WordPress Translation Plugins Part 2 – WPML’s Advanced Features

In part one of this series, we saw how WPML can help you to serve the main contents of your site in more than one language, and how those various translations can be linked to eachother, so that a translation of anything is just one click away. But, that was just limited to posts, pages, categories and menus -- really just the core WordPress functionalities. It's really just the tip of the iceberg, and we can go much further with that. Let's look at some options that will make a site truly translateable, with some WPML add-on plugins that are either very handy, or apply to very popular plugins.

In part one of this series, we saw how WPML can help you to serve the main contents of your site in more than one language, and how those various translations can be linked to eachother, so that a translation of anything is just one click away.

But, that was just limited to posts, pages, categories and menus — really just the core WordPress functionalities. It’s really just the tip of the iceberg, and we can go much further with that. Let’s look at some options that will make a site truly translateable, with some WPML add-on plugins that are either very handy, or apply to very popular plugins.

WPML String Translation

For theme/plugin developers, it may be worth checking into making your theme translateable. Without any extra work, all hard-coded text in your code will show the same in any language. You could have a block of code that’s called “RECENT POSTS” (and use that exact wording in your theme), but then it doesn’t matter if the user has translated their content, categories or menus; it will still show the English words “RECENT POSTS”.

With the WPML String Translation plugin, you will give the content editor the option to translate any text (that is wrapped within a specific tag in your templates) from within the admin. A list of all translateable strings within the theme is presented very clearly, so every English term that is used within the templates or plugins can be translated to any language. Problem solved!

On top of that, most other meta-content is translated, such as SEO data. Basically everything that is NOT a post or page, but still created/edited by the user, will now be translateable.

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WPML Media Translation

So now you can show different text based on the language you choose, but what about images, audio or video? These are difficult to classify by language (unless you’re human) so this adds another layer of complexity. For example, if you have conversational audio on a page, you can see why one language should have a different audio file than another language. With the WMPL Media Translation that can be handled too.

Once activated, you can just choose whether you want certain attachments (images/audio/video) to be the same in every language, or if you want different media for each individual language. You’ll still have to upload a separate attachment for each language of course, but the plugin will allow you to tag it with a specific language, so that WordPress knows in which language the media item should be available.

Additionally, because the media itself is now translated, you can also give it different descriptions or tags based on your language.

Gravity Forms Multilanguage

If you use any forms on your site made with the help of the Gravity Forms, you know that they can vary from very simple forms to very complex ones with logic, validation and such. Of course, you don’t want to re-create the same form for every language you have on your site.

The Gravity Forms Plugin makes it somewhat easier for you. Within the WPML admin, there is a specific section for any forms you’ve set up with Gravity, and in here you can translate all the text strings that appear in your form — basically the same way as the WPML String Translation plugin.

In essence, you just have to create one form, in your “main” language. Then, you only need to translate the texts that appear in the forms and WPML will always display the form in the right language. The form structure and functionality is the same — it’s really just the labels, placeholder texts, descriptions that change from language to language.

To be perfectly honest, it took me a little digging to figure out how it all worked to get my forms translated, as it wasn’t as intuitive as you might think, but then again — with a plugin-on-top-of-a-plugin, things can get complicated very easily.

So there you have it. WPML and its add-on plugins, for all your needs when you want to serve your visitors in more than one language.

This is just a taste of the WPML extensions that are available. You can find them all here. Note that WPML keeps developing, and sometimes an add-on is integrated in the core plugin. For example, an add-on that I used to find helpful sometimes, was WPML CMS navigation. I only just noticed it was deprecated and included in the actual core plugin!

So WPML is the way to go…?

As you can probably imagine by now, the WPML plugin gives you about every option to make your entire website – all of its content and all of its data – completely multilingual. Whether you have just 2 languages or 20, WPML can take care of it. This is the reason why WPML is the leader of multilingual plugins: it really has everything you ever need in your site.

The downside of all these possibilities is that configuration of the plugin in your site can become overwhelming easily. However, that’s the nature of the beast: the more options you have, the more complex any system becomes. But as with everything else, once you’ve worked with it a little, everything becomes a lot more clear. Luckily, everything is documented very well, so check it out often.

All in all, WPML is regarded as the “benchmark” of translation plugins. However, it is targeted at large(r) sites that need a complete translation solution. But sometimes you may want something “simpler”, or maybe you just need a free plugin.

In our final part of this series, we will look at some alternatives for translation and localization.

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Mark Senff
Mark Senff
Senff has been creating websites for about 18 years and can be found tinkering with WordPress at the most unusual times of day. His (somewhat) blog can be found at Senff.com.

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