According to a survey conducted in 2014, it was shown that the non-English downloads of WordPress has outgrown the English language downloads. Andrew Nacin, a core WordPress developer, mentioned at WordCamp in Seattle that only 5-10% of the world population use English as their primary language, it certainly means that the time is not far off when the languages like Spanish and Mandarin dominate WordPress installations.
For a majority of WP users, and specifically e-commerce platforms, it has never been more significant to provide a multilingual experience to the traffic to drastically improve user experience and reach a wider audience. In fact, websites that are unable to offer a multilingual experience could be missing out on a large number of prospects.
By default WordPress does not come with a built-in feature to make a site multilingual. However, it allows you to easily add multilingual functionality, thanks to the internationalization improvements to the latest 4.0 version of WordPress.
How to create a multilingual website?
WordPress allows you to use a bunch of well-configured plugins to create a website with n number of languages with no extra cost. Using a multilingual plugin, the webmasters allow their authors write content in a variety of languages and translate it if necessary. Depending on the plugin you use, you also get an access to advanced features for professional content translation and translation management.
Not only these plugin lets you easily manage your multilingual website but also help you get in touch with professional translators. It then enables you to provide these translators complete access to your website, allowing them to post their work on your website through the translation plugin interface.
WPML – An overview and guide to getting started
One of the best plugins to make your website multilingual is WPML plugin. It is a premium plugin but is by far the most useful and comprehensive option available for the WordPress website owners.
WPML, The WordPress Multilingual Plugin, enables you to run fully multilingual WordPress websites, making it extremely convenient to translate WP themes, categories, tags, posts and pages.
Features of WPML Plugin:
• Available in both multilingual blog and multilingual CMS versions
• WPML lets you choose all the required languages and begin translating in minutes.
• It allows you to choose from 40 different languages
• Equipped with a language editor that allows you to add your own language variant such as Mexican Spanish or Canadian French.
• Integrated with the state-of-the-art translation management
• Also lets you connect your translation management with a translation service of your choice
• Sends notification emails, offers a translation management interface and a jobs queue.
• Provides reliable support
Installing and configuring the WPML Plugin
First of all, install and activate the plugin in your WordPress website. Upon activation, you will notice a new option added in your WordPress menu i.e. WPML. When you click on it for the first time, it will automatically redirect you to plugin’s settings wizard, where you can configure the settings as per your needs and requisites.
It basically has 4 major settings to be configured.
Step 1: On the first step, it will ask the language for your existing content. Even though it automatically detects the default language of your WordPress website, you can still change it. Once satisfied click next.
Step 2: On the next screen, you will be asked to select languages you would want to enable on your website. You will notice a variety of different languages mentioned on the screen with a check box in front of them. Check the boxes of the languages you want to select and hit next.
Step 3: Here, you will be able to add a language switcher. It enables your visitors to select a language to read content in their preferred language. It also enables you to add the content switcher in the sidebar or show it as a plain list or in your menu bar as a widget. After configuring all the options, click next.
Step 4: This is the final step, where you will need to provide your registration key. Click on “Generate a key for this site” if you haven’t already generated a key. This will redirect you to WPML website, where you will need to provide your website for which you need the key. After adding the site, you will get your website key. Enter this key in the site key option and click register.
Congratulations, you have successfully configured the WPML plugin on your website. You can now click on finish to complete the process.
Adding multilingual pages and posts
WPML Plugin allows you to translate your existing content as well. Simply go to your posts menu and you will notice a new option added right in front of your post titles. It shows an “add button” which lets you easily translate your blog post to your desired language.
You can also manage your translations on the post editor. WPML adds a new “Language” option in the meta box from where you can translate your posts and manage translations.
Similarly, you can add translations to your categories, custom taxonomies, tags and themes by clicking WPML → Taxonomy Translation.
Extensions and add-ons for WPML Plugin
WPML comes with a series of Add-ons for easily translating all the corners of your website.
Since the plugin has gained a lot of attraction from WordPress users around the globe, there are a wide variety of extensions and add-ons available now, thanks to WordPress contributors and developers. It has now become possible to use WPML with other plugins on your website and leverage its features.
This WooCommerce multilingual add-on for your website allows you to build a multilingual online store. It makes it a lot easier to translate your product pages, descriptions and other details, enabling your users to shop in their preferred language. You can also translate the order update emails and notifications in their selected language, improving user experience for your existing and new users.
If you are looking for a way to import your content all at once into your WordPress website via a XML or CSV files, WP All Import Plugin is an ideal choice. It lets you import content in multiple languages directly to your website, provided you are using WPML plugin.
Free alternatives to WPML
Although WPML is a premium plugin, being at the same time the most complete solution to create a multilingual WordPress website, there are also free alternatives which cover this aspect.
PolyLang is a simple, and modest free alternative to WPML plugin that is bit younger than other options available. It actually works by building entirely different posts for every defined language, making everything a lot cleaner. Unfortunately, the plugin has a steep learning curve and is not usually recommended for beginners.
qTranslate is one of the most popular WordPress translation plugins that has a long and robust history. The plugin has been update every so often to keep up with the latest versions of the WordPress core. It uses a proprietary tags that separates multiple languages in a single post, allowing easy and fast switching between languages.
Thanks to the evolution of WPML Multilingual plugin, setting up a multilingual site or translating existing content on your website has become a lot easier. It is surprisingly easy to understand and use and makes an apparently challenging task less difficult.