Making a WordPress Site Multilingual with Google Translate

Making a WordPress Site Multilingual with Google Translate

Today, in consulting with a faculty member on a project of theirs, the question of how to easily create a multilingual WordPress website arose. While this is certainly not a new question, it was the first time I had been prompted in a while to investigate anew if there are any relatively straightforward, free, and simple ways to solve this problem. I was so pleased to find an answer. There are likely other good answers out there as well, but I found and have now tested the Google Language Translator plugin. While creating a multilingual site by relying on Google Translate is not at all ideal, it is certainly preferable to having nothing at all, especially if your site is geared toward a global and/or multilingual audience.

Below is a very brief walk though of the plugin. At this point, I have not experimented with many of the settings and features available through the plugin, and what is displayed through these screenshots is how it works with all of the default settings intact.

Installing and adjusting the settings in the Google Language Translator plugin

Go to plugins -> Add New, and search for “Translate WordPress – Google Language Translator”. “Install” and then “Activate” the plugin.

Selecting the Translate WordPress – Google Language Translator in the WordPress plugin ‘store’

You will now see “Google Language Translator” listed in your plugins. Click “Settings” under its title.

The plugin is now installed

The settings are fairly extensive, so there is a lot of space to customize and explore. Here, I have simply selected French and Spanish as languages for the site, along with English (which is the original language of the site). You can select as many languages as you like.

Turning on French and Spanish as translation options.

Among the settings are options to retain or remove the Google Toolbar from the translated page. For the purposes of illustration, I have retained it. I could also see an argument for keeping it in order to make it clear to a user that the translation wasn’t created by a human.

Showing the option to keep or remove Google branding

Once you have adjusted the settings as you like them, scroll to the bottom of the settings page and click “Save Changes”

Saving changes in the settings

Viewing the plugin in action

In this example, the Digital Humanities at MSU website now has the plugin installed, with English, Spanish, and French as language options. Note that the Translate button is at the bottom left of the page. When you click on it, flags representing the different languages are displayed. (These are all adjustable settings, which is good considering the colonial assumptions here.)

Selecting a language for translation

One a flag is selected, the page refreshes to display in the new language. A Google-branded toolbar displays at the top of the page, where the translation can be turned off or adjusted to a different language. The “Translate” at the bottom left of the page also still works for this functionality.

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