A multilingual site drives more traffic and helps you rank better in local search results, but manually translating your content into multiple languages is overkill. Fortunately, there are WordPress translation plugins you can use to translate your content and/or manage the translations.
WordPress translation plugins might sound like a dream come true – you don’t need to know any foreign languages, and you can have top-notch content in any language on Earth you please, but don’t get too excited yet. Most of these plugins use machine translation, and no matter how much machine translation has evolved in recent decades, it still doesn’t come close to real translation by a qualified human.
Therefore, it helps if you are a bit skeptical about the quality of the translations. Machine translation works more or less with menus and other interface elements, but with articles, not to mention fiction, the results are generally disastrous. This doesn’t mean it’s totally obsolete – sometimes you don’t need the best translation possible but just to get an idea what a text is about, and in these cases machine translation does a good job.
1. Google Language Translator
The quick and easy approach to providing your content in multiple languages is to use Google Language Translator. With this plugin you can insert (via a shortcode) the Google Language Translator tool in pages, posts, and widgets. It’s a simple and straightforward plugin, and the actual translation work is done by the tool from Google.
2. Loco Translate
With its 200,000 active installs, Loco Translate is among the most popular WordPress translation plugins. The purpose of this plugin is to help you translate WordPress plugins and themes directly in your browser. It has a built-in translation editor within WordPress admin, and you can translate straight from your theme or plugin. For developers who want to provide international versions of their themes and plugins, the option to extract translatable strings from source code is more than nice.
3. GTS Translation Plugin
GTS Translation Plugin, with its 600+ active installs, comes nowhere close to Polylang or Loco Translate, but it has some really cool features, such as “human quality translation by allowing you to combine automatic translation and human post-editing (crowdsourcing).” The machine part of the translation is done by GTS translation server, not by Google Translate, and then the text is post-edited by the human translators from the GTS community of translators. If you want, you can use your own translators for post-editing instead.
Polylang is another very popular WordPress translation plugin – it has more than 200,000 active installs. With it, translation is optional, but it’s great for strings translation and for creating multilingual sites, including a multilingual admin interface. You can use this plugin to translate everything: posts, pages, media, categories, post tags, menus, widgets, etc. Polylang supports RTL language scripts, and it automatically downloads and updates WordPress languages packs. It comes with a language switcher in the navigation menu.
You can install the Lingotek Translation add-on and use Lingotek for the actual translation, which includes machine translation first, then a check by humans plus a legal review. If you want more features, you can get the Polylang paid version.
5. qTranslate X
If you are looking to provide dynamic multilingual content, you should try qTranslate X. With 100,000 active installs this is a popular plugin, though it does not provide a way to translate strings. (It assumes this job is done by the WordPress localization framework you are using.) qTranslate X provides language switching buttons in the admin interface where you can select which fields to be multilingual. Basically, this plugin makes it easier to enter already-translated content into your WordPress site.
6. Transposh WordPress Translation
Transposh WordPress Translation is one more translation plugin to try. It supports 92 languages and has automatic translation mode for all content (including comments), as well as professional translation by One Hour Translation. In automatic mode you can choose among Google Translate, MS Translate or Apertium. You can also use it to translate external plugins and RSS feeds.
These WordPress translation plugins do a great job for a quick and dirty translation, but if you want a professional grade translating, they might not be what you are looking for. If you try them and you are not pleased with the results, it’s better to not use them at all than provide your users some inadequate mess in their language.