If you want your WordPress site to be in different languages, there are a lot of plugins to choose from. Here’s my take on three of the most popular ones.
Polylang has both free and paid versions. Basically, Polylang sets up alternate versions of pages for each language that you want to translate. These alternate pages are completely independent. If you make a structural change to a page in one language, you have to manually make that change to the pages in the other languages if you want them to have that change.
In the free version of Polylang, you are responsible for initially copying the layout and content for each page to the alternate language versions. If you re-copy page content from one language’s page to another, you’ll blow away the translations on that page.
For many sites, this might be a huge inconvenience. If you want your different language pages to be mirrors of each other, differing only in translation, Polylang is not a good choice.
Here’s a great YouTube video that demonstrates these limitations.
Polylang might be a good choice if the pages in different languages don’t need to be synced with each other in layout and structure.
TranslatePress – Recommended!
TranslatePress is a much better solution for keeping different language pages synced to each other in layout. In fact, they have to be.
To create a page in a different language, you use an editor that resembles the WordPress Customizer, with a toolbox and translation fields in the left sidebar and a preview of the front end of the page on the right. All of the editing is done on this front-end editor, including editing of the main menu and footer.
To translate, hover on the preview section and click on the pencil icon. Then, you can enter the translated text in the left sidebar. Easy!
This is pretty cool and pretty intuitive. Here’s a great YouTube video that demonstrates TranslatePress. Here’s an example of a site I designed for a client that uses TranslatePress.
The free version of TranslatePress supports two languages and does not translate metadata (for SEO, social tags, etc.) It does not have automatic language detection.
There are paid add-ons that give you these features though.
WPML – Recommended for Pro Applications!
WPML is the most popular WordPress translation plugin. I would say it has the most “pro” features.
There is no free version, but the paid version resembles that of TranslatePress in feature set. Like TranslatePress, you work with a single version of the page; only the translated text differs.
WPML really shines with features to get pages translated by a translation service, either yours or one of theirs.
They also boast tech support availability 19 hours a day in 10 languages – pretty amazing for a WordPress plugin!
Polylang might be the right choice if your translated pages are different from each other. It’s not a good choice if the translated pages need to be kept in sync with respect to layout and structure.
The free TranslatePress plugin might be the right choice if you only need two languages.
For more languages, either the paid TranslatePress or WPML plugins might be the right choice.
For lots of translation service options (i.e., you don’t want to enter the translated text yourself), WPML is a great choice.