I recently attended the Montreal WordPress Meetup “Hello World!” Event to see what other people have been using for creating Multilingual WordPress sites, as my primary multilingual plugin, qTranslate seems to be nearing end of life.  It’s been problematic enough that I’ve been looking at switching to WMPL and have installed it on this site as a test.  This post is a quick summary of about 2 hours of discussion from that meeting.  A related post series I am publishing How to WordPress: Multilingual Overview has much more detail on the issue of multilingual WordPress sites.

The talk started with methods of creating a multilingual site on a single WordPress install.  Most of the plugins such as qTranslate, and WPML are used on a single install.  Single site installs may mean less maintenance (only one site to update) but they need

Some techniques that work well for small/simple sites were then demonstrated.  By using customized themes which have replicated parts such as the header to have a version for each language, and meta tags, or page templates, the site language can be controlled for a particular page.  There are some simple language switcher plugins/widgets that can be used with this method too.

Brief mention was given to qTranalate, but it was not a popular choice, due partially to it’s decline, but also to the lock-in that occurs when you use it.  QTranslate stores all the language versions of a post in a single post using some tags and then filtering to control what content to display.  This is great from an ease of content management perspective, but it means that a lot of manual editing is needed to change to another plugin, or even just to get all your post content separated into individual posts.  (Which is where I am stuck with a couple of my sites right now)  WPML has recently published a qTranslate clean-up and migration plugin that can help with some of the move.  If you need to disable qTranslate, well, basically you can’t, your site will be a mess.

The next major topic was WPML.  Many people at the meeting suggested that it works reasonably well but it seems to have it’s issues too.  It also has lock-in issues.  WPML and most the other single site multilingual plugins store each language in a separate post, and then add some control logic to manage which posts/pages are available to a viewer of the site  Migrating to another plugin would also need a lot of manual edit/reconstruction, although perhaps not as much as qTranslate.

This issue of lock-in lead to the final topic, using multiple installs and in particular, multisite installs.  Multisite removes most of the multiple install (1 site per language) issue of site maintenance.  This concept has some nice things going for it.  The most popular feature is that in it’s simplest form, you don’t need any plugins, so no lock-in.  If you do use some of the management plugins that are available to assist you with a multilingual mutlisite, your sites will still all run even if you disable the plugins as most of their features are only in the dashboard.  The only thing you may loose on the front-end is the language switcher.

I’m going to test out the multisite concept before going any further with WPML.