Looking to translate your WordPress website into multiple languages? A multilingual WordPress website speaks to everyone — not just to your English-speaking audiences. In this guide, we’ll show you the easiest way to create a multilingual WordPress website. But before that, let’s see what a multi-language WordPress website is.
What is a Multilingual WordPress Website?
A multilingual WordPress website automagically translates all of your content in your base (or default) language into as many target languages as you need to offer. Said another way: A multilingual WordPress website speaks as many languages as its users do.
You can translate a WordPress website written originally in English and offer it to your users in Spanish, Mandarin, or Latin!
Some WordPress multi-language websites use their users’ locations to automatically offer their content in their local languages. Others simply place a language switcher so that users can switch to a language of their choice and access a translated version.
Table of contents
- What is a Multilingual WordPress Website?
- The Problem a Multi Language WordPress website solves
- Benefits of Having a Multi Language WordPressWebsite
- Challenges of Creating a WordPress Multi Language Website
- Choosing a Type of WordPress Multi Language Translation
- Choosing a WordPress Multi Language Solution
- Creating a WordPress Multi Language Site with Weglot
- Case Study: How IChO 2019 is Using Weglot
- Cultural Optimization: Taking Translations to the Next Level
- WordPress Language Translation Is Just the Beginning
The Problem a Multi Language WordPress website solves
When you look at the numbers, the web caters overwhelmingly — and disproportionately — to English speakers.
English is ranked the third most popular spoken language in the world, with 360 million native speakers. But it claims the top spot amongst the most commonly spoken languages online, with 873 million internet users. And then there’s the fact that 59.9% of online content is written in English.
Consider this: the number of English speakers pales in comparison to the number of Mandarin speakers (955 million) and Spanish speakers (405 million).
Imagine opening a web page and seeing Chinese characters. If you don’t know Mandarin, you’d quickly leave the site, right? And you sure wouldn’t try to buy something – how could you?
So, it makes sense that 87% of people who can’t read English simply don’t buy from English-language websites.
There’s a clear language divide online. But for astute business owners, this divide presents opportunities to sell products and services to people overseas who would otherwise ignore sites that aren’t available in their native language.
Fortunately, a quality WordPress multilingual plugin like Weglot can translate the words on your site into any language with ease. It can take your WordPress website’s default language and translate pages into all the new languages that you want to make your content available in. Within minutes with Weglot, you can offer personalized user experiences at scale.
Before diving into our tutorial and seeing how you can translate your regular WordPress site into a multilingual site, let’s understand the benefits and challenges that come with creating and maintaining a WordPress multi-language site.
Benefits of Having a Multi Language WordPressWebsite
When creating a WordPress site, isn’t it convenient if you can read your favorite sites in English?
For much of the population, however, reading in their native language is a luxury.
And translating your site isn’t just a one-sided exercise that only benefits people who actually land on your site. Along with outdoing your competition and strengthening your brand internationally, here are some very real benefits you can expect to achieve for your business.
1. Reach New Markets
Theoretically, there are millions of consumers worldwide who have access to your website but are unable to read it. Making your WordPress multi language site available in popular languages, such as Mandarin, Spanish, Hindi, German, French and Russian, ensures that you are ready to attract a diverse array of people.
There might even be people from other countries who are already trying to access your site. While your content might be delivered in English, the demographics of your audience could suggest that visitors might like to read in their native, non-English language.
Your Google Analytics account can tell you the top 10 languages your visitors browse in. As you can see from the data below, the top three visitor languages to this particular site are U.S. English, French, and British English.
Translating your content ensures people who would otherwise not give your site a second glance will be able to enjoy your content, buy your products or services, and comfortably interact with your WordPress multi language site.
It also opens the door to word-of-mouth advertising. For example, a person in Spain is much more likely to share a product page or article that’s written in their preferred language – Spanish. The benefit is more directly clear if you have a multilingual WooCommerce store.
