WPML is short for “WordPress Multilingual”, a service that lets you add multiple language options to WordPress sites.
Because many parts of the world do not use English as their primary language, getting traffic from such countries will be difficult due to language differences.
To help solve this, WordPress provides a means to easily add multiple languages to your site using a plugin such as the WordPress WPML Plugin.
In this guide, we will explain how this plugin works and then show you how to use the WPML plugin to add languages to your WordPress website.
- Why Add Multilingual Functionality to WordPress?
- How WPML Works
- Installing WPML Plugin
- Configuring WPML WordPress Plugin
- Using WPML to Add Languages in WordPress
Why Add Multilingual Functionality to WordPress?
Earlier we mentioned that you need to make your content available across different regions and languages, in order to maximize your marketing potential.
In countries where other languages besides English are spoken, serving your content in English will be a barrier as users from that region won’t be able to access your content.
But translating your WordPress content into the major languages your site audience understands will greatly improve your reach. It will help you get the attention of a wider audience and grow your business.
How WPML Works
WPML is a WordPress plugin that adds multilingual functionality to a WordPress site. It lets you translate your website into different languages on a single WordPress installation.
WordPress supports many languages, but you can only select one language when installing WordPress on your server.
To build a multilingual website, you would have to install WordPress on different subdomains or subdirectories on your WordPress hosting server.
However, using the WPML WordPress plugin, you can translate your sites’ content into various languages without having multiple installations.
The plugin also has an automatic translation feature that you can use instead. WPML plugin allocates 2000 free automatic translation units per month. If you need more automatic translation, you can pay for the Addon which starts at $2 monthly.
This plugin is compatible with most WordPress plugins and themes. It is also SEO optimized and does not slow down your website.
WPML is a premium plugin and is not available in the WordPress plugin’s directory. This means you need to purchase a license before you can use it on your website.
There are three packages available for WordPress users. If you just want to translate your site, you can choose the Multilingual Blog package. This package costs $29 annually and supports only one WordPress site.
If you have multiple websites, you can choose their most popular option (Multilingual CMS) that lets you install the plugin on 3 sites. This package starts at $79 per year.
There is also the Multilingual Agency package that gives you access to unlimited websites and ecommerce translation as well. The price for this package starts at $159 per year.
Regardless of the plan you choose, the translation service works perfectly and you still get full support from their team.
Installing WPML WordPress Plugin
Before you can start using this plugin, you need to purchase a license from wpml.org. After that, you will receive a link to download a zip file containing the plugin.
To install the plugin, login to your WordPress admin dashboard. Then go to Plugins >> Add New. Next, click on the Upload Plugin button.
Click on Choose File and then select the WPML WordPress plugin from your computer. Next, click on the Install Now button. Activate the plugin after the installation completes.
Side Note: If you need help installing plugins, please refer to our detailed guide to learn how to install and activate WordPress plugins.
After installing the WPML plugin, follow the steps below to configure the plugin on your website.
Configuring WPML WordPress Plugin
To access the plugin settings page, go to WPML >> Languages on your WordPress dashboard. This will bring up the setup wizard for the plugin.
Step One – Content Language
The first step is to select the current language of your website. The plugin usually picks this up by default.
However, if you would like to change your site’s primary language, this plugin lets you achieve it without the need to install WordPress on a separate subdomain.
Click on the Next button after selecting the content language.
Step Two – Translation Languages
Here, you can select as many languages you want your WordPress website to be translated into. To select a language, simply tick the checkbox next to the language name.
After selecting the translation languages, click on the Next button to continue the configuration.
Step Three – Language Switcher
The language switcher works like a switch that users can use to toggle between the language options you added to your website.
WPML provides different ways of adding language switchers to your site. Here, we will show you how to add each of them. After that, you can choose the one that works for your site. Note that you can add all options if that is what you want.
Under Language switcher options, you can choose the order in which the various languages you selected should appear.
The order you set here will be used on any language selector you add to your website regardless of the section it appears in.
Below that, we set the plugin to Skip languages without translation. This is convenient because you wouldn’t want to display a translation option that does not exist.
