Making a WordPress Site Multilingual

A parade of flags from many different countries.WordPress is a favorite tool of many of us here at ProfHacker. It’s great for running a course website, maintaining a professional portfolio, running a blog (ProfHacker runs on WordPress), or managing almost any other sort of website, really.

Every once in a while, there’s a need to present a site’s material in more than one language. If the material in question is really short, the solution is simple enough: just make the page or post a bit longer by including the additional languages right there.

That isn’t exactly an elegant solution for long pages or posts, though. Nor does it work well if, for whatever reason (e.g., a course website for a language course, or a site for an international publication or scholarly association), a substantial portion of the site needs to be available in multiple languages.

I’m currently working on a project in which much of the content will eventually need to be available in English, Spanish, and French — far too much for the simpler solution mentioned above. The site I’m building is going to have to be a (near) fully-fledged multilingual site.

When I first came to that conclusion, I had a moment of near panic, because I had no idea how to build one. Then I did what most of us who work with WordPress regularly end up doing: searching the plugin repository. Surely there must be a plugin to facilitate the process of creating such a site. Right?

My hopes weren’t in vain; I fairly quickly found WpGlobus. It looked promising, but it didn’t play well with the theme I was using (because it provides alternate content for each page based on the language selected, rather than requiring each language to have its own page).

Since WPGlobus didn’t work for me, I went searching again, and this time, I found something that seems to be working well thus far: Polylang. I won’t go into detail about how to use it; the plugin’s FAQ and documentation provide all the necessary technical information.

What I will say is that it’s very easy to use, and works as advertised. Of course, it’s still necessary to get the actual translating work done, but the plugin makes managing that multilingual content much easier than it might otherwise be.

Have you had reason to work on a multilingual site? What platform do you use (we like WordPress, but it isn’t everyone’s preference), and what tools have you found useful for creating and maintaining it? Let us know in the comments!

CC licensed photo by Flickr user Rona Proudfoot

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