Building a multilingual website in Drupal 8

    Building and running multilingual websites is easier with Drupal 8: multilingual content publishing, localized content, multilingual content and translation are now in core.

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    Many international websites publish their content in several languages. This content in the different languages can have a one-to-one relationship where the content authors need to keep translations synchronized. On the other hand, content in several languages can also be completely different within the same site.

    Until recently, it was not easy to implement multilingual websites with Drupal. In fact, multilingual websites in general can be extremely complicated. However, from version 8 onwards, the popular open-source content management system (CMS) supports multiple languages out-of-the-box.

    And that means support for the translation of content as well as for the translation of the back-end user interface of the CMS itself - an incredibly important improvement which can save your business a lot of money and gives you more control over the content that appears in different languages. If you are a marketer working for an organization with customers around the world, it’s an incredible breakthrough.


    Driven by a multilingual community

    The multilingual support in Drupal 8 makes this excellent CMS even better than before. Drupal is popular because it is powerful and versatile, but also because it has the support of thousands of developers around the world who contribute to the software. The community around Drupal is one of the most dynamic around, and many of the improvements that make the new multilingual support so good came from over a hundred developers supporting the multilingual initiative.

    A driving force for the multilingual initiative was Gábor Hojtsy, who published 17 "Drupal 8 tidbits" over on his website.


    Multilingual content publishing now in core

    Having support for multilingual sites in the Drupal core is a big step in making it even easier to implement. To obtain this functionality with previous versions you had to install extra modules, sometimes even up to 30! That was a lot of extra work and increased the total cost of ownership as you also had to maintain all these modules. In Drupal 8 this has been reduced to four modules that are part of the core.

    Multilingual support brings huge improvements for your website visitors. This is certainly the case if you are building a website which targets visitors from different countries or language regions.

    Say you are marketing products in several western European countries, each with their own local site and country extension: with Drupal 8 it becomes very easy to enable this from one central CMS platform with the possibility to have different language versions of the same content and using the same picture assets with localized content.

    Overview of Drupal 8 multilingual improvements


    Localized content

    The many new multilingual features are good news for everyone working with Drupal, but also for the people visiting the websites driven by the CMS. As such, since Drupal 8 has field-level translation, it becomes easy to show localized content in every region without having to build a lot of new nodes. Content translation is now possible for all types of content, such as user fields and taxonomy.

    It’s also important that core search is integrated fully with multilingual support, so that, for example, a French visitor to your .fr-website only gets results in his language (if this is what you want, of course). A transliteration module will make sure that special characters, such as ë, are converted when used in certain situations, such as in paths.

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    Multilingual content and translation

    If you have different language versions of the same website, you might have people in different countries adding content. But that’s no problem, as Drupal 8 will display the interface in the language relevant for the user. If you are working in a team with multiple nationalities, that’s a big advantage.

    In the past, English had a special status in Drupal that made it impossible to change the text for some labels (e.g. error messages). But that’s no longer the case. In fact, in Drupal 8 you can translate everything so you can create interfaces that are truly in your target language. Also, Drupal 8 will automatically download language updates if available (but your own translations remain protected). You can also give certain users the possibility to switch between languages – that’s handy if you have people who are responsible for multiple regions.

    If you don't have the resources to translate all the content on your website and you want to automate the translation process, AMPLEXOR can help you speak the language of your clients, delivering your message as intended to their local markets and connect with them throughout the world. The AMPLEXOR X-Connect translator, a plugin for the Translation Management Tool, provides support to send and receive translations to the AMPLEXOR Language Services.



    The multilingual support in Drupal 8 has been improved enormously. Implementing websites in different languages used to be a challenging and difficult task, with many opportunities to get things wrong. But with the four modules that are now part of the Drupal 8 core and with the AMPLEXOR System Connector, businesses can save a lot of time and money, not only during development but also during day-to-day use. And above all, your customers get a seamless website experience in their own language, making them happy.


    ➡ Read this article in French

    ➡ Read this article in German

    Published on 10/05/16    Last updated on 15/03/19

    #Drupal, #CMS, #Digital Strategy, #Content Management, #Global Marketing

    About the author

    Maarten is Consultant at AMPLEXOR International based in Belgium. Maarten joined AMPLEXOR in 2012 and has over 15 years of experience in web development, specializing in Drupal. He is a Certified Scrum Master and Acquia Certified Developer.


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