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How to Easily Create a WordPress Multilingual Site

Last Updated on March 2, 2021 by Stacey Corrin

Looking for an easy way to translate your WordPress site content into different languages? Transforming your website into a WordPress multilingual site makes it easy for you to serve multilingual and non-English audiences and improve user experience.

In this article, we’ll show you how to easily create a WordPress multilingual site with 3 different solutions.

But first, what exactly is a multilingual website?

What Is a WordPress Multilingual Website?

 A WordPress multilingual website shows the same web content in multiple languages.

Some sites redirect website visitors to a version of their site with language based on their region. And other websites allow users to choose their preferred language from a drop-down menu.

There are several ways to create a multilingual website, including:

  1. Manually translating your website content using human translators.
  2. Using auto-translate services to create machine translations of your existing content.
  3. Installing a WordPress plugin to translate your website into multiple languages.

The first approach is an excellent way to maintain quality and attention to detail. Yet manually translating content is a slow and costly process.

Auto translation services are a cheaper alternative but Google Translate, one of the most popular options, no longer supports new accounts for website translation.

Using a WordPress plugin to translate your website is a cost-effective solution for WordPress websites. They’re easy to use, inexpensive, and search engine friendly.

That said, how do you choose the right WordPress multilingual plugin for your needs?

Choosing a WordPress Multilingual Plugin

When choosing a WordPress multilingual plugin, it’s important to pick a solution that allows you to manage translations without making it difficult for your website visitors.

In the following tutorial, we’ll show you the 3 best WordPress multilingual plugins with easy instructions on setting them up.

If you already know which plugin you’d like, click any link below to see the instructions:

  1. TranslatePress
  2. WPML
  3. Polylang

Each of the above WordPress multilingual plugins has all the necessary features needed to create a fully-functional multilingual WordPress website, including:

  • Translating posts, pages, post types, and products.
  • Translations for tags, categories, plugins, and themes.
  • Setting up SEO-friendly links and URLs for each language.

With that in mind, here’s how to create a WordPress multilingual site with each plugin.

1. How to Create a Multilingual WordPress Site with TranslatePress

TranslatePress best WordPress multilingual plugin.

TranslatePress is one of the best WordPress translation plugins available. And it works differently from the other plugins in this tutorial.

Typically a multilingual plugin translates content by making multiple versions of the same post or page. Yet, with TranslatePress, you can create translations all at the same time.

With its live editor, you can translate all the visual elements of your website. And more importantly, it allows you to combine both machine and human translations.

As a result, you can use AI-powered tools like Google Translate for machine translations and then manually improve the translations they miss.

So let’s look at how to use TranslatePress to create a multilingual WordPress site.

Step 1: Install and Activate TranslatePress

First, click here to get started with TranslatePress and download the plugin to your computer. Then you need to install and activate the plugin on your WordPress website. For help with this, see this step-by-step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

If you’d like to translate your website into more than one language, you’ll need the multiple languages add-on. To find this, log in to your TranslatePress account and click the Download Addons button under the Files heading.

Download translatepress addons

Once you download the addon, you can install and activate it like any other WordPress plugin.

After activating the plugin, navigate to Settings » TranslatePress from your WordPress dashboard to configure the plugin in the settings.

Add your TranslatePress license key

On this page, click the License tab and enter your TranslatePress license key. You can find this information in your TranslatePress account area.

Next, click the General tab to set up your general language settings.

TranslatePress General settings

On this screen, the first option is to choose your default website language and which language you wish to translate pages into.

You then need to decide if you wish to show language names in their native language. By default, this option is set to “No,” which means language names are set to your website’s default language.

Show names in native language

The next step is to choose if you’d like to show your website’s default language name in your URL as a subdirectory, for example, https://example.com/en/.

Show subdirectory for native language

By default, this option is set to “No,” meaning that only other languages will show as a subdirectory in your URL. The best approach is to leave this setting as it is for the best SEO results.

Next up is the “Force language in custom links” section. By default, this option is set to “Yes” because changing custom links for translated languages make the URLs more SEO-friendly.

TranslatePress language switcher

After that, you’ll see options for showing the language switcher on your website. You can either:

  1. Use a shortcode
  2. Add the switcher to your navigation menu
  3. Show a floating language selection menu

We’ll show you how to do this later in this article. For now, click the Save Changes button to store your settings.

Step 2: Configure Automatic Translations

If you’d like to translate your WordPress website automatically, you’ll need to enable this setting manually. So click the Automatic Translation tab and select “Yes” from the dropdown menu to show additional settings.

Enable automatic website translations

TranslatePress lets you choose either Google Translate or DeepL to translate your website automatically. To use Google Translate, click the link to get your API key and paste it into the API key field.

