How To Make A Multilingual WordPress Site: Best Translation Plugins

WordPress by default is not multilingual. This means that you need to add multilingual functionality through a translation plugin or creating a WordPress Multisite installation. In this post I show the best options to create a WordPress website in two or more languages, using automatic machine translations or human translations.

(Originally written on June 21, 2014. Updated on August 1, 2014)

Featured-Image-Article-Multilingual-Wordpress-Site

 


INDEX

INTRODUCTION

OPTION 1. Installing a WordPress PLUGIN in a standalone WordPress environment

1.1. AUTOMATIC Machine Translations: Google Language Translator
1.2. SEMI-AUTOMATIC Translations

1.2.1. Transposh
1.2.2. GTranslate

1.3. HUMAN Translations

1.3.1. qTranslate
1.3.2. Polylang
1.3.3. WPML

OPTION 2. Using WordPress MULTISITE: One website per language

2.1. WordPress Multisite (no need to use network plugins)
2.2. WordPress Multisite + Multilingual Network Plugin

2.2.1. Multisite Language Switcher
2.2.2. Zanto
2.2.3. Multilingual Press
2.2.4. Multilingual Press Pro

CONCLUSIONS


INTRODUCTION

There may be different reasons why you need to translate your WordPress website into other languages:

  • You are designing a website in a country that uses multiple languages (in Canada, English and French; in Switzerland, French, German and Italian; etc.)
  • You want to make a Spanish version to sell your products or services in other parts of the world or a Russian version for russian customers.
  • Or just want to have your web page in several languages to reach a wider audience.

Choosing the most suitable translation plugin for your needs will take some time. If you have a look at the WordPress Plugin Directory for a list of multilingual Plugins you’ll find many options.

WordPress does not offer a simple solution for building multilingual websites. There are several ways to make a multilingual site. They can be divided into 2 groups:

Option 1: Using a translation plugin in a single WordPress environment

Option 2: Using WordPress Multisite environment and a multilingual network plugin

In this article, I’d like to guide you through the different options available to have a multilanguage WordPress site. Which is the best option? It depends on many factors:

  • Translation – Do you want to use machine translation or human translation?
  • Cost – What’s your budget for the multilingual project?
  • Support – Do you want to have technical support?
  • Speed – How can you provide a good user experience without decreasing the speed of the application?
  • Size – How large is your website?
  • Linking – Does each post or page always have a translation and do they need to be linked to each other?

OPTION 1. Installing a WordPress PLUGIN in a standalone WordPress environment

First of all, I recommend you install WordPress in your native language, for a step-by-step guide read: How to Set up WordPress in My Language (and How to Change it).

Once you have installed WordPress in your language, you can install a WordPress translation plugin for automatic or human translations. Let’s review the most popular plugins.

1.1. AUTOMATIC Machine Translations: Google Language Translator

Google Language Translator - WordPress Plugin

Google Language Translator - Ratings and downloads

Google Language Translator is a plugin that can be used only for automatic machine translations. This free plugin allows you to insert the Google Language Translator tool onto your website using shortcode.

Advantages

  • It’s the cheapest option. You don’t need to perform the costly task of translating your website or hire a translator.

Disadvantages

  • Translations often don’t make sense. Search engines could consider them as spam. What to do in these cases is prevent these translations from being indexed using the robots.txt file and allowing users to request the translation via a widget.

Conclusion: the best option to use automatic machine translations.

 

Download Plugin

 

1.2. SEMI-AUTOMATIC Machine Translations

1.2.1. Transposh

Transposh WordPress Translation Plugin

Transposh WordPress Translation - Ratings and downloadsTransposh is a free plugin that allows automatic translations, but with the advantage that it allows you to combine automatic translation with human translation. 82 languages are automatically translated and can be corrected with ease.

Advantages

  • It’s free and allows you to combine machine translation with manual translations.

Disadvantages

  • Automatic machine translations performed are not very accurate so it’s recommended to make manual corrections.

Conclusion: a great option that it allows you to combine machine translation with manual translation.