2. Scale Your Business
For some markets, having an English-only website can quickly kill-off dreams of global expansion. According to Baidu, China’s largest search engine, English landing pages have an 85% drop-off rate.
Let’s put this figure into perspective:
- Chinese make up the world’s largest online population with 618 million users, representing just 46% of the country’s physical population.
- 33.8% of these 618 million users shop online.
- In 2017, these users spent $651 billion online — up from $301.9 billion in 2013.
It’s also worth noting that Baidu has over 560 million regular users — the equivalent of all Google users in Europe and Asia combined, and precisely why companies like Apple are desperate to break into the Chinese market.
This example demonstrates precisely why localization is crucial for scaling your business. While Chinese are large consumers of online content and are not wary of buying online, they — like English speakers — want a rich depth of content in their local language.
3. Increase SEO and Online Visibility
With translated content, your WordPress multi language site will be much more likely to show up in Google, Bing, Yahoo and even Baidu search results, helping to increase your online visibility.
The competition for English language SERPs is fierce. But what about German, French or other languages?
With a WordPress multi language site, together with multi language keywords and metadata, you can target a broader range of keywords and boost your SERP rankings for several different languages.
Content marketer Neil Patel tested this when he translated his site into 82 different languages. The result? A 47% increase in organic traffic in just three weeks.
4. Establish (and Increase) Trust
When you can provide translated content that gives overseas consumers what they need to feel confident about making a purchase on your WordPress multi language site, you’re not only securing their sale but potentially others, too.
Customer reviews and mentions of our business on social media in other languages offer huge opportunities for sales growth. Research shows that 91% of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 84% trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. And they make purchasing decisions quickly: 68% form an opinion after reading between one and six reviews.
User-generated content, shared because customers are excited about your product and service, goes a long way to building trust and authenticity with international audiences. WordPress language differentiates brands that communicate effectively with global markets from companies that don’t (and that remain inaccessible and invisible to international audiences).
5. Improve Your ROI
The Localization Industry Standards Associati, a Swiss-based trade body that’s been replaced by the Industry Specification Group for Localization (ISG), has reported that for every $1 spent on localization, a business will make a return of $25.
That’s right — a 2,500% return.
This finding clearly illustrates the impact that WordPress language translation efforts can have on a business’s brand, customer relationships and, ultimately, bottom line.
Challenges of Creating a WordPress Multi Language Website
The first step in expanding your business internationally with a multilingual website is deciding which countries are right for your business. It’s crucial that you consider the following:
- Is there a market for my product/service in this country?
- Are there any cultural taboos my business may violate?
- Are there any government restrictions in place that may make it difficult for customers to access my WordPress multi language site?
- Are there any tariffs on the products/services my business offers or trade barriers that would rule out selling in this country?
Once you know where you want to sell, there are other challenges to keep in mind.
1. Choosing Languages
Choosing which languages to translate your content into might seem like a fairly straightforward task once you’ve determined the countries you want to sell to via your WordPress multi language site. But keep in mind that in many countries, people speak multiple languages.
For example, in the Philippines, the national language is Tagalog, but people also speak Spanish, English and local dialects. Singapore has four official languages, South Africa has a whopping 11 official languages, and China has seven major dialects and two separate, official written languages.
2. Navigating Cultural Nuances
WordPress language translation involves far more than simply switching words from one language to a new language. Words rarely have a one-to-one relationship, and when you consider colloquialisms, idioms, and metaphors, translation quickly gets complicated.
Take Parker Pens, for example. When the company started selling its ballpoint pens to the Spanish market, its slogan was, “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you,” which was translated to, “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.”
How did this happen? It was a linguistic mishap. The Spanish word for “embarrass” is “avergonzar,” which sounds similar to the Spanish word “embarazar” – which means “get pregnant.”
3. Designing for Languages
If you’re a foreign film fan, you know that keeping up with subtitles for movies from some countries is easier than others due to one linguistic truth: some written languages are more concise than others.
