Building a Multilingual Site: Free vs. Premium Plugins

When it comes to building a multilingual site in WordPress, it’s necessary to turn to one of the third party plugins out there. Thankfully there are a couple of high quality options available, ranging from free offerings to premium plugins. When it comes to creating a multilingual WordPress site there are two main approaches to consider. One is the creation of a partially multilingual site where either the published content is available in more than one language, or the WordPress admin dashboard is displayed in multiple languages. The other option is to create a site that is fully multilingual where both the published content and the admin area is available in more than one language.

When it comes to building a multilingual site in WordPress, it’s necessary to turn to one of the third party plugins out there. Thankfully there are a couple of high quality options available, ranging from free offerings to premium plugins.

When it comes to creating a multilingual WordPress site there are two main approaches to consider. One is the creation of a partially multilingual site where either the published content is available in more than one language, or the WordPress admin dashboard is displayed in multiple languages. The other option is to create a site that is fully multilingual where both the published content and the admin area is available in more than one language.

Depending on who your target audience is, and who will be logging into your dashboard to complete tasks will determine which option best suits your needs. However, both the plugins we will now look at offer both options.

qTranslate

qTranslate is a free plugin that aims to add ‘user friendly multilingual content management and translation support into WordPress’. It’s a popular option with over 850,000 downloads and a rating of 3.7 out of 5 stars at the time of writing.

Features and Usage

This plugin is a good choice for those wishing to publish content for their readers in more than one language, as well as anyone who wants to display the WordPress admin dashboard in another language. Although how effective translating the admin dashboard is depends on the support for multiple languages of the installed third-party plugins in use.

translate-qtranslate-default-languages

Once installed, you can easily begin adding content to your WordPress site in multiple languages. From the plugin settings page you can select which languages you plan to use on your site. While the default list of languages is substantial, adding new languages and their corresponding flag icon is a simple process.

Once you’ve made your selection the WordPress post editor will now features additional tabs for each of the languages you have enabled. When it comes to which language is displayed to your readers, the qTranslate plugin can be set to detect the language of the browser and redirect the visitor accordingly, or alternatively give the user the option of selecting a language from the options you have enabled.

translate-qtranslate-new-post

From the post editor you can now add the content which corresponds to each of the different languages you are catering for on your site. You will still be responsible for creating the content, or finding a translator to produce the different versions, but by using the qTranslate plugin it is easier to manage the different versions, and display them to the readers of your site.

To help you produce content in each of the different languages your site uses, there is an option within the plugin that can help to make use of professional human translation services. Enabling this option adds a translate meta box to the WordPress post editor. This box allows you to apply to have a page translated and returned directly into your WordPress site for a fee, simply by clicking a few buttons.  This is a great idea and should make the process of getting your written content translated into multiple languages and published on your blog a much simpler task.

From the settings you can also choose how the URLs will be structured:

  • Use Query Mode (?lang=en)
  • Use Pre-Path Mode (Default, puts /en/ in front of URL)
  • Use Pre-Domain Mode (uses http://en.yoursite.com)

It is also possible to set the date and time conversion method from a number of options which affects the formats used on your site.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The free qTranslate plugin for WordPress is a good option that allows you to easily add multilingual content to your site for your readers, as well as changing the language of the backend of WordPress with one click.

As this is a free plugin, there are no premium support channels but there is an extensive FAQ and a busy support forum for any queries you might have.

Find out more and download this plugin

WPML – The WordPress Multilingual Plugin

WPML consists of a core plugin and a range of add-ons. To use WPML the core plugin must be installed, and then it’s up to you to select the additional plugins to give you the functionality you require. Unlike qTranslate, this is a not a free plugin and is available on two price plans.

Features and Usage

Managing the different language versions of a site’s content can sometimes be problematic.  However, with WPML you get a number of options for handling this task. Admins can choose from storing the different versions in separate directories, in different subdomains, or on completely different URLs, giving you a great deal of flexibility.

Like qTranslate, the WPML suite of plugins allows you to work with multiple language versions of the content which is visible to your readers, as well as the internal pages of the WordPress admin dashboard area. This is handy as the contributors to your blog will be easily able to navigate the dashboard area thanks to it being displayed in their native language.

