If your target audience is international, consider translating your website into several languages; English and German are obvious choices. Translating content, images, menus, and form fields can be time-consuming, but the tools are there – even in a light version, so the small business or association can get started for free.
In this article I introduce how to add more languages to WordPress, translate texts in themes and plugins, and how to get help with language and grammar that far surpasses Google Translates.
Table of contents
Add languages to WordPress with PolyLang or WPML
The reason you can’t just add a subpage called “English” and paste a translation in there is because in WordPress’ settings you choose what language your website is in, and this information is conveyed in a so-called lang-attribute on all pages. The attribute tells search engines and screen readers what language the page is written in. This allows Google to present German content to German-speaking visitors and English content to be read out correctly in English, not as English words with Danish pronunciation.
The correct language setting also means that browsers can divide words a little more correctly. This can be particularly important on devices with small screens, mobile phones and watches.
- Automatically display articles in the language chosen by the visitor
- Translate taxonomies (categories, tags) into other languages.
- Translate header, footer and sidebar to other languages.
- Translate captions and alt-texts into other languages.
- Make copies of articles in other languages while maintaining the relationship.
What I mean by “maintaining the relationship” is best illustrated by the På dansk menu item on this page. Clicking on it will take you to a Danish version of the article you are reading. In other words, you stay in the context you are in, instead of being sent to a Danish front page, for example.
There are countless articles about PolyLang and WPML on the web, so I’ll keep it simple and just recommend PolyLang for the hobby site or the modest need; WPML as soon as it gets to more than a dozen pages.
Translate themes and plugins with LocoTranslate
When working backend in WordPress I recommend that you choose the language English. This profile setting is individual and does not affect the frontend language for visitors. I recommend this because the vast majority of themes and plugins do not have an English translation, or it is machine translated and of poor quality. You are better off with the English version.
Guides and support will mostly be in English, and support won’t understand you if you say “tagrende” when you mean “gutter”.
Gutter width is just a fancy term for the margin between columns within a row.— Elegant Themes
But. On the front page, texts should appear in the language you have chosen for the page. Themes and plugins use language files with translations of strings. Examples are “Search results”, “Previous post”, “404 page not found” etc. These are most easily translated directly in WordPress with Loco Translate, offline with Poedit or centrally via translate.wordpress.org
Translate content with DeepL and LanguageTool
With the languages added and the translation tools in place, the next step is to translate the content itself. Here a professional translator would be preferable, but if you’re doing it yourself, you can get help from DeepL Translator which you install on your computer and have running while you translate. DeepL actually delivers some decent translations. You can select synonyms and alternative phrases and the translated sentence will be automatically restructured.
LanguageTool is a browser extension for Firefox and Chrome. It’s just a notch better than the spellchecker in your browser. LanguageTool also helps with grammar and punctuation.
Test the result with Read Aloud
A simple way to test whether the translation works is to have it read out by a screen reader. Read Aloud is a simple screen reader for Firefox and Chrome. In the screencast below, you can see and hear how it works.
Does the article make sense when you just listen without looking at the screen? Then you’ve taken a significant step towards better web accessibility.
Less than 1 per thousand of the world’s population speaks Danish. A large part of the Danish population did not grow up with Danish as their mother tongue. We can better include them – and the rest of the world – if we make our content available in more languages. If your business is aimed at tourists, a multilingual website is an obvious choice.
14.4 percent of the total Danish population are immigrants and descendants— Integrationsbarometeret
SustainableWeb will gladly assist you with setting up multiple languages on your WordPress website. We are resonable good at everyday English and German, but will otherwise refer you to a professional translator in our network.