Menu Language Switcher in WPML WordPress
This option lets you add a language switcher to one of your navigation menus. To start, click on Add a new language switcher to a menu.
This will open up a modal where you can configure how the switcher should look.
First, you need to choose the navigation menu you want to add the switcher. Next, select the position (either at the start or end of the menu).
The plugin also lets you choose whether to display the languages as a dropdown menu or a list. We used dropdown in this example.
You can tick the flag option if you want to display the country flag next to the language name. Additionally, you can change the default colors for the languages under language switcher colors.
On the right, you will see a preview of the configurations you have set. If all looks good, click on the Save button to add the menu switcher.
Widget Language Switcher
With this option, you can add a language switcher on any widget area your site supports.
To start, click on the Add a new language switcher to a widget area button.
In the modal that opens, you can choose the area you wish to add the widget to on your website.
Next, untick the native language name option. You can add a flag next to the languages by checking the Flag box.
On the right, you will see a preview of the widget. Click on the Save button after configuring the widget.
Footer Language Switcher
This option lets you add a language switcher to your websites’ footer section. This can be useful for sites that use a static page as their homepage. It allows users to easily switch to a different language on your site.
To use this option, tick the box next to “Show language switcher in footer”.
Now, begin configuring the look and feel of the switch. The settings are similar to other language switchers we have seen above.
Ensure you click on Save once done.
Link to Translation of Posts
This option lets you display the language switcher as links before or after posts or pages on your WordPress website.
To activate this feature, tick the box next to “Link to translation of posts”. This will open up a modal similar to the ones we have seen in the steps above.
Under “position of link”, choose the option that works well with your site. Similarly, you can display the flag next to the language.
Hit the Save button once done.
After selecting the language switcher(s) you intend to use on your website, scroll down and hit the Next button.
Step Four – Compatibility
With the WPML plugin, you can opt to send information to the WPML team about the themes and plugins you install on your website.
This information is used by their team to test future releases for compatibility issues. Also, it makes it easier to assist site owners when they run into errors while using this plugin.
You can choose to not send information about your site if you are concerned about privacy. Click on Next to continue the setup.
Step Five – Registration
This part is where you connect your site to your WPML account. After purchasing a license for the plugin, you will be given a Key to activate the plugin fully.
If you cannot find the key on your WPML account, click on Generate Key for this Site. Copy the code from WPML and then paste it into the box.
Next, click on the Register button. If you want to perform this step later on, hit the Remind me later button.
After this, click on the Finish button to complete the setup process.
Using WordPress WPML to Add Multiple Languages
After configuring the plugin, you can start translating your content either automatically, manually, or using a translation service. Here, we will show you how automatic and manual translation works.
WPML allows you to translate posts and pages, navigation menus, taxonomy, etc. It also supports string translations.
The manual translation requires that you manually enter the translation for each language and content type, which can be tedious and time-consuming. However, you can hire professional translators to assist with the translation.
Hiring a translator requires installing the Translation Management Addon that shows you a list of translation service providers you can select from.
The Translation Management tool provides an interface to manage translation jobs on your site. You can assign these jobs to a translator, a translation agency, or send them for automatic translation.
To install the addon go to Plugins >> Add New. Then select the “Commercial” tab.
Here you will find all the Addons that come with the WPML plugin. Select the Translation Management and String Translation addon. If you run an ecommerce site, you can select the WPML Multilingual CMS addon for WooCommerce multilingual support.
Now, scroll down and tick the “Activate after download” checkbox. Lastly hit the Download button.
After downloading the add-on(s) on your site, go to WPML >> Translation Management to open the management dashboard.
The first time you open the dashboard, you will be prompted to add a translator to your website. Go ahead and do this. You can add a new user or an existing user as a translator.
Additionally, you can select a translation service to handle the translation. To add a translation service, click on Choose a Translation Service.
You will see a list of translation service providers supported by the plugin. Click on Activate next to the service you intend to use.
On the next screen, you would need to enter an API Token to connect the service to your site. Click on Create an account in one minute. You will find the API Token on your dashboard after creating an account on their website.
Copy the code and then paste it into the “API Token” textbox. Next, hit the Authenticate button.
After selecting the translation service, click Continue.