 

Download Transposh

 

1.2.2. GTranslate

 

GTranslate WordPress Plugin

GTranslate is a plugin that uses Google Translate machine translation service. Free version only allows you automatic machine translation (81 languages). With premium version you will be able to edit the translations manually and order professional translations.

Advantages

  • Your site will be translated instantly upon installation (free version)
  • You will have a different URL for each language. For example Spanish version of your site will have http://domain.com/es/ (Pro version) or http://es.domain.com (Enterprise version)
  • You will be able to edit the translations manually and order professional translations directly from your blog or website (Pro and Enterprise version)

Disadvantages

  • Automatic translations are not very accurate so it’s recommended to make manual corrections with Pro ($105) or Enterprise version ($19,5/month)

Conclusion: the best option that it allows you to combine machine translation with manual translation.

 

Download GTranslate

 

1.3. HUMAN Translations

1.3.1. qTranslate

qTranslate WordPress Plugin

qTranslate WordPress Plugin - Ratings and DownloadsWith nearly 1,2 million downloads, qTranslate is by far the most popular free plugin for multilingual WordPress sites. This plugin store all languages alternatives for each post in the same post.

Advantages

  • It’s free. You can switch from one language to another by simple tabs on the edit panel in WordPress.
  • Does not create additional tables in the database.

Disadvantages

  • Limited support (qTranslate has been developed and is maintained by only one developer). When a new version of WordPress appears, qTranslate may take time to get a compatible update.

For websites without much content and few languages, it can be a good solution, but you should be aware of its disadvantages before choosing this option. I have to admit that I have not had very good experiences with this plugin. Its users give it a score of 3.7 out of 5, a low score.

Conclusion: the most popular free multilingual plugin, but not the best (in my opinion, of course).

 

Download qTranslate

 

1.3.2. Polylang

Polylang WordPress Translation Plugin

Polylang WordPress Plugin - Ratings and DownloadsPolylang is a free plugin that is easy to use with great support. The users give to this plugin a high score (4,8 out of 5), which gives an idea of the quality of this plugin. I think it’s the best free option.

Advantages

  • It’s free, easy to use, and very light-weight.
  • It offers great support.
  • You can translate posts, pages, widgets, categories, tags, media, menus, custom post types, custom taxonomies, sticky posts and all default WordPress widgets are supported.

Disadvantages

  • The plugin has been developed by one person. If the developer doesn’t find the time to keep the plugin up-to-date, you could find your multilingual web site incompatible with WordPress.
  • Documentation can be improved.
  • Some templates don’t work properly with this plugin.

Conclusion: the best free multilingual plugin in a standalone WordPress environment

 

Download Polylang

 

1.3.3. WPML (premium plugin)

WPML WordPress Multilingual Plugin

Sometimes free WordPress plugins just don’t offer what you are looking: frequent updates, technical support, the functionality or the look.

WPML is a premium plugin but not very expensive (between $29 and $79 ). In my opinion it is the best option to translate a web page in WordPress. You won’t have to worry anymore about support and updates.

WPML has the support of a company and a team of professional developers, which overcomes the disadvantages of previous free plugins (qTranslate and Polylang). So far it’s the most serious option to work with multilingual WordPress websites. It’s the plugin I use on my projects.

Advantages

  • No need to worry more about technical support or updates. The documentation for the proper use of this plugin is very complete: WPML manual – A guide for site owners and translators (PDF 13 Mb).
  • It’s very easy to use. With WPML you can translate every element of your website and easily configure domains, subdomains and subdirectories into multiple languages.
  • You can use it with to translate all SEO options.WPML lets you do SEO for each language separately with WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin or other SEO plugins (Article: Using WordPress SEO by Yoast with WPML).
  • It supports main WordPress themes: StudioPress (Genesis Framework), most Themeforest themes, Elegant Themes, etc. The plugin lets you build and run multilingual e-commerce sites with WooCommerce (LIST of Multilingual Ready Themes).
  • Includes a translation management plugin that allows XLIFF interface. You can turn ordinary WordPress users into Translators. Also you can hire world-class translators from within the WordPress admin dashboard, get affordable rates (about $0,09 / word) and enjoy a simple translation workflow.
  • The license is offered for unlimited sites.
  • You can request refunds until 30 days of your purchase date. They will refund 100% of your payment – no questions asked (Refunds Policy). However, you will no longer have access to updates or technical support.

