WPML, qTranslate X or Polylang – The Three Most Popular Multilingual WordPress Plugins Compared

If you want to publish your content in more than one language, the most common way to do it is to create a multilingual website. As you’d expect, WordPress boasts a number of excellent purpose-built multilingual/translation plugins to help with this.

In this article, we’ll be exploring and comparing: WPML, qTranslate X and Polylang — arguably the best, and certainly the most popular, WordPress translation/multilingual plugins on the market.

By the end of this comparison, you should have a good idea of what’s involved in creating a WordPress website with content in various languages, as well as what each of these three plugins has to offer, how they differ and which one best meets your needs.

Let’s get started.

The Three Most Popular WordPress Multilingual Plugins: WPML, qTranslate X and Polylang

Before we really get into the details, here’s an overview of each (for the benefit of those who aren’t yet familiar with them):

WPML (Quick Overview)

WPML WordPress Plugin

First up is WPML. Almost certainly the most popular commercial multilingual plugin available for WordPress (with more than 400,000 sites reportedly using it), WPML aims to simplify the task of managing the different language versions of your content without sacrificing either features or functionality.

WPML is an extremely powerful plugin that can be used to display almost all aspects of your WordPress website in different languages — from post and page content to text displayed as part of your WordPress theme. WPML can also display a multilingual version of plugin content, the WordPress admin area and much, much more. Depending on which licensing option you choose, you’ll also be able to create and manage multilingual versions of your WooCommerce-powered ecommerce store.

When using WPML to create a multilingual WordPress website, you can either provide the translated versions yourself or use WPML to put you in touch with translation services or freelance translators. You can then hire these translators to convert your content for you — all from within your WordPress dashboard.

WPML is a premium option, but, with prices starting from $29, it’s also an extremely affordable choice.

Official website

qTranslate X (Quick Overview)

qTranslate

The new and improved version of the original qTranslate multilingual WordPress plugin, qTranslate X is freely available from the WordPress Plugin Directory, has been installed on more than 100,000 websites, and has a user rating of 4.9 out of 5.

Once activated on your WordPress website, qTranslate X lets you create multiple versions of your content, each using a different language. After you’ve entered the translated versions of your posts, pages, and other areas of your website, your visitors will experience your site in the language defined by their website browser. With qTranslate X you can also add switchers to your site that allow your visitors to manually choose which language is displayed.

By installing a free add-on, you can also use qTranslate X to create a multilingual ecommerce store using WooCommerce.

Official website

Polylang (Quick Overview)

Polylang

Polylang is another popular free WordPress multilingual plugin. Like qTranslate X, Polylang has also been actively installed on more than 100,000 WordPress websites. With a 4.8 out of 5 user rating, Polylang is another obvious choice for anyone seeking a free way to manage content in multiple languages on their WordPress website.

Much like the other two, Polylang makes it possible to translate your posts, pages, menus, widgets and more. It also has support for creating multilingual ecommerce stores with WooCommerce and a premium add-on.

There’s also a commercial version of Polylang, which is available for €99. By upgrading to Polylang Pro, you’ll get access to some additional features, and, perhaps most importantly, the premium support service.

Available as both a free and premium plugin, Polylang could be the ideal choice for those who are starting on a budget, but want the option of upgrading to a premium plugin once their project takes off.

How does Polylang shape up against WPML and qTranslate X? Let’s find out.

Official website

Feature Comparison

These multilingual WordPress plugins are advanced tools. At their most basic, they can be used to publish blog content in multiple languages, however, as we’ll cover in this comparison, the best WordPress multilingual plugins can do a lot more than that.

Ease of Use

WPML Setup

Let’s begin by looking at ease of use, starting with the premium WPML plugin.

Thanks to the WPML setup wizard, it’s easy to complete the process of making your single-language WordPress website multilingual. Through the wizard, you can set the default language of your site, before choosing the additional languages you’ll be publishing in.

WPML Site Language

WPML makes it straightforward to set how your visitors will change language, with options including footer, sidebar or menu widgets, and language switchers. You can also choose how the URLs for the different language versions of your content are constructed, including the use of subdomains, directories or URL parameters.

