Allowing visitors to translate your WordPress website into their language is never a bad idea. Even if not a large portion of the audience needs it, and you can’t afford to hire a professional translator for the job, your efforts won’t go unappreciated. Visitors who are still learning English, assuming your website is international, will surely be grateful for the ability to switch back and forth. They’ll likely learn new words and sentences even if your translation isn’t spot-on. That undoubtedly expands your audience and boosts their loyalty and gratitude. Hence, you should learn how to translate WordPress as soon as possible.
1. Embed an automatic language switcher widget
This is a beginner-friendly option that is simultaneously the lazy way to reach your goals. While it won’t be as precise as a manually translated page, it can aid a small international audience or act as a way to bridge a gap until you implement a permanent solution. Sure, you can simply instruct your readers to use translation options built into Bing, Yandex, Linguee, Google Chrome, or Safari.
However, a better way would be to embed a button that lets them select a language. Unfortunately, the Google Translator widget stopped getting updates around 2019 and forbid new users from signing up. Thus, it’s hard to demonstrate a method that works across the board. If you can find a tool that supports languages you seek, editing the HTML of pages and posts is a simple solution. Otherwise, use the method below to achieve that.
2. Install a dedicated translation WordPress plugin
Installing WordPress plugins whose sole purpose is the translation of websites is the most comprehensive option. It allows you to disregard any worries regarding SEO or wreaking havoc, yet allow manual and automatic translation. That’s not all — besides pages and posts, you can translate menu items, forms, image alt tags/descriptions, sliders, pop-ups, URL slugs, descriptions, page titles, social media titles, and even easily set up multiple XML sitemaps. In short, you can safely showcase your content in multiple languages.
Using TranslatePress to translate your WordPress website
We have no affiliation, but the most thorough option, yet free, is TranslatePress. It supports manual and automatic translation and lets you pick one language for free with no limitations, and set up multiple languages with TranslatePress Premium. It also works with WooCommerce, maintains custom post types, advanced themes, widgets, contact forms, shortcodes, and page builder plugins. Start by installing and activating the plugin on your website.
1. Select the plugin version
To begin the configuration, head over to Settings > TranslatePress in the left sidebar of the WordPress Admin Section.
- Before you do anything, decide whether you’ll use a free version (translating to one language only) or purchase a license to gain a plethora of language translations.
- If you decide on the latter, click on the License tab in the top right corner.
- With that done, hop over to the Add-ons tab.
- Activate the one named “Extra Languages”.
- Click the Addons Download button.
2. Set up languages and Tweak your language switcher
Now’s the time to select the “Default language”, which we assume will be English (United States).
- Use the drop-down list under “All Languages” to add one or more extra languages.
- Tip. We suggest leaving “Code” and “Slug” untouched.
- Scrolling a bit down leads you to the “Language Switcher” section.
- Note. This is a simple widget visible on the frontend akin to Google Translator. You can also embed it into posts and pages via shortcodes, add it as a menu item, or make it float and follow users as they scroll your website.
- Preview its appearance and functionality before clicking Save Changes.
3. Switch your Permalinks structure (Situational)
Because the plugin uses short slugs, such as en for English and es for Spanish, this is the perfect time to change your URL structure if you haven’t. To do so:
- Head over to Settings in the left sidebar, then Permalinks.
- The best choice is either “Post name” or “Custom Structure” with “/%postname%/” in the text field.
- Click the Save Changes button.
4. Begin translating your website in Live Preview
The foundation is ready and it’s time to get to work by clicking on the Translate Site tab in the top menu.
- You’ll see a familiar Live Preview window. Instead of the usual WordPress options, you’ll notice translation settings.
- The next part is dead simple. Click to highlight an element on the page, and options will open in the left sidebar.
- You can view pages as different user roles, from visitor to user to Administrator. Furthermore, you can define To and From languages, and enter manual translations.
- Do the same until you translate every element, Keep clicking on Save Translation in-between.
- Repeat step 4 for all pages and posts you seek to translate.
5. Set up an automatic translation of your WordPress website (Optional)
We understand the option above is tedious. It requires a lot of manpower, knowledge, and most of all, time. This is everything website owners lack when trying to one-up their competition. Hence, automatic translation, which uses machine learning, is a more suitable option. Thankfully TranslatePress offers this option through an intermediary API (Application Programming Interface) — Google Translate and DeepL.
Begin by selecting the Automatic Translation tab in “TranslatePress Settings”.
- Now, select Yes under “Enable Automatic Translation”.
- Choose between Google Translate (the only free option) and DeepL (paid plugin version only) depending on your license.
- Click the link that explains how to generate a key for the API.
- Copy/paste the key into the text field.
- Click the blue Save Changes at the bottom to confirm.
6. Utilize add-ons (Premium license only)
The reason you shouldn’t translate WordPress directly lies in the page metadata. It’s bad practice to translate the content you already rank for. Even if you do, unless you change the “hreflang” attribute to the correct language, search engines won’t recognize it, even if the entire page is translated.
Moreover, you’d have to create new URLs and publish pages manually. That’s because Google strongly advocates each page should contain content in one language. Addons such as the TranslatePress SEO Pack add-on take care of all that. They translate and generate URLs, page descriptions, image alternative tags, different taxonomies, social media descriptions, and support for characters for Chinese, Arabic, Indian, and more.