WordPress WPML Automatic Translation
The plugin provides a means to automatically translate your site’s content. WPML allocates 2000 free automatic translation credits to their users per month. After that, users are charged on a pay-as-you-use basis.
To use this feature, first, go to WPML >> Translation Management. On the “Translation Dashboard” tab, select the items for translation.
In this example, we chose to translate Pages. Select all the pages you want to translate.
Next, select the languages you want to automatically translate your content. After that, click the Add selected content to translation basket button and assign the translation job to a translator or yourself.
Now, go to the “Translation Tools” tab and select all the jobs you want to translate automatically.
Afterward, scroll down and click Translate Automatically.
Your content will be automatically translated.
Side note: If you do not see the dashboard above, you may have to register for the automatic translation service. On the “Translation Tools” tab, simply click on signup and then fill in the necessary details.
With automatic translation, you can translate any aspect of your website. In the example above, we chose Pages, but you can also select posts or Taxonomies.
String Translation Using WPML WordPress Plugin
These are texts that are not part of the wp-posts object such as the admin dashboard, plugins settings, etc. To translate this type of file, go to WPML >> String Translation.
Next, use the selection box to select the strings you want to translate. After that, scroll to the “Translate selected strings” section and select the languages you want to automatically translate into.
Then click Add to translation basket. You can follow the same procedure shown above to add these strings for automatic translation.
WordPress WPML Manual Translation
Aside from using the Translation Management tool, you can manually translate your sites’ content. However, this process is time-consuming. In this section, we will show you how to manually translate taxonomies, posts, and navigation menus.
Translating Taxonomy (Categories and Tags)
Taxonomies are used to group WordPress content together. WPML provides an easy way to translate your taxonomies and custom post types.
For this, go to WPML >>Taxonomy Translation.
Next, select the taxonomy type (categories or tags). It will display all the categories or tags on your site with a plus icon for every language you set.
To translate your categories, click on the plus icon.
Here, enter the translated version of your taxonomy and then click on Save (remember that you can get these translations by simply searching English to Spanish on Google). You can use the same procedure to translate to other languages.
To translate other taxonomy types, click on the “Select taxonomy to translate” dropdown and then select from the list.
Translating Navigation Menu
WPML lets you translate all the navigation menus your theme supports. To start, go to Appearance >> Menus.
Next, choose the language you wish to create a navigation menu for.
Afterward, you can now add translated pages, posts, taxonomies to the navigation menu.
Once done, click on the Save Menu button.
You need to repeat the same process for other languages your site supports.
Translating Posts and Pages
To manually translate your pages, go to Pages >> All Pages.
Here, you will notice a flag for all the languages you selected during the setup process. To translate a particular language, simply click on the plus icon below the flag.
It will take you to the content editor where you can enter the content in that language.
Enter the title and content, select the right category from your translated taxonomy. Hit the Publish button once done.
If you are using the classic editor, the procedure is similar to that of the block editor. Simply enter the title and content of the posts.
Next, select the right taxonomy for the post and then hit the Publish button.
You need to repeat the process for all your pages, translating each page to each of the languages you selected during the initial setup of the plugin.
To translate your posts, go to Posts >> All Posts. Similarly, you will see a plus icon below each language you selected. To translate a particular post, click on the plus icon below the language you wish to select.
On the content editor, follow the same procedure for the pages section above to complete the translation.
Summary – WordPress WPML
WPML is one of the popular WordPress plugins for building multilingual WordPress websites. Of course, there are other free and premium translation plugins such as Polylang that offer similar features.
However, WPML stands out because of the robust features it offers along with numerous add-ons and support for Woocommerce translation.
In this guide, we have explained how the plugin works. Then we showed you how to install and configure the plugin on a WordPress site. We also covered basic translations for WordPress posts, custom post types, and taxonomies.
Like we mentioned, the plugin does not directly translate your content after configuring it (except you pay for automatic translation service). Instead, you are required to manually translate your content or hire translators to assist with the process.
If you run multiple sites with many pages, it would be best to hire professional translators, saving you a lot of time and resources.
If you need more resources to help you manage your website effectively, please check our WP College for WordPress tutorials.