Twitter highlighted this point when it started testing (and later launched) 280-character tweets. The social media company’s engineers noticed that people writing tweets in English were far more likely to hit the 140-character limit than people writing in languages using Chinese characters.
This is because in languages like Japanese, Korean, and Chinese, you can convey about double the amount of information in one character as you can in languages like English, Spanish, Portuguese, or French, which require more space to get a point across.
Localization will certainly impact the layout of your WordPress multi language site design. Some languages, like Japanese or Mandarin, use one or two characters where English needs a full sentence. Other languages, such as German and Hindi, will need even more space on the page than English.
Choosing a Type of WordPress Multi Language Translation
There are two primary types of translation services: machine translation and human translation. Translation solutions typically offer one or both of these WordPress language translation types (like in the case of Weglot), and some also offer human editing and/or revision.
- Machine translation: This type of translation relies on online translation services or translation packs to convert words on your WordPress multi language site into other languages. Google Translate is probably the most popular example of machine translation. There’s no human input or editing, so while this type of translation is usually fast and free, it can be prone to output errors. However, big players such as Microsoft and Google have been investing huge resources into state-of-the-art Neural Machine Translation algorithms in recent years. By leveraging AI, today’s machine translations can yield pretty good results.
- Human translation: This is a translation provided by a quality, experienced and professionally-trained translator. Human translation is accurate and more natural-sounding, as translators are able to interpret the nuances of language better than a machine can.
- Mixed translation: This type of translation will manually translate your most important pages and keep machine translation for the rest. It’s perfect for ecommerce WordPress websites with thousands of products, for example.
In addition to these types of translation methods, many WordPress language translation solutions also allow you to translate and/or correct translations yourself using a built-in editor.
Choosing a WordPress Multi Language Solution
When it comes to choosing a WordPress multi language solution for your site, there are three primary considerations:
- Price: What is your budget? Do you want a free solution, or are you willing to pay a monthly fee for high-quality translations?
- Quality: How important is quality and accuracy? Will machine translations suffice, or does your business need professional translation services done by human translators?
Clarity: Does your business sell products or services where there’s no room for confusion, and clarity is non-negotiable? For instance, does your business deal in law, medicine, or finance?
Creating a WordPress Multi Language Site with Weglot
There are many translation tools and plugins available for WordPress, but the leading solution in terms of price, quality, clarity and ease of use is the Weglot language plugin.
Weglot has quickly gained in popularity in recent years because, well, it just works. If you’ve tried other WordPress language translation plugins, you know how much of a headache it can be to set up a WordPress multi language site. With Weglot, you can say goodbye to technical issues.
Weglot integrates seamlessly with any WordPress site, automatically detecting and translating your written content and adapting to your plugins and themes.
More than 100 languages are supported, which — impressively — you can manually edit in context on the front-end of your site using Weglot’s intuitive visual editor. And if you’re not a polyglot, you can order professional WordPress language translations right from the Weglot dashboard.
What’s more, the Weglot WordPress plugin follows Google best practices in terms of multilingual SEO, so you can trust that your translated pages will be properly indexed. In fact, when you add new languages to your WordPress website with Weglot, Weglot creates language subdirectories or subdomains for each of the new languages. Also, with built-in team functionality, you can add new members to your account for easy collaboration.
If all that’s not enough to convince you of the high quality of Weglot’s translation service, it counts Microsoft, Sennheiser, and La Poste amongst its customers.
Ready to get started using Weglot to create a WordPress multi language site? Let’s look at how to set it up — all in under 5 minutes.
Getting Started with Weglot
To get started, sign up for a Weglot account. Head over to the homepage and start your 10-day free trial.
On the registration page, enter your email, create a password, agree to Weglot’s terms of service, opt-in to their newsletter (if you like) and start your free trial.
You’ll need to confirm your email address before you can get started, so check your inbox.
How to Create a Multi Language WordPress Site
You’ll then be guided through how to set up Weglot on your site in three simple steps:
- Install and activate the Weglot Translate plugin on your WordPress site. You can download it for free from the WordPress.org plugin repository, or install it direct from your WordPress Dashboard by searching “Weglot” at Plugins → Add New.
