The Internet is everywhere and in all languages. One might consider that having a website available in multiple languages is an advantage since we can reach to more users and thus gain more visitors and a bigger buisness volume. A quick Google search will show us many options to create and manage our multilanguage WordPress.
However, before digging into this task, there is a rather simple question we need to answer:
Do I really need a multilanguage WordPress?
The answer is relatively simple. Considering that one of the first things we need to think about when developing a website, a blog or an online store is establishing our target public, we are obligated to speak the language of our target public. If we focus on Spain and Latin America, our language will be Spanish. What if our market is British or North American? Then our language will be English. If we attend to both markets, we will need a multilanguage WordPress to communicate in both languages.
Even though we can have English as the "international language", we will do a better job reaching our public in their native tongue. Speaking their native language means forgetting about automatic translations or translations done by people with little knowledge of the language in question. Those will make us waste time, money and most likely a lot of potential users.
For this reason, maintaining a multilanguage website conveys a great deal of work. Apart from generating quality content for every language, there's the necesity of keeping them correctly synchronized. This also includes menus, forms. warnings and any other element of communication with our visitors.
As such, the basic rule is to incorporate languages used or demanded by our public, avoiding when possible adding language simply to have opportunities to catch other visitors out there. It's likely that the effort proves worthless.
Alright, I need a multilanguage WordPress. How do I implement it?
Although WordPress doesn't support multilanguage capabilities natively, we have three possible solutions:
The first option is to make a multisite installation, where each site will correspond to a language of our web. However, managing translations will be much more difficult, since we will run independent websites and some themes and plugins that support this type of installation.
The second option is the usual one: a translation plugin. I personally use and recommend WPML. Even if it is a paid plugin, it allows to effectively manage all elements of the translation. If our budget is tight, Polylang might be the best option. It offers many possibilites and it is a free plugin, however if we require support we will have to acquire the paid version.
The third option is to obtain a theme with multilanguage support such as for example AitThemes Club. In that case we won't need anything else to translate our website, but we will be limited to the available themes in the developer's website.
There isn't a better or worse solution than any other. Only after evaluating our necessities and running any test deemed appropriate, we will have the judgement tools to pick a certain option. It is most important to limit ourselves to the languages spoken by our audience and offering a quality translation, only then the time and money invested in maintaining a multilanguage WordPress will be justified.
Firstly, we will make it clear that WPML does not translate our content. WPML is a set of tools to simplify the task of making and managing our translations. Being a paid plugin, we must purchase and download it from its developer's website (OnTheGoSystems).
WPML consists of:
WPML Multilingual CMS
This is the main element and the base to turn our WordPress to a multilanguage environment. It provides the tools to translate entries, pages, categories, comments, etc. It allows to define the access to the different languages we have implemented and manage the status of the translations.
The remaining components are optional and will be incorporated to our website whenever it is necessary.
WPML String Translation
This component allows to locate and translate all existing texts in our Worpress installment. With it we will not need external tools such as Poedit.
WPML Translation Management
It allows to manage the work of the translators, what is left to translate, assign contents to translators and manage any pending tasks. It incorporates an editor which eases the job of showing original content next to translated content. It can also manage link syncing, making them lead to the translated content.
WPML Sticky Links
Its function is to maintain internal links in order that, even if we modify slugs, categories or tags, our users can always see the permanent links according to their language.
WPML CMS Nav
We will get all navigation elements translated (menus, breadcrumbs and sidebars), independent of the active theme.
Adds the language information to the media files, this way the same image will keep its title, description and other attributes adapted to the current language, without having to duplicate the original file.
WPML All Import
This plugin works in coordination with WP All Import and it allows us to import multilanguage content from other sources.
WPML includes add-ons for different plugns, for instance:
- WooCommerce Multilingual turns our store into a multilanguage store.
- Gravity Forms Multilingual allows to translate forms created with said plugin.
- Advanced Custom Fields Multilingual to translate custom fields created with ACF
- MailChimp for WordPress Multilingual to translate the content created with MailChimp for WordPress
The great majority of websites developed with WordPress use custom entries. OnTheGoSystems have developed Toolset Types: one of the best tools to manage this task. Being the developers of WPML, both products are perfectly integrated. The WPML license includes a basic license to Types, which is enough to take advantage of the potential of the latter in most scenarios.
This functionality included in WPML deserves its own explanation due to the great number of options it offers. However, the initial assistant tool included with it will simplify the initial setup and let us begin translating our WordPress without delay nor complications.