How to Create a Multilingual WordPress Website: Step by Step

English isn’t the only language out there. Even though it’s the most common language used on the Internet by 25.4 percent of users, there are other popular languages accounting for billions of people.

language states

Source: Statista

Online business is international in nature, so failing to translate your website into other languages could be a mistake that limits your business’s reach in a big way. In some areas of the world such as Europe, a multilingual website, or a website with content translated in different languages, is a must for online businesses (that’s because the EU has 24 official languages and three with a higher status of “procedural.”)

In addition to broadening the reach of your online business, a multilingual WordPress website also has other great advantages:

  • It makes your company more customer-centric. Being customer-centric means that a business puts their customers at the center of everything they do; this, of course, includes personalization and localization of content.
  • It can help to outperform the competition. Take a look at your main competitors’ websites. Are they multilingual? If not, you can get the competitive advantage by translating yours.
  • It can help with boosting your business by allowing to tap into international markets (for example, in China, Google’s share of the search engine market is less than 3 percent while the local engine Baidu has 68.44 percent).

So, to maximize the effectiveness of your WordPress website, making it multilingual is something you must do to make it accessible to as many people as possible. In this guide, we’re going to help you make it possible.

How to Create Multilingual WordPress Website

1. Using WPML Plugin

 

Fortunately, WordPress is a platform that makes the creation of multilingual website much easier than one would assume. For example, WPML plugin is a full-packaged translation system that has 40 pre-installed languages and is very easy to install and configure.

Multilingual WordPress plugin

Here’s how to create a multilingual website this awesome plugin.

Step #1: Install the plugin

Go to the official website of the plugin, download it and follow installation instructions.

Step #2: Adjust the settings

After the activation of the plugin, a WPML label will appear in your site’s menu. Clicking on that label will take you to settings. There, you should select the default language for the site, choose other required languages or remove those you don’t need.

Setup WPML backend of wordpress

Source: WPML website

Next, head over to the next section and choose the language in which the visitors see your content (the middle section in the image above).

The bottom section in the image is very important because it determines language switcher options. For example, you can add the switcher to the WordPress menu or as a sidebar widget. The order of languages is another critical consideration, so choose the default language and others that appear after it.

Step #3: Translate

When you’re done with adjusting the setting of the plugin, you can start translating your website and content. Go to the dashboard and view your existing posts. You’ll notice that they have language columns, as seen on the below image.

WordPress Page section

Source: WPML website

Click on + symbol under a language to begin translation of a post into that target language.

To translate your website’s menu, you need to find language links under the menu name, click on it to generate a new menu for that language, and start working. The most common method used by WordPress website owners is to allow the plugin to translate the website automatically and then correcting the content on their own or using a translator.

2. Using the Polylang Plugin

Many WordPress users choose this free alternative plugin because it allows to set up a multilingual website in a matter of minutes. According to estimations by BuildWith, 11.662 websites all around the world currently use this plugin.

Here’s how to join them.

Step #1: Install and Activate

Go to the official page of the plugin on WordPress.org and install it using the instructions. Then, activate it from the Plugins menu.

Step #2: Define Languages You Need

Open the plugin and enter the languages settings page where you can choose the languages you would like your website to be displayed in.

 

Add new Language section in WordPressAdmin Panel. Image source: screenshot from the plugin’s page at wordpress.org

Step #3: Add Language Switcher

Like with WPML, you need to add the switcher widget to your site to allow users to change its language. This element is customizable and is provided as a widget or in the navigation menu.

Step #4: Translate

Be aware that the plugin doesn’t have an automatic translation feature so you’ll have to do it manually. Although this can be seen as a disadvantage, keep in mind that machine translation, no matter how advanced, cannot replace human translation. Besides, this shouldn’t be a problem even you don’t have a translator available because you can always find a good freelance translation expert within reasonable deadlines.

3. Using Google Language Translator

This is a tool that many small and medium-sized businesses use to save money because it delivers a quick translation of an entire website into a number of languages. The only problem is that the translation is automatic, so it won’t be high-quality (the plugin uses use Google Translate database for translation), but still, it’s an affordable option for those looking to make their WordPress website accessible to international audiences.

Here’s how to install it.

Step #1: Download and Unzip

Go to the plugin’s official page on WordPress.org and download a zip folder named google-language-translator.zip. Next, unzip it and place in the plugins directory.

Step #2: Activate

Fin the plugin’s window in the admin panel and activate it.

Step #3: Enable and Adjust the Settings

Now, enable Google Language Translator by going to Settings. There, you can also adjust other important settings such as layout and original language (Important: make sure that your browser has Adobe Flash, it’s required to show the language box).

The plugin allows to translate a site into many languages (in fact, it has almost all languages you can find), but you can also limit the number of available choices for visitors.

Google Language Translator backend in WordPress

Image source: screenshot from the plugin’s page at wordpress.org

Step #4: Implement the Plugin via Shortcode

Select a page where you would like to use the plugin, copy the shortcode and paste it into that directory. Now, the visitors will be able to select their native language and translate your site automatically.

Also remember that Google creates a translated version of your website on the go, which means that you won’t have a static version and, therefore, no SEO benefits.

Conclusion

Selecting the best plugin is the choice that depends on the needs of your business, so it’s a critical consideration that you should treat appropriately. However, regardless of the selection you make, one thing is clear: no matter how good you think the automatic translation is, a human touch is still needed to make it perfect and avoid making a bad impression with poorly translated content.

Hopefully, this article was useful to you to become aware of how one creates a multilingual WordPress website. Begin by defining languages that your target audience speaks and then proceed with the translation. This way, you’ll ensure that a maximum number of your visitors will understand your content and connect with you.

Kristin Savage nourishes, sparks and empowers using the magic of a word. She is practicing regularly while reviewing new translation services at Pick Writers and constantly contributing to other educational platforms. Along with pursuing her degree in Creative Writing, Kristin was gaining experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in marketing strategy for publishers and authors. You can find her on Facebook 

Michael Pignataro
co-CEO - Operations at 'corePHP'
Michael spearheads ‘corePHP’s software solutions and service offerings. Focus on sales and marketing for the organization. A huge believer in family and has an amazing wife and 4 beautiful children. Loves camping and hiking.

Michael's philosophy is simple: "If you can dream it, we can do it."
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Michael Pignataro

About Michael Pignataro

Michael spearheads ‘corePHP’s software solutions and service offerings. Focus on sales and marketing for the organization. A huge believer in family and has an amazing wife and 4 beautiful children. Loves camping and hiking. Michael's philosophy is simple: "If you can dream it, we can do it."