WordPress does not offer the multilingual functionality, so if your blog is started in English, you cannot expect the system itself to display the contents in Spanish or French for visitors from these countries. However, you can rely on a plugin to make a multilingual WordPress site to reach the international audience.
As different plugins are developed with different goals and functions, you have to choose a translation method from the following options before you can find the plugin right for your needs.
- Machine translations – Using Google Translate or some plugins working similarly as this tool, you can provide automated translations to your visitors. Your posts, pages and other contents can be switched to dozens of languages without any manual effort. The issue is that machine translations are neither reliable nor professional. People do not like this kind of translations.
- Human translations – Some plugins allow you to translate posts, tags, categories, menus and many other things into multiple languages manually. You add the translations by yourself, and the visitors can switch the language depending on their needs. This approach is more professional, ensuring the quality of your site, but it is time-consuming and requires many additional works.
Personally, we would recommend the latter method especially when you are running a store. If you want to create a multilingual site, then make it good unless you do not have the time or resources.
This post will introduce how to add manual translations to a WordPress site by using Polylang, one of the best free multilingual plugins. To prevent compatibility issue and other unexpected problems, before installing the WordPress plugin, you have to make sure:
- You have backed up the database.
- You are using a multilingual theme which supports the display of different languages.
Make a Multilingual WordPress Site with Polylang
Polylang is a great plugin that allows you to add translations to pages, posts, media, menus, widgets, tags, etc. Custom post types, RSS feeds and taxonomies are also supported. This plugin downloads and updates the language pack automatically when you add a new language.
After installing and activating the plugin, follow the steps below to get started.
In the WordPress dashboard, navigate to Settings > Languages to access the plugin settings. Under the Languages tab, you can add the languages which you would like to use on your site.
You have to add the default language as well as other languages one by one, confirm their full name, locale and language code, and decide the text direction. You can also configure the order of the languages in the language switcher.
After clicking on the “Add a new language” button, you can see the new language is listed in the table on the right side of the page.
When you have added all the languages you want, open the Strings translation tab. Here you need to add the translations to the strings like site name, site description, etc, and choose the date and time format for each language. After these are done, save the changes.
Now move on to the Settings tab. Under this tab, you can make the following changes.
- Choose the default language.
- Set up URL modifications. Beginners should choose the first option – not modifying the URLs, because once the plugin in uninstalled, those modified addresses could become broken.
- Allow detecting the browser language. If this is set up, the plugin will detect the visitors’ browser languages and then serve them with the exact language they prefer. Also, the visitors still have the freedom to switch the language.
Translate tags and categories
As there is no language set for categories and tags yet, you can start by translating them. To add translations to categories, firstly you need to navigate to Posts > Categories. For existing categories, you can click on the pencil icon to edit the translations. And for adding a new category, create it in the default language and then add translations by clicking on the plus icon.
For tags, the steps are exactly the same as adding and managing categories. Just spend some time to offer good translations.
Add a multilingual post/page
Using Polylang, it is quite easy to create a post or page with multiple languages. No matter you are adding a new post or editing an old one, you can see that Polylang has added a meta box for languages.
You need to select the default language in the drop-down, add the content for the language, and then translate it into other languages you need. You can fill the title translations in the text boxes after each flag, and add the content translations by clicking on the plus icon. The management is simple.
When you have finished and confirmed there is no grammar or spell error, publish the post. Now the post is viewable on the frontend of your site in the default language. If you want to give visitors the ability to view different translations, you will need to add a language switcher to your site.
Display the language switcher
You can get this done by adding a widget to the sidebar or somewhere else on your WordPress site. When you go through Appearance > Widgets, you will find that there is an available widget named “Language Switcher”. All you need to do is to add the widget to a widgetized area on your site.
The configurations of the widget are simple. Just give it a title, and check the options you want. The widget allows you to display the alternative languages as a list or drop-down, and you can choose whether to show the flags and language names. Also, if the translation for a language is not complete, you can hide this language temporarily until it is available.
After saving the changes, check your website to see the language switcher.
Using a plugin to make a multilingual site is not hard but very time-consuming. To make sure you are not suffering from the plugin in the future, we have the following three suggestions.
- Be careful when selecting a plugin. Once you start to use a plugin, it’s probable that you will stick to it because once it is uninstalled, you may lose all your translations and have to start over again. Switching to another plugin is a nightmare. Therefore, evaluate the options carefully before making a decision.
- Test the plugin if it is possible. If you have a test site, you can install the plugin you choose on the site to make sure the functionalities are working properly and they are really what you want.
- Be sure to back up your database. Some plugins make significant changes to the database, so you should remember to make a backup.
Alternatives to Polylang
Polylang is just one of the good multilingual plugins. If you don’t like it, you can take the following options into consideration.
It is an advanced solution for multilingual site. Just like Polylang, this plugin supports posts, pages, custom post types, menus, etc, and allows you to manage all translations in a single post. Another highlight is that WPML is compatible with all WordPress plugins and themes. However, it’s not free, but charging $29 per year.
It is a free plugin that works well in transforming your site into a bilingual or multilingual blog. You can get access to an intuitive interface in which there is a list of titles, which helps you edit and modify posts and translations easily. This plugin only runs on standalone WordPress installs.
Bogo is also a single-install solution. It extends the WordPress localization capability to offer you an easy way for building a multilingual site. Unlike many other plugins, Bogo brings neither additional database tables nor hidden HTML comments.