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December 16, 2020

The languages section allows you to turn a WordPress site multilingual.

To manage languages, go to WPML → Languages.

Site Languages

Choosing languages for the site
Choosing languages for the site

When you configure WPML for the first time, you need to choose the language of existing content. Then, add more languages to the site. You can always go back to add / remove languages.

If you need to use a language that doesn’t appear on the list, click on Edit languages and create it.

Language URL format

WPML lets you choose how to organize contents in different languages. You can select between:

  • Different languages in directories – like for Spanish and for German.
  • A different domain per language – sub-domains like / or completely different domains like /
  • Language name added as a parameter – like for Spanish.

For Different languages in directories to work, your site’s permalink structure needs to be different than the default one. We recommend choosing “Year/Month/Name” or “%postname%”.

For more detailed examples and documentation on what’s needed for each of these modes to run, please read about language URL options.

Language switcher

To let visitors select their language, you can add a language switcher to your theme.

WPML’s standard language switchers include a drop-down languages list, a list of languages for the site’s footer and a language switcher in the menu.

Options for WPML’s language switchers

WPML can enable the language switcher widget automatically for you as a widget in one of the sidebars.

For complete information about different styles of language switchers that you can add to your site, please read about language switcher options.

You can also add WPML’s language switcher to your theme, using one of these hooks:

Order of languages

You can control the order in which languages appear in the language switcher. Look for Languages order in the Languages settings page.

Setting the order of languages

You will see a list of the languages in your site. Drag them around to change the order.

Please note that when you use a drop-down language switcher, the first language shown is always the current language. The other languages will be listed according to the order that you set in the Languages order list.

The footer language switcher will always display with the ordering that you specify.

Choosing what to display in the language switcher

You can choose what to include in the language switcher. WPML can display a country flag, the native language name and the language name in the page’s language.

You can also choose colors for all parts of the language switcher.

Language switcher options

Of course, you can style WPML’s language switcher so that it matches your site’s design. You can also create custom language switchers and add them to the site’s theme.

To change the flags that appear next to languages, go to the section “Site Languages”, then click on the link “Edit Languages”. You can choose a different flag from WPML’s install directory or upload your own.

Disable custom language switchers

In the Custom language switchers section, you can enable or disable the custom language switchers on your site.

Option to enable or disable custom language switchers
Option to enable or disable custom language switchers

When custom language switchers are disabled, the related CSS and JavaScript resources are not loaded anymore. This is useful for sites that do not use any language switchers.

In this case, it is still possible to use the wpml_language_switcher shortcode and the wpml_language_switcher action, however, they will output the language switchers without any CSS or JavaScript.

By default, this option is enabled for existing installs updating to WPML version 3.8 or later. However, for new installs using WPML version 3.8 or later, this option will be disabled by default.

SEO Options

When your multi-language site is analyzed by the search engines, such as Google, it is important to “tell” them about the alternative languages available for your site’s content. This way, search engines will not handle the translations as duplicates but as the same content, only in different languages. And this is good for the SEO rankings of your site.

Please note that when enabled, this information is not visible on your website’s front-end but only in the source code.

In addition to turning this feature on and off, you can also use the Position of hreflang link option to set where this information will be output:

  • As early as possible – default, priority 1
  • Later in the head section – priority 10

In most cases, it is best to use the default setting. Sometimes, different themes and plugins may cause conflicts when this option is used. These conflicts may lead to wrong or completely missing set of these SEO language links. In that case, switching to Later in the head section option should resolve the issue.

Admin language

The default language is normally also the admin language. To see the WordPress admin in a different language, use the Admin language setting.

Websites that have several authors, each writing in a different language may need to have a different admin language per user. Individual users can select their admin language in their profile page.

To learn how to set the site’s default admin language and different admin language per user, read about setting the WordPress administration language.

Language filtering for AJAX operations

WPML allows you to enable a JavaScript cookie so themes and plugins can perform AJAX filtering without issues, even on cached sites.

Learn more about this on the page about enabling language cookie to support AJAX filtering.