WPML Pages

When it comes to adding and managing the different versions of your content with WPML, this multilingual plugin adds some controls to the WordPress editor screen that give you a quick way to switch languages and add translated content.

WPML French

To make translating your website a little easier, WPML can quickly show you which areas of your site need translating. WPML also lets you add theme and plugin translations through your WordPress admin area, rather than having to upload the translated content in the widely used PO and MO file formats.

qTranslate Startup

Moving on from WPML, let’s look at how easy the free qTranslate X plugin is to use.

Unlike WPML, there’s not yet a setup wizard available for the qTranslate X plugin (although it’s reportedly under development). However, after activating qTranslate X on your WordPress website, a link to the startup guide is displayed, giving you an easy way to familiarize yourself with how the plugin works.

Getting started with qTranslate X isn’t as easy as it is with WPML — largely because there’s no walkthrough of the key steps needed, and, unlike with WPML, the settings are tucked away under the top-level settings menu on your WordPress dashboard.

qTranslate Settings

However, once you’ve located the qTranslate X control panel, understating the settings and options is straightforward.

qTranslate General

The plugin really excels when it comes to adding and managing the different language versions of your content — at least compared with the approach taken by WPML. On all the main WordPress admin areas where content is entered, you have the option of clicking on the qTranslate X tabs to switch language and quickly start entering your content.

qTranslate Button Options

If this approach doesn’t appeal, you also have the option of removing the language switcher buttons on the admin pages through the qTranslate X settings.

However, unlike WPML, qTranslate X doesn’t add a button to the editor that will copy the content from one language version of a post to another. This means you’ll need to either remember the original post content as you carry out the translation or copy and paste it over yourself.

qTranslate Post

To make your life easier when trying to determine what needs to be translated, qTranslate X highlights the fields on a page that should have translated content. Switching between versions is seamless, thanks to the way the new set of fields is displayed instantly.

qTranslate SEO

As part of the support for third-party plugins, qTranslate X applies the language-switching tabs to some panels on the post editor screens, such as those added by Yoast SEO.

Admin Language Switch

Support for the leading SEO plugins is essential if you want to do all you can to help your multilingual content stand a chance of ranking well in the search engines. Therefore, it’s good to see how easily multilingual SEO content can be added with qTranslate X.

Polylang Website

Like the other free option in this multilingual WordPress plugin comparison, Polylang doesn’t have a quick start guide or a walkthrough setup wizard. However, if you visit the Polylang website you’ll find documentation to help you get started.

Polylang Settings

Unlike WPML, there’s no top-level sidebar menu to help you quickly find the plugin settings page. However, once you’ve located the Language item under the Settings menu on your WordPress dashboard, you can begin defining the languages of your site.

Polylang Languages

Depending on which languages you want to use, you may be required to download the corresponding WordPress language file. Even adding a language as common as British English requires this action to be taken, adding an extra step to the setup process that isn’t necessary with the other plugins in this comparison.

Polylang Download Language

There’s a wide selection of WordPress language files available for download from the WordPress.org website. However, having to download and install them yourself for seemingly common languages is a task that isn’t required with WPML or qTranslate X, making Polylang less competitive in terms of convenience.

Polylang Langauge Added

Once you’ve defined which languages you’re going to be publishing content in, you can move on to translating the strings used by your theme and plugins. Strings refer to the text displayed on your website that isn’t part of post or page content, and includes the site title, site tagline and date formats.

Polylang Strings

After you’ve added the translations for the text used by your theme, including the widgets and menus, you can start translating your posts and pages. Creating the additional language versions of a post is very straightforward.

Polylang Add Translation

Simply clicking on the corresponding flag in the Languages box will create a new version of the post or page in that language. Unfortunately, as with qTranslate X, there’s no option to copy the content from one language version of a post to another — a timesaving feature that WPML does have.

Polylang German

Both WPML and qTranslate X add a language switcher to the WordPress dashboard that changes the language used in the admin pages of your site. However, Polylang doesn’t have this feature, so there’s no quick way to switch the language used on the admin area of your WordPress website.

Translation Management

Keeping track of which content on your site has been translated has the potential to become a major headache. Thankfully, the best multilingual WordPress plugins have features to help you manage your translations more effectively.

