There’s no question about it: Multilingual content reaches a wider audience than content that’s only published in one language. But not everyone has the resources to invest in professional website translation. Translation plugins are a tempting alternative if your site is built on WordPress. Simply add them to your website and expand your potential reach in seconds, right?
Maybe. The truth is that automatic translation plugins aren’t suited for all occasions. And plugins that use self-translated content still require you to manage the translation process. With that said, here’s a look at the top translation plugins, the advantages and disadvantages of using them, and how to know if they’re a feasible solution for your website.
The Top 7 Translation Plugins
If you’re looking for a WordPress translation plugin, here are our top 7 picks.
Plugin Type: Both automatic translation and self-translated options
Language Support: 60+ languages
WPML is one of the most trusted translation plugins for WordPress. The features you get depend on the license you choose. Plans start at $29 for blogs, $79 for full-featured websites, and $159 for agencies. The $79 plan includes eCommerce support, translation widgets and back end translation.
You can choose from automatic translation (via ICanLocalize, Cloudwords, or Microsoft Azure) or you can enter translations manually.
Plugin Type: Automatic Translation
Language Support: 100+ languages
Google Website Translator uses Google Translate to translate your content into 100-plus languages. (Note, however, that it is a third-party tool, not built by Google itself.)
This tool allows you to install a widget on your site so that visitors can easily view your content in the language of their choice.
The downsides? First, it’s Google Translate, so quality is . . . variable. (See Can’t I Just Use Google Translate? for more on translation quality.) Secondly, the resulting translations are not available to search engines, so there’s no multilingual SEO functionality to speak of.
Plugin Type: Automatic Translation
Cost: Freemium, with paid plans ranging from $7.99 to $37.99 per month.
Language Support: 100+ Languages
Like Google Website Translator, Translate WordPress with GTranslate lets you use Google Translate to translate your site on demand.
Unlike Google Website Translator, Translate WordPress with GTranslate’s paid plans offer search engine indexing as a feature.
Plugin Type: Self-Translation with automatic and professional add-on options
Cost: Many features are free, but professional translation and the Translation Management System have variable costs.
Language Support: Almost 100 languages
Polylang is an easy-to-use free translation plugin that lets viewers toggle between the original and translated content. You can choose what content you translate. The translated content is available to search engine bots in each target language, which is helpful for multilingual SEO.
Lingotek is an add-on to Polylang that allows you to use automatic translation via Microsoft Translator, crowdsource translations or hire a professional translator. The plugin itself is free, but you will, of course, need to pay for professional translation if you go that route. The Lingotek Translation Management system is also an additional charge,
Plugin Type: automatic and self/professional translation options.
Cost: Freemium, with paid plans starting at €8.25/month.
Language Support: 100+ languages
Weglot wins points for ease of use and SEO-friendliness. The automatic translation option can be configured to translate your entire site and add a translation button for your users, in minutes.
With that said, we can’t emphasise enough that automatic translation always has drawbacks. Fortunately, Weglot offers an easy interface to manage those translations. (Pro Tip: Have a native speaker post-edit automatically translated content ASAP!)
Weglot also features translation management tools to make it easy to outsource the translation work to a professional translator or translation agency.
Plugin Type: automatic and self-translation
Cost: Freemium, with paid plans starting at $32 per domain, per year, and going up to $250 per domain, per year.
Language Support: 80+ pre-installed languages, or add your own.
The pro plans allow you to translate more elements of your website (category and tag descriptions, widget titles, website titles and taglines, etc.) They are also compatible with other services like Elementor Page Builder and Advanced Custom Fields.
Plugin Type: Self-translation
Cost: Limited free version, pro licenses from $199-$599 per year
Language Support: All languages
Amongst translation plugins, Multilingual Press is unique in that it works with WordPress Multisite. That means you can connect versions of your website that are hosted on different domains. (For example, www.yoursite.co.uk for UK English and www.yoursite.de for German). Your site visitors get a seamless browsing experience and you get a faster, more seamless editing experience.
Your sites remain separate and intact, and the plugin plays nicely with other must-have plugins like WooCommerce and Yoast SEO. Because Multilingual Press improves page loading time and website performance compared to other translation plugins, it also gives your site an edge when it comes to multilingual SEO.
Is a Translation Plugin Right for You?
Should you be using a translation plugin at all? It depends. As stated earlier, they aren’t the best choice for every situation.
First, we need to distinguish between plugins that use automatic/machine translation and plugins that allow for self-translation or professional translation.
Without human supervision from a native speaker, automatic or machine translation is only suitable in limited circumstances. Before using a plugin that relies solely on automatic translation, ask yourself the following questions.
- Are less-than-perfect translations acceptable?
- How much do mistakes matter? Will they make your site a target of ridicule? Could they open your business up to liability?
- Is it practical to translate the content professionally? If your site features lots of user-generated content, for example, automatic translation maybe your best option.
If the translation is important or if it has legal implications, however, you need a professional, native-speaking linguist involved, possibly with specialist training. Plug-ins that allow for professional translation could still be a viable option.
Before you sign up, however, carefully consider what the plug-in offers. How easy will it be to keep your content updated? What about the design considerations that come along with translation? Will layouts adapt to different word lengths and letter heights?
Translation Plugin, LSP or both?
All things considered, hiring a professional team can save you significant time and stress, especially as your business grows.
At K International, our team of website translation specialists is here to support you. We do more than provide words:
- Designers make sure that all versions of your site are visually appealing and easy to read.
- Multilingual marketing specialists keep your marketing messages impactful across different languages and cultures.
- Multilingual SEO specialists make sure your international customers can find you online.
- Compliance specialists help you maintain compliance with international regulations.
- Project managers keep you update and keep your flowing smoothly.
If you’re hiring an LSP and you haven’t chosen a translation plugin yet, your LSP should be able to look at your site and give you recommendations for the best path forward.
If you’ve got a website translation project in the pipeline, we’d love to talk to you about it. Contact us today!