Google translate settings

You can then choose to block crawlers from triggering automatic translations, limit daily translations, and log machine translation queries.

Once you’re happy with your settings, click the Save Changes button.

Step 3: Translate Your Website Content

To translate your WordPress website content, you can either click the Translate tab in the plugin settings area or click the Translate Site link in your WordPress admin bar.

Translate your WordPress website

Clicking either option opens the live translation editor in a new browser tab.

In the live editor, you can click any text on your website preview in the right-hand panel. TranslatePress will then load that text in the left-hand panel, ready for you to translate.

Live translation editor

Now, click the language you want to translate that text into and enter your translation. Then go ahead and click the Save Changes button to store your translated text.

Clicking the Next button automatically selects the next block of translatable text available. Alternatively, you can choose an area of the page from the dropdown menu at the top of the screen.

Translation strings

It’s easy to translate any content on your page, including navigation menus, buttons, sidebar widgets, meta-text, and more. Plus, once a string is translated, TranslatePress will automatically translate it on other areas of your website.

For instance, if you translate a post title, your sidebar widget’s post title is automatically translated.

Step 4: Add the Language Switcher to Your Website

TranslatePress’s language switcher lets your website visitors select their preferred language when visiting your site. Typically, it shows the country’s flag to indicate which languages are available.

As mentioned earlier, you can add the language switcher with a shortcode, navigation menu item, or as a floating banner. You can also show it as flags, language names, or both.

Adding the language switcher to your WordPress site with a shortcode

To add the language switcher to your site with a shortcode, just paste this shortcode: [language-switcher] into posts, pages, sidebar areas, and anywhere you’d like to show it on your website.

Language switcher shortcode

Adding the language switcher to your navigation menu

To add the language switcher to your WordPress navigation menu, head to Appearance » Menus from your WordPress dashboard, and click the language switcher column on the left-hand side.

Language switcher menu items

Now choose the languages you wish to display and click the Add to Menu button. Your selected languages are now shown in your navigation menu.

Remember to click the Save Menu button to store your settings.

This is how it looks on our test website.

Language switcher in WordPress menu

Adding a floating language switcher to your WordPress site

To add a floating language switcher button to your website, go to the TranslatePress settings page and find the language switcher section. From there, click the checkbox next to the “Floating language selection” heading.

Add a floating language switcher

Then click the Save Changes button.

You can now visit your website and see the floating language switcher at the bottom right of every page on your site.

Show a floating language switcher button on your website

2. How to Create a Multilingual WordPress Website with WPML

WPML WordPress multilingual plugin

The next solution uses WPML (WordPress Multi-Lingual) to translate your website. WPML is the oldest and most popular WordPress multilingual plugin around.

Follow the steps below to translate your WordPress website with WPML.

Step 1: Install and Activate WPML

First, click here to get started with WPML and download the plugin to your computer. Then install and activate the plugin on your WordPress site.

Once you activate the plugin, you’ll see a new menu item called “WPML” in your WordPress menu panel. Clicking the menu item for the first time takes you to the setup wizard.

WPML Setup wizard

The plugin automatically detects your website’s language. But you can change it here if you wish. Then, click the Next button to continue.

Step 2: Choose Which Languages to Enable

On the next screen, you can choose the languages you want to enable on your website. Select as many languages as you like by clicking the checkbox. You can always remove them later if you don’t need them all.

Select translation languages in WPML

When you’re done, click the Next button.

Next, the plugin asks you to add a language switcher to your website. This allows users to choose their preferred language when browsing your site.

WPML language switcher

You can automatically add a language switcher as a sidebar widget, menu item, a standard list, or in your website’s footer. Just choose your preferred switcher and click the Next button.

On the following page, the plugin asks to send compatibility reports to WPML about the plugins and themes you use. It’s entirely up to you if you wish to send this information.

WPML compatibility reports

After making your decision and choosing the relevant option, click Next.

The final step asks you to create a site registration key to receive automatic updates. If you don’t already have a key, click the Generate a key for this site button.

Generate a sitekey for WPML

This takes you to your account area, where you can add your current site to your WPML account. Once your site is added, click on it to get your website key and paste it into the field on your WordPress site.

This completes the setup wizard, so you can now click the Finish button to exit the setup.

Step 3: Add Multilingual Posts and Pages

It’s easy to translate every area of your WordPress site with WPML. You can translate WordPress posts, pages, tags, categories, and themes into any language you like.

Let’s find out how.

To add multilingual posts and pages to your WordPress site, navigate to Posts » All Posts from your WordPress dashboard area. On this page, you’ll see a language column next to your post titles.

Add multilingual WordPress posts and pages

The WPML plugin automatically assumes that your site content is your primary language. It then shows add icons next to your post in each language you’ve enabled for your website. Click on the Add icon to translate your post.

