Multilingual WordPress Site: Best Way?

WordPress by default isn’t multilingual. Though it’s quite common that you need your website to be translated in multiple languages. There may be several reasons for this:

  • You are making a website for a specific country that has multiple languages
    Some examples will be: 

    • Belgium (Dutch, French & German)
    • Canada (English & French)
    • Switzerland (German, French, Italian & Romansh)
    • etc.
  • You want to make (in addition to your local, native, or target language) an English version of your site for international users
  • You just want to support different languages to reach a larger audience

Let’s now look at the options available to you using WordPess:

  • qTranslate – free plugin
  • Polylang – free plugin
  • WPML – expensive plugin
  • WordPress’ Multisite feature

qTranslate

With nearly 800 thousand downloads, qTranslate is by far the most popular free plugin for multilingual support. However, it seems that this plugin has been developed and is maintained by only one developer. So if you go for this free solution, you are in the constant hope that the developer behind it will continue to update it, as needed, along with future WordPress updates. And at the time of writing this article, the users that ignored that fact are now having a tough time keeping their WordPress up to date, as the developer seems too busy to maintain his plugin.

Polylang

Polylang is ligh-weight, free plugin. I gave it a try and it is very easy to use with a great support. Unfortunately it is developed and maintained by a single developer, so the same problem we have with qTranslate can occur, if the developer doesn’t find the time to keep the plugin up to date.

WPML

WPML is a plugin backed by a company, which addresses the problems I mentioned earlier with qTranslate and Polylang. You won’t have to worry anymore about support and updates, but this comes with a price – literally. It’s a commercial product and costs 80 USD. And if you need extended support and upgrades, you have to pay an annual fee of 40 USD for the following years. It’s expensive but unfortunately it seems  for now the only serious multilingual solution, if you want to work with a single WordPress instance. Note that the license is for unlimited sites, so if you are developing many WordPress sites, the cost surely is much more reasonably priced.

WordPress Multisite feature

Since WordPress 3.0, it is possible to run multiple WordPress instances on a single WordPress code base.

http://codex.wordpress.org/Create_A_Network
http://codex.wordpress.org/Glossary#Multisite

This will allow you to create one site per language. The main advantage over WPML is that it is native, using WP core functionality, so it’s safe and free to use.

You may need additional plugins to complete this solution: for example, you might want to link your posts translated in different languages, to avoid being redirected to the homepage when switching a language but instead to be redirected to the same page in the chosen language. There are a lot of plugins out there that make implementing a multisite easier. Check out my plugin that allows you to display a language switcher and to link your posts Simple Language Switcher

Further reading

http://wprealm.com/blog/questions-you-should-be-asking-yourself-before-starting-on-a-multilingual-website/
http://codex.wordpress.org/Multilingual_WordPress

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