When it comes to translation management, the Multilingual CMS version of WPML has some helpful features. Using WPML allows you to create users with the role of translator. These translators can only access the posts they have been contracted to translate, which have been assigned to them by those with the editor role. WPML also enables a side-by-side translation editor making it even easier for those doing the translating to work within WordPress. There is also a jobs queue feature added to WordPress with this plugin, for assigning jobs to translators and quickly checking on the progress of content that needs to be translated.

translate-wpml-side-by-side-editor-it

If you don’t have the skills required to translate content into multiple languages then the Multilingual CMS license of WPML makes finding someone who can translate your work a simple process. The plugin connects you with a large selection of qualified professionals whom you can contact directly from within your WordPress site, using the Translation Dashboard. When looking for a translator in this way you have two options for selecting a contractor:

  • Invite a translator: view the profiles of the available translators, which includes their resumes and recommendations from previous clients, before inviting one to work for you on a job.
  • Allow translators to apply: post a job ad and then the pool of translators will be notified and can apply to your posting.

translate-wpml-quote

For theme developers, WPML also makes it easy to offer your designs in multilingual versions. Using this plugin it is also possible to get translation for comments that are left on your blog posts. Comments left in a language you don’t speak can be automatically translated using machine translation to help you understand them before you write a reply in your own language, which is also automatically machine translated before being posted. This commenting translation service can be set to run in fully automated mode.

Pricing

There are two pricing plans available for WPML which are as follows:

  • Multilingual Blog: $29
  • Multilingual CMS: $79

Both options translate regular posts, custom post types and pages as well as other features of the WordPress menus. The more expensive and comprehensive CMS plan covers more features of WordPress such translation for widgets, attachments and general admin texts. To compare the two plans, visit the purchase page at WPML.org

Each of the two price plans give you one year of upgrades and support, after which time you can continue using the plugin but without the ability to update it or receive support from the team.  If you choose to renew before your year is out, you can get a further year of upgrades and support for 50% of the original price, making it good value for on-going users.

As with most plugins, it is a good idea to keep WPML up to date, especially when it is being constantly worked on and supported as is the case here. With that in mind, when evaluating the cost of this plugin, you should factor in the on-going cost of keeping the plugin updated and supported rather than seeing the price as a one off cost.

It is also worth pointing out that one license for WPML, whether the blog or CMS option, can be used on an unlimited number of sites.

Support and Documentation

This is an area where WPML really comes into its own. As it is a premium service, with on-going charges for access to the support, the team of developers are able to offer a comprehensive support package and regular product updates.

As you would expect from a multilingual plugin, support is offered in a range of languages including Spanish, German, French and Chinese. Questions regarding the plugin can be posted on the forums hosted on the WPML site for a quick response from the support team or other users.

There is a long list of themes on the website which are compatible with the WPML plugin to help you when choosing a theme or checking whether your existing choice will work with this tool. This is a great idea when building a multilingual site in WordPress as having to change themes due to plugin incompatibility at a later date can be a real inconvenience.

If there are any features you need for your multilingual WordPress site that fall outside the support policy, the website helpfully lists a selection of recommended contractors who, between them, should be able to help you with your requirements.

Conclusion and Recommendations

WPML has lots of useful features that will make running a multilingual WordPress site that little bit easier. While it’s not free, it’s not too expensive and for anyone running a popular site they are serious about or a commercial venture the cost should be easy to justify.

The team of developers who constantly work on WPML and the addon plugins ensure that it is regularly updated and bugs are quickly ironed out; something which is important for a multilingual site which relies on a plugin for serving its content to portions of its readership in additional languages.

Like qTranslate, the ability to find translators through the service is a very useful service and being able to browse the detailed profiles of the contractors helps WPML standout from the competition.

Find out more and download this plugin

qTranslate vs. WPML

As a free option, qTranslate looks like an attractive proposition. It has a lot of solid features that make it a good choice for those wishing to setup a multilingual blog using WordPress, and the positive feedback from users is reassuring.

