February 14, 2020

How to Set Up a WordPress Multilingual Site: Step-by-Step Guide

We live in a multilingual world.

And since our world is multilingual, the Web is also multilingual.

English alone is not enough if you want to extract the most revenue from your website. Therefore it’s necessary that you incorporate a multilingual functionality.

But just about how to do that? Well, that’s precisely what we’re going to answer for you in this article. Here we’re going to take you through the step-by-step process of building a WordPress Multilingual Site.

Let’s get started:

Step 1: Set up a WordPress website

Note: If you’ve already installed WordPress, you can skip this step.

The first step, of course, is to set up a WordPress website. Detailed instructions for the same can be found here on WordPress.org.

So if you don’t know how to set up a WordPress website, find its detailed steps from the link given above and set up your site.

Once your website is up and ready to go we can move on to the next step.

Step 2: Choose a translation-ready theme

Once you’ve set up your WordPress site, the next step is to choose a translation-ready theme for it.

There are many such themes available in the market, and you can choose any of them as per your convenience. If you want a recommendation from our side, here are some popular options – Di Multipurpose theme, iKonWP, Sintara, SkyWP and Infruit.

If you want to check out some more translation ready WordPress themes then you can visit this page of WordPress themes directory.

Just select your theme, install it and add the content that you want to add for building your site.

Step 3: Choose a WordPress Multilingual plugin

The next choice that you need to make after the theme is that of a multilingual plugin.

We will be using WPML, largely because it’s the most popular WordPress multilingual solution and is widely used on WordPress websites.

You will have to purchase it from its website, and after purchasing you can install it by following the instructions given here. Similarly, if you choose any other multilingual plugin, the instructions of installing it will be available on its website. 

Recommended for you: 7 Best WordPress Translation plugins

Step 4: Configuring Basic Settings

Once you’ve installed and activated WPML (or any multilingual plugin of your choice), the next step is to configure some of its basic settings so it can work properly.

Since we’ve chosen WPML for our article, we’re going to articulate the settings of WPML in this article. The moment you activate WPML, you’re taken to a WPML Setup Wizard, which guides you through 3 things to complete the setup of your WPML installation. Here they’re:

  1. Default language: The main language in which you write your content. If your content is in English, leave it to English. Otherwise, if you write in any other language, select it as the default language from the dropdown menu and click ‘Next’.
  2. Additional languages: The next step is to add some translation languages. You can determine which languages to add and which ones not to add based on the statistics of your visitors – add the languages of countries that are among the top 3 in sending visitors to your site. For example, if the majority of your visitors are from India, China, and Pakistan, you can consider adding Hindi, Mandarin, and Urdu as translation languages to your WPML installation.
  3. Language switchers: This step allows you to customize your WordPress language switcher. You can reorder the languages in your switcher based on your preferences, and you can also add the switcher to your website with the click of a button.

You can see the detailed process in the video below:

Source: WPML Youtube Channel

After you’re done with this basic configuration, you’ll find that a language switcher is now appearing in your navigation menu that can be used to translate the content on your website.

Now the next step is to add some translations. 

Step 5: Adding content translations

WPML provides you two options to add the translations for your content – you can either add the translated content yourself, or you can translate automatically using Google Translate. We’re going to explore both options below.

Manual translation

First of all, go to the ‘Pages’ section of your WordPress dashboard. Yes, the section from where you manage all your pages and add the new pages.

On that page, you’ll find the options to add translations for every page in every language that you selected at the time of setup. Something like this:

Manual translation settings for every page in WPML WordPress dashboard

When you click on any of the ‘+’ buttons in front of any page under any language, the dialogue box to add translations for that page in the language will open up. It’ll look something like this:

WPML - Advanced Translation Editor

Now, if you want to add your translations manually, you can add them by clicking the ‘Click to edit translation’ button in front of every paragraph. Just click it, paste your translation in the box given on the right-hand side, and click the green tick button above it to save your translation. Repeat this for every paragraph of every page. 

Using Google translate

On the other hand, if you want to translate WordPress website pages automatically; it can be done by clicking the Blue-ish ‘Translate automatically’ button on the same screen for every paragraph. The moment you click it, content for a selected paragraph will be translated automatically. You can then save it by clicking the same green tick button. 

Step 6: Managing translations

When you run a multilingual WordPress site, there will also be some occasions when you would want to modify/change some of your translations. For such cases, you should also know how to manage your translations. WPML comes with a Translation Management add-on that you can add to your WordPress installation for this purpose. The add-on allows you to send any of your pages for translation to professional translators, who can translate your content with native accuracy. Here’s what sending translations through Translation Management add-on looks like:

On the other hand, if you want to update the translation of any page on your own, you can do that by going to the Pages section of your WordPress dashboard. It works exactly the way you added your translations. 

Step 7: Translating other site content (i.e. videos, images, etc.)

WPML can translate all your text content easily, but what about your images, videos and other forms of content that it can’t translate? Well, if your images contain text, the best way to go about translating it is by redesigning those images with content written in different languages. Then you can use WPML Media Translation add-on to show different images on different translated pages. Same thing you can do for videos too. Yes, it’s a bit tedious, but that’s how it is!

Step 8 (Optional): Making Your WooCommerce Store Multilingual

So far we’ve seen how to create a multilingual WordPress website or blog using WPML (or any other) translation plugin for WordPress. However, many people also run e-commerce stores on this platform with the help of WooCommerce. What about them? Well, for those websites WPML has got a special add-on. It’s called WooCommerce Multilingual add-on, and you can install it to translate your product pages. It comes with a Setup wizard of its own, so you won’t find any difficulty in configuring it. Still, if you need any help, detailed instructions about using it are given here on WPML’s website

Step 9: Display the Language Switcher on your website

Finally, it’s time to add the Language Switcher to some additional locations on your site. We already told you how you can add a site-wide language switcher to your website’s main menu. Now if you want to show it in some other places too, you can do that by following the steps given below:

  • Go to WPML >> Languages >> Language switcher options
  • Under ‘How to handle languages without translation’, select “Link to the home of language for missing translations”.

That’s it. Now the language switcher will start appearing on all pages.  

Summing Up

So that’s how you can set up a WordPress multilingual site. We’ve tried to keep the explanation of every process as simple and straightforward as possible. Still, if you have any questions then do let us know in the comments. And once you’re done, also share this article to help your fellow webmasters incorporate the multilingual functionality in their WordPress sites. 

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