Although native English speakers sometimes forget, with their tongue so wildly used as a second language, not all the world speaks English. In fact, not even a simple majority does. This should give webmaster cause to pause and consider WordPress multi-language.
Whether or not to go with WordPress multi-language
There are obvious reasons to put a site in different languages. Creating content is more difficult than translating it. Therefore, it can make a lot of sense simply to go the extra mile and add more languages for the many millions of people who do not speak English. In an increasing integrated world, particularly with activist groups but also for commercial reasons, having multi-languages can be a way to greatly expand traffic to a website.
The downside is that translating content into different languages takes a lot of time unless the site is small. Since computer translated writing is still far from natural and sometimes unreadable, human translation is required for the added languages to attract many readers. Before adding more languages, stop and consider whether the content has a broad enough scope to be useful to people living in other cultures and markets. It may not be worth the effort of putting the site into more than one language.
Since it is obviously not going to be practical to translate a site into every possible language, choose the languages it will be translated into very carefully. More than the number of speakers of a language, consider the likely needs, interests and tastes of people in the culture. This must also include such things as the colors, images and other things that will go on the site.
Be ready for translation work
Until computer power reaches the point where it can really handle all the intricacies of language, making a real multi-language site will require human labor to properly translate everything. Fortunately, there are many freelancer and translation services that can handle this task online. While this will cost money, it will bring a lot of extra traffic for the right kinds of sites.
A WordPress multi-language site will require a deal of planning to be successful. The first major point to consider is the web address of the translated pages. While it is possible to simply use the same domain name with different endings in the URL or a sub-domain, it is better from a long-term SEO and trust point of view to register a local domain for the country in which the language is most used. If this option is used, it may be best to use WordPress multisite to manage the different URLs.
Character codes also need to be considered. Many languages use different letters or totally unique scripts. Unicode usually works best as it allows these unique character codes. Keep in mind that these varied characters may necessitate different font faces, and simpler fonts are generally the safest bet.
Layout needs to be planned since many languages are not displayed left to right and top to bottom the way English is. Because of this, things to include navigation (for example, perhaps the navigation bar will need to be placed on the other side) also may need to be handled differently depending on the language.
In addition, sites with multilingual content usually require an entrance page that gives visitors the option to easily choose the language they would like and switch anytime.
With more content and visitors, more storage and bandwidth may be required. Monitor the site to make sure speed is not compromised.
Plugins to ease the way
If all of this sounds complicated, there is no need to fret. There are plugins that can greatly ease the burden of building a WordPress site in multiple languages. The following are some of the top Multilanguage plugins, both free and paid.
While WPML is a paid, there is nothing better for those who would like the most professional multilingual website in the shortest time possible. It contains 40 languages in the default installation with more variants available, and the variants can be installed on the same domain, sub-domains or entirely new ones. With a large number of options for managing the website (some will say too many), plenty of configurations are possible. The most unique feature is the translation management systems available in some versions that make it easy to send out and manage content to be translated by others online.
This plugin handles a lot of what is needed for a WordPress site in various languages. Different languages can be set for different themes. For SEO, it is possible to set the site so that search engine crawlers see the separate languages each under their own URLs. The language displayed can be set by the browser’s preferences or by the site visitor.
This plugin also allows easy access to professional human translators as well as simple switching between languages for visitors. Other features include setting different languages to separate URLs and numerous built in languages.
For those who just want their posts to show different languages and not radically change their sites, this plugin may be the way to go. Simply tag the content for the language it is written in with the appropriate language tag. Visitors can then choose which language they would like, and the plugin will display it.
While automatic translations leave a lot to be desired, they are certainly the easy way to go. A poor translation is sometimes better than none at all. This plugin uses various translation engines to automatically translate a site into potentially 48 different languages. Since this plugin will add the language code at the beginning of the URL, the content will be created in a way as not to hurt rankings for the language the site is written in.