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July 23, 2021

Two popular WordPress plugins for managing multilingual websites, seen through the lens of a translation service provider.

WordPress website translation: WPML vs. Polylang

When clients approach us about translating WordPress websites, they sometimes ask us which WordPress plugin works best for managing multilingual content. From the perspective of a translation service provider, here's our opinion:

WPML

Over the years, most of the WordPress websites that we translated used the WordPress Multilingual Plugin WPML (including our own). It is a reliable tool with good functionality. One of the main advantages for us as a translation agency is that it allows us to export translatable content, which we can then process in our own translation environment system Memsource before importing the translated content back into the website. This is important because it would be impractical to have our translators work directly in WordPress. Working in our system the translators have access to a translation memory database, in which all translations are stored, so that identical text segments do not have to be translated over and over again. It also has a terminology database as well as various quality assurance functions. Therefore, being able to translate the website content in our system is critical. WPML lets us export source content in XLIFF format, which is the standard for translation environment tools. It also enables us to link our system directly to the WordPress website so that we do not need to manually export and import. This functionality - while not always perfect - enables us to work quite efficiently and offer our clients the lowest possible pricing. WPML itself is available at a nominal cost ($79 for its most popular version, as of October 2020).

Polylang

A competing plugin that has gained popularity in recent years is Polylang. Its basic functionality is similar to WPML. Polylang is highly rated - as of October 2020 more than 1,500 users have given it a 5-star rating on wordpress.org. While we like Polylang's interface and capabilities, the main disadvantage for us as a translation agency is that it has no XLIFF export/import functionality. So instead of exporting source content out of the WordPress site and then processing it in our translation environment system, we need to manually copy the source content from the pages and - once the translations are done - paste the translated content back into the website manually. This is a somewhat laborious process and can increase the overall cost of a typical website localisation project by up to 5%. According to Polylang, XLIFF export and import is on their development roadmap, so we might see it in the future. Polylang offers a free basic version and charges €99 for a commercial Pro version which includes support.

Questions or Feedback?

If any of the information in this post is outdated or incomplete, or if you would like to discuss your next WordPress translation project, feel free to contact us!