- Next, select the Weglot menu item in the admin sidebar. Enter your API key, choose your original language and enter the language or languages you want to translate your site into.
- Lastly, save your changes and open your multilingual WordPress website. You should now see a translation button in the bottom-right of your site.
Go ahead and switch the language for your site! You should see the words on your site instantly update to display in your chosen language. Check out the example below.
Impressive, right? In less than 5 minutes, I’ve signed up for a Weglot account, installed the plugin and have another language working seamlessly on my website. Also, Weglot is compatible with all WordPress themes and page builders.
After setting up your first language(s), return to the Weglot dashboard in WordPress to see the new options that have appeared:
- Design of the language switcher
You can choose whether you want to display a drop-down menu or use buttons; display different flag designs; and display names and flags or just names. You can also enter CSS to customize the style of your language switcher and change placements with shortcodes.
By default, the language switcher button will be displayed in the bottom-right of your web pages. But you can also choose to insert it in a menu, as a widget or in your site’s source code.
By default, every page on your site will be translated, but you can choose to exclude parts of a page or full pages. You can even exclude custom post types from translation.
- Other options
- There are further options available, enabling you to:
- Redirect users based on their browser language.
- Translate WordPress emails.
- Choose your multilingual SEO-friendly permalink structure.
- Translate all parts of your site, including navigation menus and custom fields!
- Integrate with page builders such as Elementor – Weglot works out of the box with all WordPress plugins and themes.
- Translate AMP.
- Allow users to search your site in their chosen language.
- Only allow admins to see WordPress language translations.
Weglot offers a first “automatic translation” layer to help you avoid starting from scratch. It also enables you to then manually edit whatever you need.
To begin editing your translations, click the “Edit my translations” button on the Weglot screen in the WordPress admin.
Alternatively, log in to your Weglot account and go to your Translation List. From here, you can edit individual words and phrases for your WordPress multi language site.
Weglot’s impressive Visual Editor lets you edit and modify translations directly within the context of your WordPress multi language site.
Say, for example, you find a machine translation that hasn’t quite picked up on the nuances of a piece of text. You can manually replace the WordPress language translations with words you have translated yourself or have had professionally translated.
Does your business have a tagline that doesn’t translate well into other languages? You can avoid the Parker Pens mistake I mentioned earlier by setting specific rules to apply to certain words and sentences, ensuring they’re never translated.
You can also set rules to “always translate,” which will search and replace certain words and phrases across your multilingual WordPress site.
When you first set up Weglot on your site, automatic translations are provided by the best machine learning providers in the world — Microsoft, DeepL, Google and Yandex, depending on the language.
When you’re ready to take the quality of your translations to the next level, just order WordPress language translations from vetted professional agencies directly from your Weglot account.
The Professional Translation option offers plenty of benefits:
- High quality: Order quality translations with a human translator. A native translator will start translating your order right away.
- Flexible and affordable: Pay a la carte pricing from €0.08 per word, depending on the language.
- Fast and easy integration: Professional translations will be automatically added to your Weglot account and displayed on your site within 24-48 hours.
Case Study: How IChO 2019 is Using Weglot
The International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) is an academic competition for high school students, hosted in a different country each year.
Paris is hosting the 2019 event, with 300 students expected to descend on the French city for their 51st annual competition.
Creating an international site for global reach
With students from 76 countries attending, organisers needed to ensure that participating schools could access and understand the IChO website. That’s why creating a multi language WordPress site would be essential in reaching IChO’s global audience.
Baltazare, the agency tasked with designing the new website, ensured the French language site could be quickly translated into English using Weglot.
The site features prominent language switcher buttons in the top-right of each page, which have been styled to match the site’s design.
