Judging by the questions that get asked with regards to WordPress content translation, there are many of you out there who are looking for the best way to translate their WordPress site into other languages.
Many WordPress translation plugins have come and gone, but few have stood the test of time. It takes a substantial effort to create a multilingual plugin and ensure it continues to work perfectly when WordPress releases new updates. This is the main reason why many plugins have fallen by the wayside along the years.
Here’s an honest and objective look at the WordPress translation plugins available on the market today. I believe all of these plugins have a future. This is very important for you when choosing a translation plugin. Keep in mind that this will be one of the most important plugins you will have on your website. You want the plugin to be thoroughly supported so you can continue updating WordPress with new releases, without tearing out your hair worrying about whether your multilingual plugin will fail you at the next update.
WPML – The WordPress Multilingual Plugin
WPML is the grandaddy of WordPress translation plugins. No other plugin comes close to the amount of sophistication offered by WPML. Apart from enabling you to easily translate all aspects of your site (posts, pages, custom post types, taxonomy, menus, theme text etc.), it also has the in-built ICanLocalize service through which you can get your content translated automatically by qualified translators.
Another great thing is that you find many addon plugins in the repository, such as the qTranslate to WPML importer. Given the weight of this translation plugin, many other creators of major plugins have gone out of their way to make sure that their products are WPML-compatible. Some examples are WooCommerce, MarketPress, MapPress and Pagelines. A good indicator of the success of WPML in the WordPress community.
Every theme or plugin that uses WordPress API runs multilingual with WPML. However WPML works hand in hand with theme authors by reviewing their themes/plugins in order to fully test the compatibility with WPML. Theme and plugin authors only need to get in touch with the WPML team who will do the review for free and also mention the theme/plugin on their blog once the compatibility testing is finished.
Support for WPML is top notch. The company has been in place for many years and they are thoroughly focused on translation services, even having their own professional translation service which is accessible through the plugin’s own interface in WordPress. You can thus hire professional translators from within the WordPress dashboard when using WPML.
If you are looking for the most reliable translation solution with the best features, then this is it.
Stella is a young translation plugin released by Theme.fm this year. This plugin is designed to allow the user to create a multilanguage site in a simple and straightforward manner, and succeeds very well in doing so. There is also a limited free version available on the WordPress plugin repository.
Before we talk about this plugin, keep in mind that it is currently in development, but available for testing. Therefore I don’t recommend using it for live projects yet, although it will probably be a serious contender in the very near future.
Multilingual Press works in a very different way from all the other WordPress translation plugins we cover in this post. This is because it is built on WordPress multisite, and you therefore need to get that up and running first. This makes this plugin more complicated to set up than WPML or qTranslate for example, however it is also a very powerful WordPress multilanguage handling method.
As an overview of how this plugin works, you first need to setup a WordPress multisite installation. Each site/blog in your multisite system can then be attributed to a different language. You then simply write a post or page in one language, and Multilingual Press will automatically create a duplicate of it in the other sites/blogs.
These new posts and pages are interlinked and are easily accessible via the post/page editor screen – you can switch back and forth to translate them! Multilingual Press does not make any custom changes to the WordPress coreand it’s big advantage is that it doesn’t harm your website’s performance, because it is actually handling multiple websites rather than loading one website with more tables and data.
This plugin was created by a few experienced WordPress developers, and there also plans for a Pro version. This is a WordPress translation plugin that is worth keeping an eye on as it approaches a stable release.
qTranslate is one of the oldest translation plugins, and one that has been constantly supported and updated throughout the years. Having well upwards of 500,000 downloads, this is still one of the most stable plugins for powering multilingual WordPress websites.
In qTranslate you translate posts and pages from the original post’s interface, and don’t create a separate post for each language (as in WPML).
qT not only supports free machine translation, but also professional human translation! With qTranslate 2.3, a new feature called “qTranslate Services” have been added. So what does it do? qT not only supports free machine translation, but also professional human translation!
The Services are provided by Web-Translations, where Ford, MTV and many other companies get their translations from. This makes it similar to WPML, although the translation process is less seamless than WPML.
To use qTranslate services, simply enable it under “Settings” on “Language Management”.
When you install qTranslate and select the languages, it also creates dashboard menu buttons for each language, when clicking them you switch the dashboard itself to another language. This works quite well, as you can see in the screenshot.
This is quite a good translation plugin and Qian Qin has given an amazing contribution to the community, however for many reasons I would prefer to have the peace of mind that a premium plugin like WPML gives you with regards to support. qTranslate being a free plugin, you cannot expect that the developer is always there to answer your questions or provide fixes if something goes wrong.
Xili-language has been around since 2009 and been downloaded more than 60,000 times. It is a completely free plugin with no pro version. It works in both standalone and multisite WordPress configurations. This plugin does not create any additional tables in the WordPress database, which in general is a good thing.
The interface provided by Xili-language is user friendly enough, although I prefer WPML’s UI which is more intuitive.
The documentation of this plugin was clearly created by someone who doesn’t exactly have an excellent grasp of the English language, and can be puzzling at times. It reminds me of text translated using an automated translator. It definitely is an area of the plugin that needs to be refined a bit more to compete with the other translation plugins mentioned earlier in this post.
That ‘small p’ in the plugin’s banner in Codex (probably a small oversight) also hurts the eye of WordPress fans, I really recommend that the author fixes this, as it is starting to become a sign of mediocrity to spell WordPress incorrectly.
Apart from the above minimal gripes, this is a solid plugin, which however has never reached very high popularity levels, in contrast with the other free plugin qTranslate. The main developer, Michel, is friendly and available for help and support. Many developers have used the plugin for the last few years successfully, so it’s worth giving it a try if you are strictly looking for a free plugin.
Transposh translation filter for WordPress offers a unique approach to blog translation. It allows your blog to combine automatic translation with human translation aided by your users with an easy to use in-context interface.
This plugin does a good job at providing automatic translation that can then be easily edited by the admin to polish it up. It can thus help you translate your site at a very rapid pace. I’m not sure I like the in-context interface however, I tend to prefer the WPML approach of allowing you to rewrite a post in another language via the WordPress admin.
Transposh however is a well supported plugin that is still being updated regularly, and it’s worth trying out to see whether you like it’s approach or not. After all it’s a free plugin so trying out is a no-brainer.
The best free WordPress translation plugin is qTranslate. It works very well, is stable and receives updates. However multilanguage sites can be quite complicated, and you cannot expect the author to respond immediately to support requests.
If you check out the forum page for qTranslate, you will see how many support requests there are. Many of them are unanswered, so think well before going for this plugin. If you’re a developer and absolutely short on cash, you can give it a go, in the hope that you will fix things yourself if you encounter any bugs, or want to do any customisations.
Alternatively, just go for a premium plugin like WPML or Stella.
The best premium WordPress translation plugin is most definitely WPML. You can go ahead and search about this plugin, you will find the overwhelming majority of users are very satisfied and vouch that no other multilingual plugin comes close to the features and support offered by WPML.
Multilingual Press is currently still being developed, and looks like it’s going to be a freemium style plugin, with a free version and a pro version having more features. It has a unique architecture, and I would also keep tabs to see how this translation plugin pans out on a long term basis.
Stella is a new entry in this niche, it still doesn’t have the same number of features or wide adoption of WPML, but it’s one to follow because it is well-built and very promising.
Have you used any of the above plugins in your WordPress multilingual sites? Let us know what experiences you have in the comments section!
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