Disadvantages

  • It is a commercial plugin that costs $29 on the Multilingual Blog version (annual renewal costs $15) and $79 on Multilingual CMS version (annual renewal costs $39). If you want to purchase a perpetual license must pay $195, but I can assure you it’s worth
  • Create additional tables in the database can sometimes slow the admin panel but not your website.

Conclusion: the best plugin to build a multilingual site in a standalone WordPress environment.

 

Buy and Download WPML     Free WPML Manual (PDF 13 Mb)

 

 

OPTION 2. WordPress MULTISITE: One website per language

2.1. WordPress Multisite (no need to use network plugins)

Wordpress Multisite Languages

Since WordPress 3.0 it is possible to build a WordPress Multisite installation. It is a collection of sites that share the same WordPress installation. They can share themes and plugins. The individual sites are virtual sites in the sense that they do not have their own directories on your server, although they do have separate directories for media uploads, and they do have separate tables in the database.

This will allow you to create one website per language. The main advantage is that it’s native, using WordPress core functionality, so it’s safe and free to use. This way you can create each website in a different language within your network.

WordPress Multisite Advantages

  • The main advantage over the WPML plugin is that WordPress will be native in every language. This means you can have a primary address (mydomain.com), a subdomain or subdirectory for the Spanish version (es.mydomain.com or mydomain.com/es), one for the French version (fr.mydomain.com or mydomain.com/fr), etc.
  • If you need to set up multiple sites across multiple domains (mydomain.com, mydomain.es, mydomain.fr, etc), you can use the WordPress MU Domain Mapping plugin as well – as long as the domains are all hosted on the same server.
  • It’s an excellent option for large and complex sites, offering minor compatibility issues without additional costs.

WordPress Multisite Disadvantages

  • It is more difficult to configure and manage:
    • First, you have to create a network of sites by using the multisite feature.
    • Once installed, every time you make an adjustment (themes, plugins, menus, widgets, etc) you must port it to all the websites. If there are just two languages that’s not a big deal, but with three or more it can be a big problem.
    • Also, keep in mind that some plugins an themes do not work properly on Multisite installations.
  • WordPress Multisite was not originally intended for creating multilingual website.
  • Managing translation of content is more laborious because it’s easy to lose track of the contents which have been translated or no.

In this option, you only need to insert a language switcher into the header to being redirected to the homepage when switching from one language to another. Many multilingual websites are very different in each language so it’s not always necessary link contents (posts, pages, categories, tags, etc.).

Conclusion: The best option when each post or page don’t need to be linked to each other

 

WordPress Multisite

 

Another option if you don’t need link contents and you don’t want to use WordPress Multisite: two different separate WordPress installations (English an Russian, for example), with two different domains (.COM and .RU, for example) and two different hostings and IP addresses. This is a good option for local SEO but you’ll have to manage two or more separate WordPress sites. In this case you can use services like InfiniteWP or ManageWP to manage multiple different sites.

2.2. WordPress Multisite + Multilingual Network Plugin

New plugins have been developed to avoid disadvantages of option 2.1.: Multisite Language Switcher, Zanto and Multilingual Press. These plugins allows you to synchronize files in each language. For example, you may want to link the translated content in different languages, to avoid being redirected to the homepage when switching from one language to another. Let’s review these plugins.

2.2.1. Multisite Language Switcher

Multisite Language Switcher

Multisite Language SwitcherMultisite Language Switcher - Rating is a free an easy to use plugin (http://msls.co) that will help you to manage multilingual content in a multisite installation. This plugin enables you to manage translations of posts, pages, custom post types, categories, tags and custom taxonomies. You can use a widget to link to all sites.

With 82.000 downloads, the users give to this plugin a high score (4,8 out of 5). It’s an excellent free option for WordPress Multisite.

