Website translation and localisation in WordPress

Most open source content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal are internationalised. This means that if you’ve developed your website using a CMS of this kind, it can be easily translated and adapted for other languages and regions without being redesigned; a major advantage if your organisation or business operates in more than one country.

Our recent post, ‘Our award-winning approach to successful website localisation’, looked at the process of website localisation (translating text and adjusting content for local markets). Now, in the first of a series of articles on translating websites developed in specific content management systems, we explore the multilingual capabilities of WordPress.

WordPress multilingual websites

WordPress is the most popular blogging system on the web; currently 23% of all websites use this system. But its use as a content management system is not just confined to blogging. Many websites use WordPress as their backend framework, and once you’ve familiarised yourself with a WordPress dashboard you can see why; its CMS is extremely user-friendly. First released in 2003, this is a free and open source CMS / blogging tool, now in version 4.

WordPress bilingual and multilingual plugins

Unlike other content management systems, WordPress doesn’t support a bilingual or multilingual blog out-of-the-box. There are, however, third-party plugins (software codes that enable an application to perform additional functions) that will allow you to create a multilingual blog.

Below are the basic types of multilingual plugins available. Each has its pros and cons, and the choice of the plugin depends on the nature of the website – the content strategy, the data-model, the number of blog posts and static pages, and the behaviour/experience expected by visitors:

  1. Plugins that manage multilingual posts in one post per language, such as WPML: This approach lets the user select the post’s language and add translations as new posts (same for pages, tags and categories). Then, different versions of the same content are linked together to form translation groups. This grouping allows users to switch the display language.
  2. Plugins that store all language alternatives for each post in the same post, such as qTranslate: These plugins use language meta tags to distinguish between content in different languages. A post is first processed to extract the content for the specific language being displayed.
  3. Plugins that manage translations on the generated page instead of using a post context, such as Transposh: When any page is displayed on WordPress, the plugin attempts to create a translated version of the page using machine translation. Subsequently, that translation can be manually changed or modified.
  4. Plugins that link together separate WordPress network (multisite) installations for each language, such as Multisite Language Switcher. All the sites need to run the same theme and plugin. When a translation is saved, source posts get pinged by translation posts and the system keeps a separate table with the translation relationships.

Factors to consider when translating WordPress sites

Irrespective of the plugin chosen, the approach to translating website content is basically the same. However, a website’s content is actually comprised of more than just posts and pages. To translate a website fully, you’ll need to consider:

  • Post Metadata: After translating a post, you must remember to translate all post metadata too.
  • Attachments: Post attachments need to be translated as well. Galleries, slideshows and featured images may also have attachments, so these may need to be replicated and translated.
  • Widgets: You’ll need to identify the current language and change the widget accordingly to set the language code you want the widget to appear in.
  • Menus: Multiple menus can be created and may be customised for each active language.
  • Themes: Most themes allow you to configure the site’s appearance via an option pages, but support for a multilingual version is up to the theme author. If there isn’t a multilingual options page available, you’ll need to manage how the text is displayed in each language.

How Comtec Translations can help you with WordPress

Although content for translation can be exported from WordPress, it’s not always straightforward. An XML file (WordPress eXtended RSS (WXR) format) is generated but only allows the export of pages and posts; attachments, images etc. are not included As not everything is included in the same file.

A full website translation and localisation process is required including:

  • Extraction of the source text
  • Finding translators with relevant experience of the market sector and knowledge of cultural differences
  • Reintegration of the text back into the website when translation is complete

Comtec is on hand to help with the entire process and we use our translation memory software to store all specific company phrases and terms. We can re-use these translations again for any updates, reducing the amount of content that needs to be fully re-translated, saving our clients both time and money. If you’ve also invested time and money in your site’s search engine optimisation (SEO), we can help preserve this strategy across different languages and regions by translating the website meta data. This approach ensures your site attract new visitors and succeeds in international markets.

If you have any questions about translating your website, whether you are using WordPress or any other content management system, please get in touch. You can email at info@comtectranslations.com or call +44 (0) 1926 335 681.

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