Usability: A painless handover from agency to client
Baltazare then set about translating key generic terms, before IChO managed the translation of other content from directly within the Weglot plugin. Not only was this a simple handover from agency to client, but the structure and features provided within Weglot made other tasks, such as SEO localization, a doddle. Weglot automatically translated and referenced pages, so the website was already well-referenced on Google, in both English and French, from the outset.
Baltazare was pleased with how easy it was to create a multi language WordPress site for IChO. “We were able to integrate all our translations in record time. The Weglot team is very quick to help us with any questions we might have, and they are always listening to our suggestions for improvements. We know that we can count on them.”
Cultural Optimization: Taking Translations to the Next Level
Making a dedicated investment in WordPress multi language content that speaks to your intended audience in their native language can help your business win new market share. But it involves a great deal more than simply changing text word-for-word.
Ensuring your content aligns with your target market’s cultural norms means also localizing your WordPress multi language site. The process of translation can be easily achieved with WordPress multi language solutions like Weglot, which supports full cultural optimization with features that enable you to change images and video text to your desired language.
Localization, also referred to as L10N, involves adapting your product or service to the specific languages or cultures you want to sell to so that it seems natural to that particular region. This includes WordPress language translation, but goes much further, also taking into account language, culture, customs, technical and other characteristics of the target locale.
You can use Weglot to make direct translations of your website copy, but you can also go further: making sure your copy is optimized for each country. Weglot can even serve different images and videos to different locations, so you can optimize these too.
While localization frequently involves changes to the software writing system (e.g. right-to-left languages), it may also change the keyboard usage, imagery, fonts, colors, date, time and monetary formats. Understanding these differences is crucial to the success of your WordPress multi language site.
But this is just the start. Other cultural nuances you need to consider include:
1. Localized Customer Service
If you or your staff don’t speak the same language as your customers in a particular country, communication is going to be a challenge. WordPress multi language translation, while excellent in changing the written content of your WordPress multi language site, can only get you so far. It’s advisable that you hire at least one person on your team who speaks the local language.
2. Work Habits
Different countries work in different ways and at different times. While your business might operate from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, the typical Spanish workday tends to be from around 8.30 or 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. or so, then again from 4:30 or 5 p.m. to about 8 p.m. The custom of stopping for a siesta may be dwindling in some larger cities, but it’s still a major part of the traditional workday in Spain.
This is a great example of how you can use Weglot to ensure you have the most appropriate copy for each country and go beyond direct translations.
3. Business Etiquette
When doing business in other countries, the phrase “when in Rome…” takes on a whole new meaning. While you intrinsically understand the business etiquette of your own country, it’s a good idea to do your research before doing business elsewhere.
For example, Germans are direct — they tend to say what they mean and mean what they say. Whereas in Japan, it is customary to respond with “yes” even if you disagree with what is being said.
You might, for example, use Weglot to swap out a sales video based on this information. This is as easy as translating any of your website text.
4. Marketing Strategy
You can’t simply copy and paste your marketing campaigns from one country to the next, since every region has its own culture-specific behaviors and expectations. This is why you need to research deeply when entering a new market and even localize any taglines or slogans you use to account for local slang and customs.
But it’s not just about your messaging — you also need to consider how you deliver your marketing. While Americans might use Facebook to target users, this kind of marketing would fail in China, where Facebook is banned and citizens use WeChat and Weibo instead. Take a look at these WordPress marketing tools or WooCommerce plugins to help develop a marketing strategy for each region.
WordPress Language Translation Is Just the Beginning
The future of the web is undeniably multi language. Fortunately, WordPress multi language solutions such as Weglot make reaching global audiences easier and faster than ever before.
My advice? Get a head start on your competitors and claim your slice of online real estate across multiple WordPress languages now –– before the foreign language web starts to get as crowded as the English language market. If you’re on WooCommerce, the opportunity is arguably even bigger.
With Weglot, you can translate your site in as little as 5 minutes and increase your online visibility, scale your business, reach new markets and achieve the high ROI that comes with investing in WordPress language translation. Weglot even supports a WordPress multisite setup so you can use it on different domains.