Creating a Multilingual Website with Drupal

7 min

4.3% of all websites use the Drupal engine. At first glance, it might seem that the popularity of Drupal is not too high. Nevertheless, this multitasking engine takes an honorable third place in the CMS rating. The reason for the popularity of this content management system? Users are attracted by its free license and the ability to create multilingual sites in Drupal with any content, including commercial. For example:

  • You are a blogger writing about your travel experiences. You speak and write English fluently, German is your native language. But you are interested in a target audience that speaks French, Russian and Italian. The simple Drupal multilingual settings will provide your blog with a multinational reader audience.
  • You are the head of an international consulting company focused on working with citizens of Eastern Europe. Creating multilingual sites in Drupal will help your company communicate with audiences of any language specified in the engine settings.
  • You own an online store, e.g. selling educational toys. Your customers are residents of the Baltic region. To catch their interest, each toy should have an attractive description. When you use Drupal 8 multilingual, there is no need to create each product card in Danish, Swedish or Finnish. The CMS will represent your product to any potential buyer automatically.

download drupal

The free Drupal engine is constantly being improved. Due to volunteers’ work, its core is being systematically updated and administrators and site owners are offered convenient specialized assemblies and new, more advanced modules.

What Are the Benefits of Drupal's Multi-Language Features?

Drupal developers have put a lot of effort and focus into creating an engine with a balance of simplicity and flexibility. To understand the difference between Drupal and Joomla! or WordPress, imagine the CMS as a toy car for children. You can purchase a finished model or a set that contains all the pieces and instructions to assemble a police car or fire truck, a garbage truck or a racing car. The end result is the same - you can play with a toy car. So Joomla! or WordPress is a ready-made toy car, whereas when it comes to Drupal, you will have to work a bit to assemble and adjust it. However, you will not need any special knowledge to do this and we will try to help you.

How to Setup a Multilingual Website with Drupal

First, download and install the CMS. There are three options:

  • you choose a hosting with a pre-installed engine;
  • you download and install the engine on the hosting server on your own;
  • you install and configure the CMS on your local server, and then transfer it to the hosting.

You can choose any build option appropriate to your site specifics, a theme, and other useful distributions on the official site.

You can apply any convenient FTP client to upload to the root folder of the downloaded archive.

Drupal details

After downloading, you should create a database. Find the "Databases" section on the hosting and click "Create". Since you are a new user, you should create a password and, if you wish to delegate your rights to other users, choose the "Add" and "All rights" options. The final move is to launch the installation manager and select a language.

All engine settings are intuitive – there is almost no difference between working with Joomla! or WordPress.

Now let's figure out how to create a multilingual site on Drupal. You will need certain modules to make it comfortable for your visitors.

First, activate the default Locale module.

Drupal Locale Module

Then, move to Configuration and find the Regional and language section, click on Languages and enter the language management menu.

For example, to add Russian, click Add Language and select Russian from the menu.

Language choice Drupal

To select a translation file, go to the official website and pick the desired language. Let’s suppose it is Russian

Drupal predefined language

Then click on Import in the Configuration -> Translate Interface and download the selected file.

Drupal import translation

To assign the selected default language, go to Configuration -> Regional and language -> Languages.

So, now you know how to set the Locale module, pick languages for users, and establish the default site language. In our case, it was Russian.

Drupal default language

Now it's time to install and activate the Drupal Internationalization and Variable modules. Enter the engine control panel, go to Admin -> Structure -> Content types.

content types

Pick the sort of content you want to translate here. It can be any information you choose: headings, categories, articles, visitors' comments, etc. For example, select "Articles" and click on the "Edit" button.

Next, when you see the Publishing Options window, choose Enable multilingual support.

enable multilingual support

Now, to assemble our multilingual model, attach a language switch bar. The module is already pre-activated and you can configure the interface for the user following these steps: Language switcher -> User -> Interface text. Here you can install the language switch to another place that is convenient for site visitors. Usually, it is placed on the front panel.

You can activate modules such as:

  • Variable translation – the module responsible for the variable elements of the system.
  • Variable – a module that provides access to variable components of the system.
  • Variable admin – a module that performs the editing of variables.

When the recommended engine modules have been downloaded and activated, move to the admin panel of the site through Admin -> Structure -> Types, and turn on multilingual translation for all the selected content types. Start with Form Settings, then Publication Settings, then Display Settings. Activate the "Turn on and enable translation" button everywhere.

That's it – your site has become multilingual and fully prepared to work with visitors in any language you have chosen. If you need to modify some engine settings, you can do it on your own.

Other Drupal Settings

Of course, the engine's capabilities are not only about multilingualism:

  • Set the default admin theme for the site’s admin panel. To do this, select a template in the "Design section and set it as default. You can pick an alternative theme design on the official website. It is enough to download its archive on a PC, then upload it to the site’s control panel and activate it.
  • You can refuse the standard logo proposed by the theme – uncheck the logo image settings and specify the path to your file on the server.
  • Use content containers and blocks to optimize the information display. You will find these options in the "Structure -> Blocks" section. The constructor has the function of supporting both default and user blocks.
  • You can provide various rights for administrators, anonymous and registered users in the "Users" section. Managing this option is simple and intuitive.
  • You can upgrade the standard menu by adding more convenient navigation on your own.


Drupal CMS may seem challenging to understand, but that’s only at first glance. In fact, the administrative console of the engine is intuitive and accessible to any user. This free engine is so good because it allows focusing on the necessary functionality while ensuring the implementation of a variety of projects. As a Drupal development company, we know all about it.

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