Configuring multilingual sites

Configuring Drupal to be able to display content in multiple languages is made somewhat complicated by the fact that there are two major approaches which will likely co-exist to varying degrees within a single site. The internationalization (i18n) module has a sub-module that supports “content translation” (i.e. it creates a separate node that can house the other-language version of a given node), and the entity translation module allows you to translate individual fields within a node. Sites that use entity translation will almost certainly also use other features provided by the i18n module (e.g. to support translated menus).

Separate from this is the issue of Drupal’s own interface for adding content and configuring the site. If your site has collaborators who are more comfortable working in a language other than English, you can do some additional configuration to provide the Drupal UI in that other language.

Enabling Drupal’s interface in another language can be done at any point, but if you want your site to display content in multiple languages, it is worth doing that configuration along with the early steps of setting up your site, as soon as you have content types, menus and views in place, but before you’ve really started adding content. Going back and having to update existing content from “language neutral” (the default value) to “English” after the fact is a hassle.

The best, up-to-date, one-stop resource for setting up a multilingual site is “HowTo: Basic Internationalization Set-Up” on

Gábor Hojtsy has written a detailed, multi-part blog series on Drupal 7’s multilingual capabilities, and I’ve used these to configure sites before. The ones on node translation, site settings, blocks, and menus are particularly useful. (I’ve used these to configure sites before, myself.)

Other resources include:

  • 45-minute video case study on how one large site went multilingual after it was created

1-hour video on Drupal multilingual best practices

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