WordPress is unquestionably the most dominant open-source content management system around, powered over a fifth of the entire world’s websites. Since WordPress is so widely used, it is only natural that there’s an inherent need for online content hosted on the platform to be available in different languages.
This need is felt most strongly by eCommerce sites, which serve customers on an international scale and have to meet their expectations to be served well, ideally in their native language.
Multilingual plugins for WordPress have been developed for this very purpose.
Is It Worth Offering More than One Language on Your Site?
If you are part of the so-called Anglophone world, which Merriam-Webster defines as “the countries in the world in which the English language and cultural values predominates”, there’s probably little incentive to write, record or shoot content in any language other than English.
This instinct is backed up by statistics: as of 30 June 2016, the number of internet users whose first language was English totalled 950 million. Chinese comes in second place at 750 million, but experts are already predicting that it will become the next dominant language of the internet, while Spanish is a distant third with 277 million, even though it’s the most widely spoken non-English language in the US and the fast-growing too.
Top 5 Languages on the Internet by Users
A study of the actual content published online shows that English is used by 52.3% of websites, with the following languages occupying increasingly thin slivers of the pie.
Top 5 Languages by Content Published (excluding English)
- Russian 6.4%
- Japanese 5.7%
- German 5.4%
- Spanish 5.0%
- French 4.0%
Choosing a Translation Plugin for WordPress
Translation plugins for WordPress come in various flavours, but the majority of these tools fit in one or more of these four categories:
- Plugins with Machine Translation – Most plugins use their proprietary software or, more commonly, third-party providers like Google or Bing to automatically translate text from one language to another. The output tends to be of uneven quality, which is why most plugins give users authoring tools for human review and post-editing.
- Same-Post Translation Plugins – Alternative translations of identical content are saved on the same page and a user can switch from one version to another by selecting their preferred language from a dropdown menu, sidebar or widget.
- Plugins with Standalone Translations – The translated versions of an article may be published on different webpages, which can be distinguished between them and the default site language by their URL pathnames, e.g. example.com/foo?lang=de or example.com/de/foo
- Multi-site Translation – In this case, individual translations of website content are located on different subdomains or domains, e.g. en.example.com and fr.example.com, or example.com and example.fr
Top 19 WP Translation Plugins for Multilanguage Sites in 2017
Here are some of the best WordPress multilingual plugins in 2017, and an overview of their main features:
A Simple Multilanguage Plugin (ASMP) does exactly what it says on the tin. This plugin for WordPress provides multilanguage support for individual pages and posts, allowing users to easily display content in the language they prefer by selecting it from a dropdown menu.
In the backend, this plugin modifies the standard editor by adding title and content edit boxes for each language added. It also gives you the ability to handle any untranslated content separately from the rest of the copy, such as by hiding it entirely. The biggest drawbacks we could find is that ASMP does not work with custom post types and has a tendency to break down when used with certain themes.
This is the first of two plugins on this list developed by the same company, Prisna. Their Bing Translator hooks up Bing’s automated translation service to your website, giving you the option to translate your online content into 40+ languages using the intuitive admin panel.
This plugin is lean and very simple to set up on your website; it doesn’t need to load any external files, and comes with import and export settings that let you transfer configurations easily.
It’s never been easier to have a fully multilingual website that you can manage on your own with little to no coding skills. Ceceppa Multilingua excels in this department by giving users a slick and straightforward interface, which lets them write and publish pages and posts in different languages.
This is a feature-heavy plugin, which lets you create standalone posts and pages for each language to maximise SEO reach, or set up multilingual variations of your entire site using subdomains or prettified URL paths.
How about making your website available to speakers of over 90 languages with a single click? The Goo Translate Widget (where Goo stands for Google) harnesses the power of Google Translate to provide free and instant multilanguage machine translations from the internet search giant.
While the end-results can sometimes read a bit awkwardly, Goo Translate makes a decent enough job of helping visitors to your site read content in their native languages by using the widget on their screen.
Go directly to the source with the Google Language Translator plugin for WordPress. This third-party tool lets you add an automatic machine translation service anywhere on your site using shortcode. You can modify its appearance on webpages, show or hide Google branding, and even choose which languages users can
Yes, it’s another translation plugin powered by Google Translate. Prisna created this multilingual WordPress tool which brings all the functionalities of the service to your website through its admin panel. Just like the Bing-powered alternative, installing this plugin is a cinch, and thanks to its feather-light design it has virtually zero impact on page loading speeds.
There isn’t much to add to this plugin that hasn’t been said already in the other tools that use Google Translation mentioned in this guide. Gtranslate has active since 2008 and is used by half a million websites to serve content to internet users in 100 languages. The paid version of this multilingual plugin comes bundled with several SEO features.
GTS Translation combines the automatic translation offered by most multilingual plugins with the option to crowdsource human-quality translations after publication. When the plugin is installed, it’ll submit existing blog content to GTS’s translation server, after which you or other human translators can finetune the resulting translations using the online side-by-side editing system.
You can easily submit content to a community of translators working as part of GTS network, or assign post-translation editing to your own team. This plugin supports over 30 languages, helping you grow your readership internationally and increase traffic to your blog.
LinGO offers instant, on-site translation by plugging in to Ackuna’s crowdsourced translation platform, which is one of the biggest online. You’ll need to register your account before you can use this plugin, but once that’s out of the way you get full control over your text, which can be translated into over 100 languages.
This tool uses an advanced machine learning software which uses the best translations available from Google to accurately translate every string of text from its original language, even being able to “intelligently” fill in the blanks when necessary. LinGO lets you tweak resulting translations from the admin panel so that you can always ensure the highest levels of accuracy.