You can also manage your translations via the Language panel in your post editor. 

Translate content via the WordPress editor

Step 4: Add Translations for Categories and Tags

It’s just as easy to translate the categories and tags for your content with WPML. To do this, navigate to WPML » Taxonomy Translation and choose the taxonomies you want to translate from the dropdown menu.

WPML taxonomy translations for categories

Then click the Add icon next to each taxonomy to translate it into your chosen language.

Step 5: Translate Your Navigation Menus

WPML also lets you translate your WordPress navigation menus, as you would with your posts, pages, and taxonomies.

To do this, navigate to Appearance » Menus from your WordPress dashboard and choose the menu you want to translate.

Under the Menu Structure heading, you’ll see your current menu, with links to translate it into the languages enabled on your site. Clicking any language creates a new menu for that language.

Translate your WordPress navigation menus

You’ll need to add the same menu items as your primary language’s menu.

If you have any posts or pages in your navigation menu, you’ll need to translate them before adding them to your translated menu.

Remember to click the Save Menu button to store your changes.

Step 6: Translate WordPress Themes, Plugins, and Other Text

Another excellent WPML feature is choosing between official theme and plugin translations or using its built-in string translator.

To view this option, go to WPML » Themes and plugins localization. By default, WPML looks for your available plugin and theme translation files and uses them.

Translate existing themes and plugins

But if any WordPress themes or WordPress plugins don’t have translations, you can translate them with the WPML string translation feature.

scan plugins and themes for translations

Just scan your plugin or theme to load the strings and start translating them. You can also use this tool to translate widgets, custom fields, and other strings in WordPress.

3. How to Create a Multilingual WordPress Site with Polylang

Polylang free WordPress multilingual plugin

Our last method for creating a WordPress multilingual site uses the Polylang plugin.

Polylang is a free WordPress multilingual plugin with over 500,000+ active installs. Plus, you can easily translate your WordPress site without upgrading to the premium version.

That said, if you run a WooCommerce site or need extra support, you may wish to upgrade to Polylang Pro or buy their WooCommerce addon.

But for this tutorial, we’ll use the free version of Polylang.

Step 1: Install and Activate Polylang

First, click here to get started with Polylang and download the plugin to your computer. Then, upload, install, and activate the plugin on your WordPress website.

Step 2: Configure Your Language Settings

After activating Polylang, you’ll see the setup wizard, which helps you get started quickly. First, it asks you to select the languages you want to enable on your site from the dropdown menu. 

Add new languages in polylang

Just choose the language you need, and click the Add New Language button to confirm the selection. You can add as many languages as you like, then click the Continue button.

The next screen asks for permission to translate your media, including:

  • Titles
  • Alt texts
  • Captions
  • Descriptions
Polylang permission settings

This setting is enabled by default, but if you don’t want to translate your media, you can click the toggle to disable it and click Continue.

There are posts, pages, categories, or tags on your website without a language. For your site to work correctly, you need to assign a language to all of your content.

Add a default language for your website

Just choose a language from the dropdown menu to translate these items on your website automatically. You can then go ahead and click the Continue button.

Now that you’ve completed the setup wizard, you can click the Return to Dashboard button to begin translating your content.

Step 3: Translate Your Content with Polylang

It’s super-easy to translate your WordPress content with Polylang. To do this, just create a new post or page, or click to edit your existing content. 

Translate your WordPress content with Polylang

In the WordPress editor, you’ll see a language panel on the right-hand side of your page. By default, Polylang selects your primary language automatically.

To translate your content, click the add icon next to a language and enter that language’s content. Repeat this for every language on your site and publish the content.

Step 4: Translate Categories, Tags, and Taxonomies

It’s just as easy to translate categories, tags, and other taxonomies in WordPress using Polylang. To do this, navigate to Posts » Categories from your WordPress dashboard.

Translate tags and categories with Polylang

Then add a category in your default language, and click the plus icon to add each category’s translations.

Step 5: Add the Language Switcher to Your Website

With a language switcher, it’s easy for website visitors to switch to the language they prefer to browse with. And Polylang makes it easy to add a language switcher to your website.

Just navigate to Appearance » Widgets from your WordPress admin area and drag the language switcher widget to any widget-ready area or sidebar.

Polylang language switcher widget

You can show languages in a dropdown menu, as names, flags, and more. After choosing the settings, click the Save button.

Then you can visit your website to see the language switcher in action.

Polylang language switcher widget

And there you have it!

We hope this article helped you learn how to create a WordPress multilingual website easily. You might also like this guide on how to put WordPress in maintenance mode.

Don’t forget to follow us on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook for more great tips and tutorials.

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