Although by default WordPress is not multi-language, you can add this capacity through plugins. In this guide, I will explain step by step how to have your website in several languages using Polylang.
It is a good alternative to paid plugins like WPML and you can download it from the official WordPress repository.
Nowadays, you will find many websites that are available in several languages (especially those related to the tourism sector and e-commerce). In summary, anyone that wants to reach the foreign public would be interested in a multilingual website. We actually use Polylang for this site as well.
Table of Contents
Ways to create your website with WordPress in several languages.
Using WordPress Multisite.
It basically consists of creating several websites with a single installation. It is a function completely integrated in WordPress and although it may seem a good option, it’s not.
It makes the translation much more complex, not all plugins are compatible with this system, every change you make (either plugins, themes, widgets or menus) you’ll have to do in the other sites. I do not recommend using this solution.
There are some templates for WordPress with a translation system of their own. So you do not need to use any external plugin.
As far as I know, the only templates with this functionality are those of the company AitThemes. They are the authors of Directory, one of the most sold templates of ThemeForest, and it’s the one I’ve tried.
Some of the advantages are:
- You don’t have to use an external plugin, so you can save some money.
- You can translate all the elements of the web: widgets, pages, post, menu, etc.
- Everything is already translated into your main language, both the administration part and the texts on the front.
- You will have access to frequent updates of the topics, technical support, and a detailed documentation.
- The disadvantage. You are limited to using one of their templates, while otherwise, you have thousands of templates at your disposal.
It is a good option to create a multi-language WordPress web page unless you already have something built.
Through a plugin.
It is the last alternative. As always, you have paid and free options. In this guide, I will explain how to have your multilanguage website using Polylang. But before, I want to discuss some advantages of using one paid plugin, which still may be of your interest depending on your situation.
WPML: One of the most complete and solid payment solutions. It is a plugin that has been a long time in the market and has evolved to become a reference in its category.
- It is compatible with most of WordPress templates, in fact, if you look at the description of the ThemeForest templates they emphasize that they are compatible with WPML.
- Access to updates and technical support.
- It allows you to translate WordPress themes and plugins.
- All lits different licenses allow you to use it on unlimited websites. So it’s quite useful if you make several multi-language web pages.
The “Blog” plan costs $29 USD and contains the basics to start to translate. If your website is simple, this plan may be enough for you. The “CMS” plan has all the necessary extras to translate more complex pages.
Polylang: It is a light and simple translation plugin, that fulfills its function. It has good ratings from users with an average of 4.8 out of 5. Some of its advantages are:
- It’s Free, but if you need author support you need to purchase the Polylang Pro version.
- It consumes few resources and is easy to configure.
- You can use it with Lingotek Translation to make automatic translations, although these are usually not very precise in general.
- There are complementary plugins that increase their functionalities.
In my opinion these two plugins are the best option to create a multi-language website.
- Weglot Translate
- qTranslate X
- Ajax Translator Revolution WordPress Plugin
- Google Language Translator
- Google Website Translator
Do you need help translating your website?
Get in touch with us and we will give you a customized solution
Creating a multilingual website with Polylang, step by step.
Here is a video where I explain how to do it.
You also have an extended version of the video in text format.
For this tutorial, I will create a website with two languages, English and Spanish.
Installation of Polylang
The first thing is to install the plugin. Go to: Plugins -> Add New -> Search it -> Install and Activate.
Once you have it activated you have to go to Settings -> Languages. You will see that there are several tabs:
- Translations of strings: in this tab you can translate some texts of the template.
- Adjustments: I’ll explain later.
- Lingotek: is to use automatic translations, I’ll explain later.
Well, in the Languages tab you have to create the languages you will use on your website. There is nothing complicated there simply select a language and the flag. I have created two, Spanish and English.
Set default language
Once you have created them, set the default language by clicking on the star. In my case, I have English marked as the main language.
Translate the content into different languages
You can now start to translate the content of your site. Let’s see how a page is translated.
Basically, you will have to create the same page for each language and associate the translations. I recommend using the Duplicate Page plugin to clone your pages/posts for translations, you will save a lot of work.
As you can see in the image below, I have duplicated all my pages, one in English and one in Spanish.
From now on, when editing a page, a new language box will appear on the right. That’s where you have to assign the translation to each language for the page you’re editing.
In my case, I am editing the “Inicio” page and the equivalent in English is called “Home”. So when I change the language to Spanish I will have to associate it to the English “Home” page.
The translation of posts works the exact same way.
Translation of widgets to several languages
Polylang allows you to assign a language to each widget.
As I did before with the pages and posts, you will have to duplicate your widgets for each language if you want the content to change when the language is switched, otherwise you can leave the “All languages” option.
To change the language you can use the new “Language Switcher” widget.
You have several configuration options. Check the boxes according to your convenience because here everything depends on the situation in which you find yourself.
Translate navigation menus
The same process will be made here. You will have to create a menu for each language. In addition, you also have the possibility to use a language switcher with the same options as the widget.
I recommend placing a secondary menu to place the language switcher if your template has a clear one. We placed it under our Adobe Header menu.
Once you have all this configured, you would already have your web pages in WordPress in several languages translated with Polylang and without spending a dollar. ?
In the Settings tab, you have some modules you can configure.
URL Modification: You can change the appearance of your URLs. I would leave the default configuration, but checking the box “The front page url contains the language code instead of the page name or page id”.
This way you will have cleaner home URLs.
Media: I recommend to deactivate this option because it usually creates incompatibilities with other plugins. It also makes you upload the same image for each language… a big mess.
Detect browser language: The language is established automatically according to the language of the browser. You can only activate or deactivate this option.
Synchronization: It maintains the same meta content values. For instance, it means that you can synchronize the date of publication of a page or post with your translation.
The rest of the modules do not have configuration options or are only available in the pro version.
As you can see, it’s quite simple to set up, so I hope you did not have a hard time creating your multi-site web with Polylang.
But if what you want to do is create a multi-language online store, Polylang is not the best option in that respect. It has certain limitations and I do not recommend its use for online stores.
A good alternative would be WMPL, it is a paid plugin option but it is worth it.