Advantages

  • It’s free and very easy to set up. There are no “pro” features which you have to pay for.
  • It offers great support: 16 of 17 support threads in the last two months have been resolved (June 2014)
  • You can translate and link posts, pages, custom post types, categories, tags and custom taxonomies.
  • If you disable the plugin, all sites will still work as separate sites.
  • Extensions: Multisite Language Switcher Comments (All comments posted on translation-joined pages are showed on all translation-joined posts)

Disadvantages

  • I have not found any disadvantage.

Conclusion: a great free multilingual plugin for WordPress Multisite

 

Download Multisite Language Switcher

 

2.2.2. Zanto

Zanto Plugin WordPress

Zanto ratingsZanto allows you to convert webpages in a multisite into translations of each other. It provides a language switcher to switch between the translations of pages, posts, custom types, categories and taxonomies. Also keeps track of what has been translated and provides an easy interface.

It’s a recent plugin (1.626 downloads). After testing I think it’s the best free option for WordPress Multisite.

Advantages

  • It’s free and very easy to set up.
  • You can translate everything: posts, pages, custom post types, categories, tags, taxonomies, etc.
  • You have a customizable language switcher.
  • Different languages for both: front and backend. Over 60 languages and flags.
  • Integrated support for domain mapping plugin.
  • Each user will have his admin language preferences stored.
  • If you disable the plugin, all sites will still work as separate sites.
  • Plugin documentation and tutorials here: http://zanto.org.

Disadvantages

  • I have not found any disadvantage.

Conclusion: the best free plugin for WordPress Multisite (even better than Multilingual Press free version)

 

Download Zanto

 

2.2.3. Multilingual Press

Multilingual Press Plugin Review

Multilingual Press - RatingMultilingual Press allows you connect multiple sites as language alternatives in a multisite and use a customizable widget to link to all sites.

You can set a main language for each site, create relationships, and start translating. You get a new field to create a linked post on all the connected sites automatically. They are accessible via the post/page editor – you can switch back and forth to translate them.

With 63.000 downloads (june 2014), the users give to this plugin a high score (4,6 out of 5)

Advantages

  • It’s a free version and very easy to use
  • It offers great support: 6 of 6 support threads in the last two months have been resolved (june 2014).
  • Plugin has been developed by a small team that is part of Marketpress.
  • You can set up unlimited site relationships in the site manager.
  • If you disable the plugin, all sites will still work as separate sites.
  • Language Manager with 174 editable languages.
  • It will allow you to view the translations for each post (or page) underneath the post editor.

Disadvantages

  • Free version doesn’t support custom post types and many other great features

Conclusion: an excellent free multilingual plugin for WordPress Multisite, but you’ll have to go for the Pro version if you want all features.

 

Download Multilingual Press

 

2.2.4. Multilingual Press Pro

Multilingual Press Pro

Pro-version offers many features to save your time and to improve your work flow and user experience. This plugin has the support of a German company (Inpsyde GmbH) and a team of professional developers.

Advantages

  • You can edit all translations for a post from the original post editor without the need to switch sites.
  • You can duplicate sites. This is a great option because you can use one site as template for new sites. You can copy everything: Posts, pages,  settings for plugins, themes, navigation menus, categories, tags, custom taxonomies and attachments.
  • Synchronized trash: move all connected posts or pages to trash with one click.
  • Change relationships between translations or connect existing posts.
  • Support for custom post types.
  • Automatically redirect to the user’s preferred language version of a post.
  • Every user can choose a preferred language for the user interface without affecting the output of the front-end.

Disadvantages

  • It is a commercial plugin that costs $75 (1 domain), $95 (5 domains) and $190 (10 domains). Annual renewal costs $45, $55 and $110, respectively. I think it’s a bit expensive. However, functionality is without time limit. Renewal is only needed if you want an update or support.

Conclusion: the best multilingual plugin for WordPress Multisite.

 

Buy and Download Multilingual Press Pro

CONCLUSIONS

As you can see, there is no a better or worse solution to have your blog or WordPress site in two or more languages. It depends on many factors: functionality, price, machine or human translations, ease to manage, technical support, SEO, etc.

