Why WordPress is inherently non-multilingual
You can set up a WordPress website in any language – but not inherently in multiple at the same time.
This is surprising at first, since WordPress is certainly one of the largest international open source communities and the need for multilingualism is very high.
Basically, you can say: The core developers know that there is a great desire on the part of the community for this feature. Therefore, multilingualism is also on the agenda, but a start of implementation is only to be expected in a few years. The reasons for this are manifold, but can be derived from the philosophy of the WordPress project.
Out of the Box
WordPress is set up in 5 minutes – that’s how it should stay!
Multilingualism would noticeably increase complexity, not only for the user, but also for all developers. If multilingualism were part of the core, a large part of the available plugins and themes would probably have to be adapted.
WordPress should remain simple, additional functions within the core should therefore not make the installation, maintenance or use of a WordPress website more difficult, but rather easier. Building complexity is easy, reducing it again afterwards is difficult.
The concept behind multilingualism is therefore more important here than the subsequent implementation.
Design for the Majority
Multilingualism must be technically simple
It is noticeable that multi-lang plugins are either usually insufficient for a project or greatly increase the complexity.
With plugins, this is perfectly fine, because you simply choose the one that is ideal for the project or develops an individual one.
Multilingualism as part of the core would have to succeed in the feat of not increasing the complexity as much as possible, of mapping basic functionality, which would be easily expandable via plugins through standards – and to give the user the feeling that he can not care about all these problems.
Decisions, not Options
Decisions for millions of websites
WordPress is not looking for the next best solution – a feature in the WordPress Core must be useful not only for thousands, but millions of websites.
Traditionally, new features in WordPress are discussed for months – sometimes even for years – in public discussions, several concepts are created by volunteers and reviewed by independents. This even applies to bugs. The goal: A change in the core must be sustainable.
Implementing a concept that has not been thought through to the end is more dangerous for the project than taking more time to find the best solution.
Clean, Lean, and Mean
Why usability is more important than multilingualism
Many websites do without multilingualism in the core, but each one benefits from a good editor – and this is where the focus of the core team is currently
The Block Editor (Gutenberg) solves one of the biggest problems in WordPress: a standard for the design of content and later also for entire websites (full site editing). Gutenberg’s possibilities are actually so far-reaching that this is a real game changer in website creation.
According to the 80% principle of WordPress, a new function must be useful for at least 80% of WordPress users, otherwise it should not be part of the core – the Block Editor has simply outdone the multilingualism.
In the next few years, new features will be created primarily in connection with Gutenberg, so that hardly any resources remain for the development of multilingualism in the core.
Multilingualism in the core is coming – at some point.
There is probably no more important site for WordPress agencies and developers than the WordPress Roadmap. It is comparatively short and general, but the points listed there usually lead to a disruptive change in the WordPress ecosystem.
With the introduction of Gutenberg, the business model of all pagebuilders, such as Elementor, Divi or Avada, was suddenly called into question. Internationally successful companies and their technology are fighting for a new perspective, because the WordPress Core with the Block Editor offers a technologically superior solution – free of charge, for everyone.
Native support for multilingualism is already planned in wordpress’ long-term roadmap:
Already included in WordPress,
with continuous improvements.
Everything is a Block
Full frontend editing.
Introducing block patterns.
Introduce block list views.
Fully block-based themes.
Writing content together in an intuitive way – similar to Google Docs, etc.
Introducing native support for multiple languages in WordPress, without the need for plugins.
Conclusion and recommendation
In summary, why WordPress is currently not inherently multi-long capable:
- There is no final concept yet
- The block editor(Gutenberg)was more urgent and is more important.
- Multilingualism must complement the standard of the Block Editor meaningfully within the WordPress Core
- The status quo is reliably covered by plugins, as part of the core it must offer added value for 80% of all users.
If you create (let) awebsite today, the next articles in this series give a recommendation for today and the next time. In the long term, WordPress will implement multilingualism as part of the core – and possibly make some multi-lang plugin obsolete.
With a little luck, you have decided on a solution that quickly establishes compatibility with the new WordPress standards, migrates obsolete solutions to the new standard and provides meaningful additions.
The WordPress multi-lang plugin, which we trust to do this feat, we will present from June 16 in the third article of this series. But before that, in the second part, we give an overview of a selection of different concepts and solutions that the market provides.
Article series: WordPress Multi Lang
This series of articles gives an overview of the current possibilities, advantages and disadvantages as well as an outlook on the future.
You can set up a WordPress website in any language – but not inherently in multiple at the same time. Here’s why.
Multilingualism in WordPress can be achieved in different ways – each has its advantages and disadvantages.
It has never been so easy to make a multilingual website available to an international target group – we show you the concrete possibilities WPML offers.
About the author
Matthias Bathke is Managing Director of straightvisions GmbH. As a GDPR expert and PageSpeed evangelist, he is keen to develop stable and efficient solutions for our customers.
As a full service WordPress agency, we provide comprehensive support – talk to us.
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