labels and options for those fields will appear in that specific language. This can help to make the translator’s work easier and more convenient.

If you only need to translate field values and display them on the front-end, you don’t need to perform the following steps. You should only need to translate Field Groups in certain cases. For example, if on the front-end, you want to display different field labels for different languages.

Setting Field Groups as translatable may result in some unexpected issues if you have a fairly complex site.

Translating Field Groups

To translate the Field Group, follow the steps below:

  1. Set the Field Groups (acf-field-group) post type to be translatable by navigating to WPML → Settings and scroll to the Post Types Translation section.
Setting the Field Groups (acf-field-group) post type to be translatable
  1. To translate the Field Group, navigate to Custom Fields → Field Groups and click on the Edit link of the field group you want to translate.
Editing the page of the field group
  1. In the Language meta-box, make sure that the Use WPML’s Translation Editor option is turned off. Then, select the Duplicate checkbox for the different languages you want to translate your field group into and click the Duplicate button.
Duplicating the field group
  1. Click on the pencil icon to edit the text in the fields for different languages.
Editing the field group translation
  1. Now, you can edit the text in this group, for the other language(s). To keep your field groups consistent for all the languages of the site, you should only edit the label and descriptions of the fields and not add new fields or change their Field Name values. If you do make any changes like this to the fields, you should do so for all your site’s languages. Once you complete adding the translated texts to the field group, click the Update button to save the changes.
Translating the custom field texts
  1. If you navigate to the secondary language post editing page you will see the field labels translated.
Translated field labels

Translating Other Parts of the Interface

So far, we’ve covered translating the field groups and fields. Like any other WordPress plugin, ACF has its own user interface which includes text. To have a fully localized WordPress admin, you can also translate the ACF’s interface.

Also like many other WordPress plugins, ACF comes with its own translations. Before you translate ACF’s interface, check with the author to see if the translation in your language is already available.

To translate ACF’s interface, follow the steps below:

  1. Go to the WPML → Theme and plugins localization page.
  2. Under the Strings in the plugins section, you will see a list of plugins installed on your website. Select the Advanced Custom Fields plugin and click the Scan the selected plugins for strings button. WPML will scan ACF’s code and locate all translatable strings.
Scanning the ACF plugin for translatable strings
  1. After the scan is complete, navigate to WPML → String Translation page and choose the “acf” text domain from the “Select strings within domain:” drop-down menu then click the Search button. This loads all the ACF strings that are available for translation.
  2. To translate a string, click on the translations link, add your translated content, tick the Translation is complete check-box, then Save.
Translating ACF strings
  1. When you are done, the ACF’s user interface will appear fully localized.
Localized version of the ACF interface

How to Handle Images and Other Post Object Fields

If you constructed a Field Group with a field pointing to an existing post or custom post type (including images and other kinds of attachments), make sure that the post or post attachments are translated before you start adding them to the ACF field group.

For example, let’s assume you have added a Gallery field to the field group. You are going to add some photos to this gallery under your post.

Before translating your post along with its gallery field, make sure every image in the gallery is translated. Even though you want to have the same images in the translated post, you should go to the WPML → Media page and make sure that all the images included in the gallery are translated.

Making sure that the images included in the gallery are translated

Without translating post objects such as images, posts and other kinds of post types, you will experience some minor problems, though your site will be working. Translated posts will be associated with objects in the original language, which is allowed. On the front-end, posts will display correct relations, however, on the post edit screen, you will see these fields as empty.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Untranslated post object and page link fields do not show on the backend of the duplicated post despite the fact that the post is associated with the correct value for the post object and page link custom fields in the database.
    Please note that this is not a bug and it does not affect the functionality. Read more about this scenario on our dedicated FAQ page.
  • Is it possible to hide ACFML field annotations?
    Yes. To each translated field, ACFML adds information about the value in the original language. If you want to remove that information you can add the following line to your site’s wp-config.php file:

This feature is supported in ACFML since the 1.1 version.

Known Issues

WPML works fine with this plugin, but sometimes there could be minor issues we're working on. This is expected as both plugins provide frequent updates.

Current issues:

Getting Help

If you need help using WPML with Advanced Custom Fields, please head over to our technical forum.