How to set a bilingual or multilingual WordPress multisite blog

First post of the new oncleben31.cc to share how I’ve setup WordPress to make a bilingual  blog using the multisite feature. This can be easily extaneded for multilingual blogs.

I need two independent sites to facilitate the plugins and theme localization with an easy way to switch between languages if a translation is available. Another reason is to optimize the search engine indexing. With this solution I can have some language specific posts without translation.

Below I explain how I’ve implement that with WordPress: 

  1. Setup of the WordPress multisite feature. If you don’t know it, it allow to have many WordPress site with only one installation. Administration is simplified and updates are done only once. To have more information go and read the multisite documentation.
  2. I have a root blog (oncleben31.cc/) which is useless (see step n°4), a french blog (oncleben31.cc/fr/) and an english blog (oncleben31.cc/en/). The language is setup in wordpress settings. Benefits: I can have specific plugins or theme for each language if needed.
  3. I use the Multisite Language Switcher by lloc plugin to display a link in the side bar to go to the other language (sources hosted on github). This plugin is really useful: it allows to display a link to the other available language and it allows to add a link to the translation of a post or a page if available too. This feature is eased by adding a drop down list in the edit view.

    Example of the Multisite Language Switcher plugin when editing a post

    Example of the Multisite Language Switcher plugin when editing a post

  4. The last thing is about managing visitor coming directly on  “http://oncleben31.cc/”. Indeed the root website is a third wordpress blog not in french nor in english. I made a hack to redirect users in function of the preferred language return by the browser. To do that I’ve created the “Multisite Language Switcher Theme” theme which doesn’t display any content but manage the redirection (theme detailed in this post). To avoid disorientating your visitor this theme manages 404 errors too . You can find the theme’s sources and improve it on Github.

Setting up a multilingual blog is not easy and I’ve search a long time to find the good solution corresponding to my needs. If you have simular needs let’s try this solution and share your experiences in the comments.

  • @f_ricart

    awesome

  • Fran

    For making a website multilingual, I’ve used the same procedure as the one you describe (Multisite (or network) + plugin Multisite Language Switcher). I too searched to lot in order to choose the best solution and I think this is really the best.

    • http://oncleben31.cc/ Oncleben31

      Please to know my blog post helps someone ;-)

    • JFokker

      I have used your solution on several sites now. Works like a charm! Thanks for it!

  • Elektronen

    Can the plugin be used with domain mapping plugin, where different languages are setup on different domain?

  • http://solution-epilation.fr/ carthagod

    Hello !

    I’m creating a multilanguage site, using MultiSite and Multi Language switcher. For now I have created the whole site in English, and I need now to create the German version.

    I am looking for a way to duplicate completely the English version, so I can then just replace the English content by German one (so that I don’t have to reinstall theme cusomization, custom menus, links and images in the posts etc.)

    Any way to do this ?

    Thanks !
    Thomas

    • JFokker

      He Thomas,

      You can use Backupbuddy to clone your English site. http://pluginbuddy.com/purchase/backupbuddy/ I use it all the time. Very good.

      Greetings,
      Jonathan

    • George Vrettos

      I face the same problem, but I would like to know if there is a free solution or at least a manual one. I tried by backing up the database of the one site (before activating the multisite) and by adding this data to the newly created tables after the multisite installation but with no result.

      Besides, is there any way to automatically duplicate the blog and multimedia content from on site to another when a new item is posted?

      As far as I know the sites of a multisite installation are practically 2 independent sites so that arises the question if the multisite is the best solution for having a multilingual website. On the other hand, other solutions found don’t seem to work as intended to.
      Just wondering… :)

      • http://solution-epilation.fr/ carthagod

        Hi George,

        Someone gave me a perfect solution : http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/add-cloned-sites-for-wpmu-batch/. However you can’t duplicate your main site, so you have to duplicate it manually once, then it’s very fast. To duplicate your main site the first time, you can follow the steps I describe here : http://wordpress.org/support/topic/plugin-multisite-language-switcher-duplicate-the-whole-website?replies=5#post-2960027.

        However there must be a faster/easier way, cause the cloning pluggin tells you “thanks to this pluggin this took you 1,3second instead of 3 minutes”, and my solution is definitely longer than 3 minutes… More like 3 hours.

        Then for your second problem I don’t see a way to do this automatically. However the multimedia content in itself is shared between all your sites. So what I do if ever I have a new post/page, is just copy the English version entirely into the German/French/Swahili/Classical Corean… version, so I include the multimedia content, then replace the text.

        I think multisite for multilingual is the most powerful, cause it let’s you do really whatever you want, but it’s a bit of a heavy solution in my opinion… Maybe WMPU is good, but it’s not free. Among the free solutions, I haven’t found anything that allowed me to be completely free.

        Hope this helps,
        Cheers,
        Thomas

        • George Vrettos

          Thanks for the reply Thomas!

          Actually, I was tired of searching for a solution in order to avoid data redundancy so what I did was to just duplicate the theme’s files (one theme instance per language) and also the multimedia content and posts, all combined with the Multi Language Switcher plugin.

          Maybe I’ll try your solutions in some of the next projects that will require such functionality.
          I appreciate your concern.

  • http://heldercorreia.com Helder Correia

    Hey, do you know of a language switcher which provides similar funcionality but with separate domain installations, instead of using multisite?

  • George

    Hello will this work with blogs on wordpress.com, thank you

  • nabeb

    ON the “Add New Site” page I try to add one of the instalations (example.com/en) but I get an error message saying “Missing or invalid site address.”