  • If you don’t want to spend your money with plugins, I recommend you to use Polylang or Zanto / Multisite Language Switcher (WordPress Multisite). If money it’s not a problem, use WPML (single WordPress) or Multilingual Press Pro (WordPress Multisite).
  • If you’re a WordPress beginner user you can use option 1: WPML or Polylang.
  • If you have a small site, use WPML. If you have a large site, use Multisite (Multilingual Press Pro, Zanto or Multisite Language Switcher).
  • If you don’t need to link posts and pages, then go Multisite (no need to use plugins). Otherwise you can use WPML or Multisite + Network plugin.
  • If Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is important for you, don’t use automated translation, go for a plugin like WPML or go Multisite.

In summary, if you want to create a professional, easy to manage, multilingual WordPress website, I recommend you use a professional payment solution with good support such as WPML (single WordPress) or Multilingual Press Pro (WordPress Multisite). In other cases it may be enough to use a free plugin such as Polylang (single WordPress), Zanto (WP Multisite) or Multisite Language Switcher (WP Multisite).

I hope this article will help you to choose the best option for you.

 

Which is the best option for you? Why? Thanks for sharing!

 

Comments

  1. says

    Hi, I’m currently the lead developer for Multilingual Press, a plugin to manage multilingual websites on a multisite. So I am biased. :)

    It is more difficult to configure and manage.

    Ease of use is (after the improved performance) the most mentioned benefit our customers report. Language specific themes, plugins and settings are much easier to set up in a multisite, and we are improving our user interface with every version.

    WordPress Multisite was not originally intended for creating multilingual website.

    Well … yes and no. There is a lang_id in the site table, but it isn’t used by the core so far. Looks like it was planned but never completed.

    Managing translation of content is more laborious because it´s easy to lose track of the contents which have been translated or no.

    In our pro version, you can write all translations for a post on the same page, and there is a dashboard widget for missing translations of all posts.

    Another benefit of the multisite solutions: you can try different plugins easily, because all content is still accessible when you turn off the multilingual plugin.

    • says

      Hi Thomas, thanks a lot for taking the time to stop by. Very interesting your comment. I have learned some new things.

      I’m sure you know much more than me about multisite solutions. In this post I tell about my experience. I´ve used multisite solution twice with multilingual websites (one year ago), and I have to say that makes everything harder to manage due to the added complexity of having to setup the same themes and plugins for each site.

      Anyway, I haven´t tested the Multilingual Press pro version (only the free version), so I have not much to say, but I’m sure you´re continuously improving the plugin and I’m sure it´s a great option too.

      ”all content is still accessible when you turn off the multilingual plugin”

      . Yes, that´s true, another advantage of multisite.

      Thanks for your comment
      Irena

      • says

        In our pro version, we have included a feature to copy one site when you create a new one. This includes all posts (any post type), taxonomies, attachments – and settings: active plugins, theme options and so on.

  2. says

    Hi,
    I have helped clients build multi-language sites, by simply creating 2 wordpress sites and link the navigation back and forth. No need for multi-site – can even customize per culture.. or have an independent domain so the URL can be given to those of that language directly – doesn’t have to be a sub-site.

    dolcevitaconsulting.com

    Thanks for the plugin ideas!
    Evelyn

    • says

      Hi Evely, thanks for your comment.

      Yes, creating two wordpress sites is another solution. I haven´t tried it. How do you link the navigation from one language to another?

      Irena

      • says

        Hi,
        If you go to the site dolcevitaconsulting.com – you will see that we put flags in the header. You can click back and forth from site to site that way. I just linked each URL to a flag icon.

        Evelyn

  3. says

    Thanks for this great review. I am the developer of Zanto WP Translation plugin and there is much more to come from Zanto. I also develop ad-dons for other WordPress multilingual plugins.
    This is a blog I should subscribe to keep up to date with WordPress translation.

  4. Julliana says

    Helpful article with pros and cons for tools, good job! I thought it might be also useful to recommend a good online resource with fresh news about the localization industry for anyone who likes and wants to be informed. http://l10nhub.com/ Thanks!

Speak Your Mind

*