WPML Translation Management

WPML has a sophisticated search tool that makes it easy to find content that needs attention. Through the WPML Translation Management screen, you can filter content according to its translation status and find documents in specific languages, and, with translation statuses such as ‘complete’, ‘in progress’, ‘needs updating’, and ‘not translated’, you and your team can quickly see which content needs work.

Polylang and qTranslate X aren’t quite as user-friendly when it comes to helping you keep track of the different language versions of your content. Unlike with WPML, your only real option is to check the Languages column that the plugins add to the Posts and Pages screens in your admin dashboard.

qTranslate Fields

This approach does work, but, as your site grows, you may find it difficult to keep track of which content needs translating.

Each plugin in this comparison gives you the ability to hide from users content that hasn’t been translated into all of the different languages supported by your site. This can be a good way to avoid frustrating visitors who are expecting to find a post in their language when the translation hasn’t been carried out yet.

Polylang URL

All of these multilingual plugins give you a range of options to determine how your site will handle links to the different language versions of your content. Language codes in your site’s URLs, subdomains, separate domains or subdirectories are all available options.

Translation Services

If you’re not going to be translating the content yourself, you may want to use a translator. Some of the multilingual WordPress plugins in this comparison can assist you with translators and translation services.

WPML Jobs

WPML can connect your website to a number of translation services — all via your WordPress dashboard. After you’ve created accounts with the supported translation services, you can begin marking content that you’d like to have translated. You can then send that content to be translated, and receive and pay for the completed work, all from within your WordPress website’s admin area.

So far, the authors of qTranslate X haven’t added any support for working with translation service providers from within the plugin.

Polylang can be combined with the free Lingotek Translation plugin to simplify the process of working with professional translators. The Lingotek plugin can also provide free machine translation for websites, giving you the option of automatically translating your content when using Polylang.

Working with Media Files

Polylang Media Library

If you display image captions on your site, or use other text to support your media files such as alt and description tags, then choosing a multilingual plugin with good support for media files is essential.

By activating the optional WPML Media Translation module, you can easily display the same media files, such as images, in all of the different language versions of a piece of content. You can then add image captions and other media file text in the same language as the rest of the article. This takes place without duplicating the media files. If you’ve already added media files to your site, activating the WPML Media Translation module gives you the option of duplicating the file information for existing content, saving you time and server space.

When it comes to handling the translation of media file information, qTranslate X isn’t quite as sophisticated in its approach. However, you can add the same image or other type of media file to the different language versions of a post, and then provide individual descriptions and other information each time it’s used. As with WPML, this takes place without duplicating the files in your media library.

Polylang has an optional media module that can be enabled to give you more options for handling images and other media files. Again, when translating media file information, the files aren’t duplicated. Instead, the multilingual media file title, description, and alternative text are stored for each file and then displayed on your site.

Number of Languages Supported

WPML Languages

Out of the box, WPML includes support for 40 languages. However, thanks to the WPML language editor, adding extra languages or creating language variants such as Canadian French or Mexican Spanish is relatively straightforward

With qTranslate X, you get 29 languages to work with by default, but you’re free to add any extra languages to your site yourself, or submit them to the qTranslate X development team for addition to the plugin.

It’s not clear how many languages are included with Polylang, but you can install or create as many extra languages as you need.

Language Switching Options

WPML Footer Switcher

When it comes to displaying translated versions of your content to visitors, all three plugins give you the option of showing a language switcher on the front end of your site. These plugins can also detect the language of the visitor’s browser and then display your site’s content in the corresponding language (if available).

Theme and Plugin Text Translation

If any of the themes or plugins you’re using on your site provide their own .MO files for the languages supported by your site, these translations will always be displayed with these plugins. If those files are present for the languages you’re publishing in, WPML, Polylang, and qTranslate X give you the ability to provide your own translations for any themes or plugins you’re using.

qTranslate X also supports integration with third-party themes and plugins out of the box. However, if your site configuration isn’t supported, the process for translating text displayed by your theme and plugins can be quite hands-on. To get a better idea of whether you’ll be able to carry out this task on your site, you can find the full details in the integration guide. You can also request a specific integration or pay for custom work.