Lingotek is an enterprise-level multilanguage translation plugin for WordPress that uses a mix of automated machine, professional, and crowdsourced translations to create and maintain a multilingual website. All these options helps make it much easier to break into foreign markets, while making sure your brand leaves a great impression on consumers by speaking their native language.
This plugin is a more advanced solution than most of what we’ve covered so far: it uses a system of customisable translation profiles that categorise each type of content on your site and assigns it to an appropriate workflow where it can be translated automatically, in-house, or sourced out to more than 5,000 in-country translators in the Lingotek marketplace.
The latter option is a paid feature of course, and machine translation is free up to 100,000 characters using Microsoft Translator. The plugin is integrated with Lingotek Workbench, a professional-grade text editor that can be used to review and post-edit translations.
Loco Translate works with WordPress translation files in native MO and PO formats, letting you edit and update them directly in your browser. This plugin is a more techy alternative to the other solutions on this list, since it provides you with a set of developer tools for content localisation, including extracting strings from language files and creating multilingual templates.
BestWebSoft have a plugin called Multilanguage which lets you manually translate WordPress website content to other languages. This tools doesn’t translate text automatically, but instead it simply allows you to add your own translated content to any element on your blog, including pages, posts, menus, and more. You can easily categorise translate content and serve it to readers using 80+ pre-installed language options.
Multilingual Press is a lightweight and customisable translation plugin that lets you offer content in many languages by creating your own multi-site network on WordPress. Think of how Buzzfeed for example has its main portal in English and several variants of its homepage in Spanish, German, Italian, and other languages, which typically serve the exact same content as the main site.
With Multilingual Press you can set a main language for your set and then connect an unlimited number of corresponding sites. You can easily switch back and forth from one language to another, and you can link related posts automatically from the editor screen.
Polylang is a multilanguage translation management tool that lets you define separate languages for posts or pages and then decide which one to serve by default to visitors. The plugin automatically downloads the relevant language packs for WordPress and you can serve content in alternative languages using different URL paths, subdomains, or domains.
Polylang can be used in conjunction with an add-on, Lingotek Translation, which we mentioned previously, that gives you the option of using machine or human translation services.
This plugin is a descendant of the original qTranslate. qTranslate X makes creation of multilingual content as easy as working with a single language. While the back-end database framework is left almost intact, the design of editors is drastically changed and improved to be much less vulnerable to WP updates.
Instead of seeing multiple lines per each language for title, qTranslate X provides language switching buttons, which once pressed, change all the text fields to be filled with the language chosen. The instant language change happens locally in your browser without sending an additional request to the server.
Weglot is a widespread translation solution for WordPress websites that is used by many businesses that serve a multilingual market. The plugin automatically detects source content and translates into over 60 languages available. Like many other plugins, you can then edit the machine translation in the dashboard, or use a professional translation service to refine your content.
Weglot follows the best practices recommended by Google with regard multilingual website management: outputting clean code that ensures every translated version of a webpage gets indexed. Weglot is free for sites containing under 2,000 words that use only one translation language, while paid plans are available for larger sites.
If you want the most fully featured multilanguage plugin solution for WordPress, your best bet is WordPress Multilingual Plugin (WPML). This plugin makes it possible to turn WordPress blogs multilingual in a few minutes with zero knowledge of PHP or WordPress required, while its advanced features allow professional web developers to build fully-fledged multilingual websites with minimum hassle.
WPML comes with an easy setup of 40 languages right out of the box. Apart from that it allows the users to add their own language as and when needed. It also allows the users to add different variants of languages like Mexican Spanish, Canadian French, etc. It is also capable of making a single WordPress installation work fully as a multilingual site. WPML also offers full integration with Gravity Forms, so you can easily translate all the forms on your site as well.
WPGlobus is the perfect tool to introduce your website to a global audience. This plugin offers URL-based multilanguage support, Yoast SEO compatibility, and a simple interface packed with useful translation features, including the ability to extensively customise the front-end. There are also several free add-ons that extend the functionality of WPGlobus even further.
Xili-language is a CMS-ready multilingual translation plugin that is available in several languages and supports localisable themes. The plugin lets you select a language for individual posts or an entire series, and changes the other theme elements accordingly.
Xili comes with an easy-to-understand interface that boasts nifty authoring tools and the ability to link various translations of the same piece together.
Language is a Major Factor in eCommerce Success
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
— Nelson Mandela
While a good portion of eCommerce sales originates from the Anglophone world: North America and Western Europe, sales from the Asia Pacific region are projected to double in the near-future.
That’s why website localisation is becoming an increasingly important component of a global market strategy. With the economic potential of online retail estimated at a whopping $45 trillion by Common Sense Advisory, a solid localisation strategy that includes multilanguage support for your website is essential. Sticking to an English-only web presence effectively limits your market share to one-third of the pot.
Localised content lets you takes advantage of profitable new language markets that are emerging, and increases buyer confidence in your brand, especially if communication is a two-way street. Giving visitors a chance to leave comments or reviews in their native language boosts your profile, but what are you expected to do if you get a great review in French? With a multilingual plugin you can translate your best reviews into other languages and leverage their effect across different versions of your site.
In our opinion, the two top contenders for best multilanguage plugins, which have consistently scored high user ratings, are WPML and qTranslate X. We also highly recommend to check out Weglot, a rapidly growing plugin that serves different ranges of websites.
If you have time to give them a test drive, by all means do so and judge for yourself which one works best for your needs.