However, if you are planning to offer your site in multiple languages and work with translators or additional contributors then WPML might be a better choice. The option to post job adverts or contact translators directly via WPML, as well as assign different contractors specific blog posts to work on, should make managing the creation of multilingual content that little bit easier. The side-by-side editor that WPML adds to your WordPress site also makes the translation process more straightforward, even if you are doing the work yourself.

However, perhaps the biggest reason to go with WPML over qTranslate is the access to premium support and regular updates that become available when paying for a plugin compared to using the free alternative. With an experienced team of developers regularly working on the product, combined with its relatively low cost which covers use on an unlimited amount of sites, for anything but the most amateur of projects, the financial cost seems like a small price to pay for the extra peace of mind.

Get WPML | Get qTranslate

Jean Galea
Jean Galea
Jean Galea is an investor, entrepreneur, and blogger. He is the founder of WP Mayor, the plugins WP RSS Aggregator and Spotlight, as well as the Mastermind.fm podcast. His personal blog can be found at jeangalea.com.

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15 Responses

  1. I would like to add that by default, qTranslate doesn’t feature a translation for slugs (something I really missed). However, there is a free plugin that takes care of that too.

  2. I have used and liked both. As a community effort, QTranslate is impressive and has opened up multilingual website capability to everyone, regardless of budget, and that ties in beautifully with awe-inspiring democratising potential of WordPress itself.

    WPML does, however, have some advantages that are well worth paying for. Jean’s review already covers most of them but I think it is also worth noting the level of integration between WPML and other important plugins.

    In particular, the same company makes Toolset, a suite of tools that allows you to create websites with complex functionality without needing to code, and which been developed with a constant energy and attention to detail that continues to impress, their most recent round of updates is just wonderful.

    As you can imagine, the integration between WPML and Toolset is top-notch: you can actually have front-end translation and proof reading using the CRED component of Toolset, which is just obviously the best way to work. This level of integration elevates both products above their competitors and indicates a company with a clear, imaginative and ambitious vision. Anyone working professionally with WordPress can consider their products to be a smart investment of time and money.

  3. All plugins in this post have the same problem, she leave the different content in same post type raw and filter with foo functions. It is hard to go back to a default wp install or leave the dependence to the plugins. I love solutions, there will leave thew defaults and enhance the default of WP or use the defaults. No dependencies, especially in the database. A plugin, there enhance the default is MLP (pro Version), use the Multisite default and bring new solutions for more comfort and functions. But the base, also the database is on default and easy for update and cut the requirements. For testing and core functions use the free version, maybe a alternative for users, there will create a multilingual wp install.

  4. Great article Jean,
    As most people I always try the free version (qTranslate) but after a couple of website we found out how poor qtranslate woks with SEO, specially SEO by Yoast… so, we migrate to WPML and it works very well and the WPML are alway improving the plugin.

    Pablo.

  5. Perfect timing for this article Jean! I have been working with some people on a site and we are debating on creating a separate smaller version of a Spanish site, but I will take a look at both these plugins again. Possibly we could translate only some of our current site. Will read through this thoroughly and start testing tomorrow. Thanks again!

  6. I used a translate for 2 years and liked it as a tool. Simple and powerful enough for smaller sites with only one or few people that post pages or articles.

    But frequently it breaks, and it’s basically broken now with WP 3.6. the original developer has no time anymore to fix the bugs. I >was< a big fan of a translate, but would not recommend anymore to start using it.

    This week I migrated to WPML. it was not totally smooth, but worked out OK, there is a separate migration plugin that splits the qtranslate format into different post for each language (as week as categories and tags).

    I must correct Frank here: WPML stores each language separately, not mashed together with separator tags like a translate does! This is a clean approach compared to qt.

    after a few days of using WPML,I can say that I think this was the right choice for me.

  7. I’m glad to see that the qtranslate developer is back supporting his plugin which has just been updated.
    What I like most about qtranslate is the ability to write an article in 2 languages at the same time without the need to manually select my finished articles and translate them separately.

    Does anyone know if this function is also available with WPML?

  8. Fully agree with the recomendations.
    As a qtranslator user, I am very upset wen a new version of wordpress is available and have to wait severals weeks to publish any update of my blog.
    during this time qtranslmate is disabled. I tried enabling it once, and lost my blog.

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