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Multilingual sites – WPML introduction


Thinking of making your website multilingual? Looking for a fast and simple way to do it, all while having an excellent documentation and support to do it? The WPML plugin is a great starting point to do it. Keep on reading to learn more about it.

Why should you use WPML?

You can easily create a website in any language. The majority of popular WordPress themes and plugins are translation ready by default, making it simple for anyone anywhere in the world to build a WordPress site in their native tongue.

The only problem is that WordPress can only handle one language at the time by default. That limits you from reaching out to a much larger audience by using different languages on your website.

One of the solutions is to install WordPress under different subdomains for each language, but the maintenance process to keep all of those subdomains takes a lot of work and could get complicated quickly. The solution for all of that is to use the WPML plugin to handle all of your translation needs.

What exactly is WPML?

WPML is the most widely used WordPress translation plugin, or as they call it, the “OG” translation plugin. When compared to the other translation plugins, WPML is incredibly simple to use, and you can easily run a multilingual WordPress site with just one installation. You have to define the primary language and translate that to any number of languages in just a few minutes.

WPML supports over 40 languages and you can use multiple languages under a single domain.

The basic WPML setup

Since WPML is a paid plugin, the plugin setup starts from the WPML website downloads page. To get the most out of WPML, you should install the main “WPML Multilingual CMS” plugin along with the “String Translation” plugin. If you’re using an older WPML version (prior to 4.5), along with these plugins you should install the “Translation Management” plugin also. WPML versions after version 4.5 have this plugin natively supported.

Wpml download

You install the plugin like any other from the Plugins –> Add new screen. Once you install the plugins and navigate to the WPML tab inside the wp-admin interface, the basic WPML start-up process is engaged.

On the first step, you define the main site language along with all of the translation languages.

Setup step 1

On the second step you have to define the URL format for the translated web pages. The first and the third options are the most popular, but we suggest you to use the first “Different languages in directories” option.

Setup step 2

Next, you have to register the website on your WPML account settings page to get the Site key which you enter into the Site key field.

Setup step 3

The last important step is the Translation step in which you define the translation method. Two options are available: “Translate everything” or “Translate some”. For the best translation control, choose the second option and define the person responsible for the translations. You can set everything to the admin person or to individual translation accounts. For example, these could be the client or the recruited web translator.

Setup step 4

WPML settings

#1 Language settings

In the WPML language settings you can add new language or change the previously set main language of the website. The main thing you have to do here is set up a web site language switcher.

Language setup

The switcher can be:

  • binded to the WordPress menu
  • placed as a widget
  • placed into the site footer
  • custom created and called on the page trough the short code

Wpml language switcher

Once you have a switcher set up, the user will be able to switch to the desired language when needed.

#2 Main WPML settings

In the main WPML settings, you can change the translation mode defined in the initial plugin setup, along with the translation editor. The most important part of the settings tab is the post type, custom field and taxonomies translation settings. The radio buttons define the translation properties for each content type.

Translating the pages and posts

When you navigate to the main post/pages, WPML adds the language tabs on the top of the table and the language flag columns inside the table. Make sure you’re viewing the posts using the primary web language which is selected trough the dropdown on top of the wp-admin area.

Wpml page translation

When the pages/posts have no translation WPML shows the “+” icon. On the other hand, the pen icon symbolizes that the item has an existing translation. Clicking the icon will switch you to the translation editor screen in which you enter the translation for all of the page content.

The left side of the editor shows the source language (the main website language), and the right side shows the target translation language. You have to translate all of the content rows and make the translation job 100% complete. Once completed, confirm the translation job using the green “Complete” button located in the bottom right. Repeat this process for all of the website pages and posts.

Page translation

Wpml page translation progess

You can also start the translation process from within the post page settings. The right side of the post gets a language tab and you can add the translations from there.

Page translation within page settings

WPML also allows you to start translation jobs globally and assign them to a specific user. To start that, go to the WPML -> Translation management screen. Select the pages you want to translate and send them to translation using the “Translate selected content”. The pages will get the hourglass icon for all of the languages in need of translation and will be transferred to the WPML -> Translations tab.

Translation management screen

The translations tab shows the current translation job queue. You can handle them yourself or assign them to a user responsible for translations.

Wpml translation queue

Translating the post categories and tags

WPML allows you to translate any custom categories and tags you’ve got defined. The editing page for this is located in WPML -> Taxonomy translation. Using the dropdown, select the desired taxonomy for translation and translate them using the icons described in the previous article paragraph.

Translating the navigation menus

When you navigate to the WordPress menu editor, WPML adds language translation links in the right side of the table.

Wpml menu translation

Use them to add the translated menus. The translated menus can contain navigational elements different to the primary language menu, but prior to translating the menus, you should translate all of the pages first because the pages won’t appear in the translated menu setting screen if they don’t have a translated version for that particular language.

Translating the static content and strings from other plugins

To start the string translation process, the first step is to scan the website theme along with all of the plugins to locate all of the strings. Navigate to WPML -> Theme and plugins localization, select the theme you’re using and check all of the plugins. Scan the selected items using the “Scan selected plugins for strings” button.

String translation scan

Once the scan is completed navigate to WPML -> String translation tab. The table holds all of the hardcoded strings and you can manage their translations here.

String translation screen

That’s it, you’ve just learned the main and the most useful features of the WPML plugin. It greatly simplifies the translation process and makes creating multilingual sites easy and fast. For more detailed info on the plugin, visit the plugin site and read more there. You can also rely on their 24/7 support. Happy translating!