This quick-start guide will walk you through the steps needed to turn single-language WordPress sites to multilingual, using WPML plugin.

Step Result
Set-up WPML Turn a single-language WordPress site into multilingual
Translate pages and posts Use WPML’s basic translation controls to quickly translate content
Translate strings Translate the site’s tagline and other texts that don’t belong to a specific page

Setting up WPML

After you activate WPML, you will see an invitation to start the setup wizard. The setup wizard will walk you through the steps you need to turn a single-language WordPress site into multilingual.

  1. Choose the current language of the site:

    The default language of the site

    WPML’s setup wizard – choose the site’s default language

  2. Add more languages:

    Additional languages for the site

    Choose additional languages for the site

  3. Choose how to display a language switcher:
    Language switcher options

    Choose where to display a language switcher and how it will work

    WPML comes with a number of language switchers, which you can choose between.

  4. Register your site to receive updates:
    Register WPML

    Register WPML

    You only need to buy a single account for WPML and you can use it to receive automatic updates for all your sites.

Congratulations. Your site is now multilingual. From this moment, you can translate anything in the site.

Translating pages and posts

Now that your site has several languages, you can translate content. You will see a new column for languages, with the basic translation controls, when you edit pages, posts and custom types.

List of pages with basic translation controls

List of pages with basic translation controls

Click on the + icons to add translations.

Translating content

Translating content

WPML creates separate posts for translations. This way, translations get their own URLs, content and meta information (like the SEO attributes).

Translating strings

Some texts in your site don’t belong to any ‘post’, but are coming from the theme, plugins, WordPress and other places. We call the ‘strings’.

To translate strings, you need to install WPML String Translation, which is part of the Multilingual CMS package.

Once String Translation is active, go to WPML->Theme and plugins localization, select the option Translate the theme and plugins using WPML’s String Translation and then scan the theme and plugins for strings.

Scan the theme for strings

Scan the theme for strings

Now, WPML knows about the strings that appear in your theme and plugins. Next, go to, WPML->String Translation. You will see a table with all the strings that WPML found on your site.

You can filter that table by ‘context’, which is the source of the strings. For example, to translate the strings that come from my TwentySixteen theme, I will choose that context.

Translating strings

Translating strings

So now, we’ve covered the basics. We translated content and strings. Our site already displays correctly in different languages.

Beyond the basic site elements

In a few minutes, you went from a single-language to to a multilingual site. You probably noticed that there are plenty of things that you use, for building WordPress sites, and we haven’t touched here.

WPML covers most everything you need when building multilingual WordPress sites. You will find support for:

Comprehensive translation management

In this tutorial, we used the basic translation controls of WPML. This is great when you’re building the site but it’s less than ideal for your clients, who are not Web developers.

Read the tutorial on running multilingual sites, to see how WPML helps you and your clients manage the translation of anything from a tiny site to large multilingual corporate sites.