Matthias Bathke Avatar


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Concepts and solutions for multilingualism in WordPress

Multilingualism in WordPress can be achieved in different ways – each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Especially if you invest a lot of time in high-quality content, the upgrade to multilingualism is worthwhile: The chance is high that your content is also relevant in other countries. Especially for online shops, the European internal market is attractive. When there are multiple options, a technology review is important – it’s the only way to identify which option best meets your needs. In this article we give an overview of different concepts and solutions for multilingualism in WordPress.

No technology, no problems?


What would actually happen if you simply work with the means that WordPress offers…

…so provide content in different languages on the same installation?

Pages and categories could simply be named and structured according to the respective language – for news articles, for example, simply a category “News DE” and a category “News EN”.


  • No technical expenses
  • No dependencies


  • Incorrect Structured Data, it would have to be ensured that sub-pages in other languages are not delivered with incorrect lang-codes – otherwise, for example, German content appears and search engines try to interpret it as English content.
  • Without a corset, there is a risk of implementation and logic errors,there is no technique that supports.
  • A later migration to a system with Multi Lang support would be very time-consuming,as the content would usually have to be re-entered.

The No Structure approach works when individual contents in other languages are the absolute exception. This could greatly reduce the technical overhead.

There are only minor technical hurdles, but also hardly any possibilities. However, a later conversion into a system with more possibilities would be very time-consuming.

A separate installation for each language


It is not unusual that a clone of the website is simply set up for each language and maintained separately, e.B as separate (sub)-domains or subdirectories. Especially with large international companies, it is common for the content of the websites of the respective countries to be maintained almost completely and autonomously by the individual country teams.


  • clean separation
  • lean installations
  • hardly any hurdles
  • local hosting possible


  • More complex deployment concept for maintenance & updates.
  • Synchronization and maintenance of shared elements, such as content elements, headers, footer & menus complex.
  • Risk of individual installations “drifting apart”, e.g. due to country-specific special rules.

The multi-instance approach is advantageous if each country is to be maintained as autonomously as possible by separate teams.

If content is to be exchanged or synchronized between the individual instances, however, you often end up in a dead end here.

Assisted multilingualism

Lean Structure

A small upgrade to the No Structure approach would be lean structure, i.e. a scenario where multilingualism is basically taken into account, but the overhead is as low as possible.

You can continue to create and structure content as usual – however, you can specify the language for each content and the individual pages are thus set up correctly, so that search engines, for example, are not confused.


  • low technical expenses
  • hardly any dependencies


  • Not very suitable for complex websites with a lot of content.
  • Little assistance in structuring and managing multilingual content.
  • You are already trapped in a systemthat may not map important functions in the long term.

The Lean Structure approach works for prototypes, websites with manageable content and structures and where the effort to get started should be as low as possible.

If comfort functions become more important later or certain structures and processes are required, you quickly reach your limits here.

As if multilingualism were part of the core

High Level Structure

When multilingualism becomes an integral part of the website, one wants to leave the world of compromise and instead a fully integrated multilingualism. By now at the latest, the website is no longer understood merely as a presence or blog, but as a platform for customer communication. Comprehensive support for multilingualism is usually only a critical aspect of many, external or machine translation is intended to relieve the editorial staff.

We recommend to choose the market leader right away and save migration efforts later on – even if only a part of the functions is needed at the beginning.


  • Market leader technology
  • strong support for every aspect of multilingualism
  • technologically no limits and business support


  • License costs and, if necessary, technical support make sense
  • Training may be more complex, depending on the scenario
  • higher resource consumption

Through a High Level Structure, the entire WordPress system is subjected to multilingualism – each component must be compatible, we are talking about an integrated system.

Strong tools are available for this: in addition to translation services, machine translation and collaboration tools to facilitate the management of the website. The maintenance of the website and the translations is strongly assisted.

Multi Instance + Lean/High Level Structure


The Multi Lang Plugin MultilingualPress follows an interesting path by using the WordPress Multi Site function to manage multilingualism. Here you have the advantages of independent content maintenance & layouts from the multi-instance approach combined with a mix of Lean & High Level Structure, i.e. levels 2-4.

In fact, this approach promises to be the most performant for the website. Again, it’s important to check for each project that the processes work for you – each instance of a multi-site is maintained largely independently. However, the technical maintenance effort is lower than with the pure multi-instance solution.

How much multilingualism do I need?


Think as early as possible about how much multilingualism should influence your project. The four different stages provide orientation.

Stage 1

No structure

SEO is not crucial, you need 1-2 subpages in another language now and don’t want any extra effort.

Stage 2

Multi instance

You want self-sufficient, strictly separate instances for each language version. The setup is very simple, but the technical maintenance and synchronization is more complex.

Stage 3

Slim structure

You want a clean structure with low overhead. They work primarily alone on a website, do not need strong structures – and make do with fewer functions.

Stage 4

High Level

Multilingualism is an integral part of your website concept, for this you and your team work hard into the possibilities of the Multi Lang solution, depending on the complexity of your requirements. They are prepared for the future.


For us as web developers, too, it is always a challenge not to advise our customers on the complexity. Just because multilingualism offers fantastic opportunities in level 4 doesn’t mean it’s right for every project.

One of our clients came to us with a level 4 Multi Lang website and we developed him a custom solution mix of level 1 and 3 – the overhead on level 4 was unnecessary as the capabilities were barely exhausted. In the case of new projects, it is also worthwhile, in anticipation of high complexity, to implement multilingualism in stage 4.

Article series

WordPress multilingualism

This series of articles gives an overview of the current possibilities, advantages and disadvantages as well as an outlook on the future.