Last updated - February 24, 2020
If your plan is to expand into foreign markets; or you are seeking a foreign-speaking audience within your own locale, then you need a multilingual website. The bad news is this can be a lot of work; the good news is that if you have a WordPress website, your job just got a lot easier. In this article, we will discuss how to create a Multilingual WordPress Website, and discuss some of the tools that will help you with it.
Do you really need a Multilingual Site?
The short answer is “yes, you do.” The research on this is definitely in. Websites that are constructed for foreign-speaking audiences do get more traffic from those demographics. And, as you are well aware, the more traffic you have, the greater your potential for sales.
So, let’s look at how multilingual sites can and should be created through WordPress.
Identify the languages for the regions or countries that promise success
A mistake that has often been made, even by the “big boys,” has been going into markets that were not truly viable. Today, however, there is access to an incredible amount of data that should be used in deciding what markets to enter. Data tools will help you identify where your target customers reside in large enough numbers for good potential. In addition, you must research local options your demographic has for local products like yours. If there are competitive products, how can you distinguish yours from theirs to be more attractive and/or provide more value?
There are several tools you can use for this research.
- Start with Google Analytics. On the dashboard, you will find a section that will show countries, regions, and cities where your typical customer lives, and the languages used.
- Use SimilarWeb. Here, you can scan in your website and see those that are similar in other places and languages – websites that offer products or services similar to yours. This may mean that you have a target audience in these places.
- Enlist the advice of natives of countries or regions you are considering. Do they believe there is a solid market for what you offer? What about pricing? Is yours reasonable? And once your website is translated, they can be great resources to ensure that everything on it is culturally appropriate for your audience.
The point is this: use every available resource before you make a decision to enter a foreign or foreign-speaking market. But once you do find those promising markets, you are ready to develop your sites.
Options for Multilingual Site Development
Your first two options are to translate your site into target languages using human or machine translations. Often, this is a budgetary decision. But understand this: while machine translation (e.g., Google Translate) is continually improving, it is a machine – a machine that will be logical and accurate. It will not consider such things as idioms or cultural factors. You will get a literal translation and that is all.
Web page localization, on the other hand, is the fruit of human translation, preferably completed by natives of the target language who also understand all of those nuances of culture and language that will engage and appeal to your audience. If your budget allows, go with manual translation.
Multilingual Site Creation Via Manual Translation
WordPress has some great plugins that make it easy to create manually translated websites. Three of the most popular, with descriptions, are the following:
There are 40 optional languages built in to this plugin, but you can also add regional variations of those languages (e.g., Castilian or Latin American Spanish).
This plugin allows easy management of your translations. You simply open a page, get it translated, check it off as done, and that’s it. The “get it translated” part is easy too. You can connect your site to the translation service you are using, and send your translation need over to it automatically.
The other cool thing about WPML is that you can add language switchers to a menu or sidebar, letting users quickly access their preferred language.
WPML is priced at $29 for the first year and $15/year thereafter – a price well worth it. If you want additional features, there is a premium version, as well as a lifetime license.
Polylang is a lot like WPML, except it is free – there’s a good perk. Of course, there are premium versions too. Basically, you have your content translated, including your product pages, into any number of languages, and the plugin automatically integrates your pages in the administration interface.
The premium version has additional features that you may want to consider.
With this plugin, you will run a separate site for each language, but you can install a custom menu or widget that will let your users switch among languages with a simple click.
The plugin lets you connect an unlimited number of sites to each other, and the plugin offers 174 languages. You can also embed links on any page or blog post to other languages.
And, if you ever decide to disable the plugin, everything that you have already done continues to operate.
Multilingual Site Creation Via Automatic Translation
Again, this should be your option if you cannot afford manual translations by professionals or reputable translation agencies. And, if you choose to use automatic translation, you can certainly use any of the external tools that are available and then add them using the plugins for manual translation.
But why do this when automatic tools are available within WordPress itself?
Here are two of the most common:
This plugin lets you set up automatic translation into your target languages, and all of your content will be translated with a few clicks. But the very cool thing about this plugin is that it then allows users to offer suggestions and help to improve that translation. You thus get the benefits of some manual translations without paying for them.
There are other great features too:
- The automatic mode will even translate comments and discussions from users.
- Users can search for languages through an installed search feature
- You can set up notifications, so you know when any users/readers have made contributions to improve your content.
This is one of the simplest translation tools you can find on WordPress plugin repository. Anything can be translated with just one click.
This plugin is super easy to install, you can select any language, and a widget is placed on your sidebar, with the flags of the available languages. You will be able to place the google toolbar on a vertical or inline format. You can selectively display Google branding as well. With the help of a shortcode, you can add the widgets to pages or posts as well.
Wrapping It Up
Creating multilingual websites has become a streamlined and simple process for site owners who use WordPress. Other content management systems often require that you set up completely separate websites for every language.
Multilingual plugins for WordPress, whether for manual or automatic translation, are simply the best route. If you have a website through another CMS, you may want to consider a change.