Polylang supports the use of Poedit and the Loco Translate plugin to help you translate theme and plugin text.

With WPML, translating your website’s theme and plugin text is taken care of by the String Translation feature. After searching for all the translatable theme and plugin content on your website, WPML will display the results and allow you to add the alternative content.

Ecommerce Support

qTranslate WooCommerce

If you want to create a multilingual ecommerce store, all of these plugins can help.

Thanks to the free WooCommerce & qTranslate X plugin, you can simplify the process of translating your WooCommerce-powered ecommerce store at no extra cost.

If you want to use Polylang to create a multilingual ecommerce store, then you’ll need to either upgrade to the premium Polylang Pro or purchase the Polylang for WooCommerce add-on.

The higher priced WPML CMS license includes full support for translating all aspects of your WooCommerce-powered online store for $79. There is a free third-party WooCommerce multilingual plugin available for WPML, but it has mixed reviews from users.

Documentation and Support

One of the advantages of choosing a premium or commercial WordPress plugin over a free option is the higher level of user support — and WPML is no exception. Purchasing the plugin gives you access to its support desk, which is manned six days a week, 19 hours a day, with support provided in nine languages. The WPML online documentation is very detailed and clearly explains how to use the plugin.

The qTranslate X website documents the features of the plugin. However, it’s not nearly as user-friendly and helpful as the WPML online documentation.

As qTranslate X is freely available from the WordPress Plugin Directory, you have no guarantee of receiving assistance or a solution for any issues you may have when using it. However, the qTranslate X team appear to actively monitor the support forum at the WordPress Plugin Directory, as well as their own dedicated support forum. Paid help is also mentioned as an option on the qTranslate X contact page.

The free version of Polylang is not supported through the forums at the WordPress Plugin Directory. Instead, you’ll need to upgrade to the Pro version to qualify for support from the plugin team. Like qTranslate X, the online documentation for Polylang doesn’t compare favorably to that of WPML.

Final Thoughts

Overall, each of these three plugins does an excellent job of giving you the ability to create a multilingual WordPress website*.

They each support a large number of languages and allow you to upload additional language files to expand your options. Each plugin can detect the language of your visitor’s browser and automatically display your content in that language (provided you’ve already translated your content into that language). All plugins also give you the option of displaying language switchers on the front end of your site.

These multilingual plugins work in slightly different ways and offer varying levels of functionality. However, overall, the end result is the same. If set up correctly, they will allow your visitors to view your content in the translated languages.

When it comes to recommending a plugin, WPML is generally easier to use than the other two, and is by far the most powerful option. The fact that you get access to email support as part of your purchase makes it the recommended choice for important sites, more complicated projects, or those who prefer having someone to turn to should any problems arise. With prices starting at $29, it will be the preferred option for many readers.

Polylang and qTranslate X are both good free options if you don’t need the extra features and functionality or access to premium support. In my opinion, of the two Polylang slightly edges ahead because you have the option of upgrading to the Pro version to unlock extra features and gain access to the support channels should your needs grow. However, at €99 (about $110), it’s the most expensive way to go when compared with the fully featured WPML $79 Multilingual CMS option.

It’s also worth highlighting the free WooCommerce add-on for qTranslate X, which will help you create a multilingual ecommerce store at no extra cost.

In short, if you have the budget, WPML will likely be your best bet. It has more features and the price includes access to the support team. However, if you’re looking for a free multilingual plugin, both qTranslate X and Polylang are both more than capable options. Simply choose the one that most closely meets your own requirements.

*Note: Because of the added footprint and potential weight any such plugin will add to a website with thousands of posts/pages, if you’re looking to make a sizeable website multilingual, be sure to do a little additional research before jumping in.

Using/used WPML, qTranslate or Polylang? Thoughts?

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By Joe Fylan

Joe is a regular WordPress user who enjoys sharing the various tips and information he's picked up from using this fantastic platform for a number of years. If you'd like to work with him on a WordPress-related project, head on over to his website.
Comments (policy)
  • realbasics

    Your tip tip is a very big deal! Websites with lots of bells and whistles (online courses, event schedulers, follow-up emailers, ecommerce, etc.) put a lot of demand on your servers. Be prepared to upgrade your hosting before adding translations for those features

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