Getting started with Joomla translation and Joomla multilingual web sites


Since version 1.6, Joomla provides a built-in or native ability to manage multilingual web sites. However, configuring your site and coordinating teams of translators is tedious and inefficient.

To simplify the administration of Joomla multilingual sites we created Josetta®, a Joomla extension dedicated solely to the management/moderation of Joomla translation. 

Using Josetta®, multilingual content can be added to your web site at any time including:

  • creating your site with several languages from the start
  • starting with one language and adding another language afterwards

The latter is probably the most common scenario, but Josetta® has been created specifically to be equally useful in both cases.

Josetta® requires a working Joomla multilingual site and the steps below will prepare your web site for Joomla translation and thus the use of Josetta®.


The Joomla multilingual system will handle content in several languages, each attached to a particular language code. For instance, English can be en-GB (or en-US) and French will be fr-FR (or fr-CA). However, Joomla translation also requires a catch-all language, identified by the name All and the code "*".

Joomla uses these codes to display content items (i.e. articles, categories, web links, menu items) based on language. For example:

  • items marked with the en-GB code will be displayed on English pages
  • items marked with the fr-FR code will be displayed on French pages
  • items marked with the * code will be displayed on any page, whether English or French

Video walk-through

Please view this detailed video which covers all the aspects of setting up your site for multilingual Joomla web sites.

Part A - Install and configure languages

1. Be default, Joomla ships with an English language pack. You can find other language packs on the translation area of More recently, languages can be installed directly from your Joomla backend and this is the preferred method of adding new languages.

2. Once all your languages have been installed, go to the Language manager in the Joomla administrative backend by selecting Extensions > Language manager from the main menu. Select the Default language for your web site. The Default language is the one normally used for your home page, and when users do not request a specific language.

3. Before you can create content in your new langauage(s), you also must add it on the Content tab of the Joomla Language manager. Select Extensions > Language manager, then click on the Content tab to view the existing entries.

Language Content Manager

4. For each new language, you must create an entry in the Content manager using the New button in the toolbar that top-right. Configure the new Content as shown below for Italian, substituting the name and language codes as appropriate.

Language Content Manager - Edit

Part B - Configure the Language Filter plug-in & sh404SEF®

1. View the plug-ins installed on your web site by selecting Extensions > Plug-in manager from the main menu in the Joomla administrative backend. Locate the System - Language filter plug-in and view its parameters by clicking on the plug-in name.

Set the Menu associations to yes as shown below and confirm the change by selecting the Save button in the toolbar at the top-right.

Language Filter Plugin

2. Depending on whether or not you use sh404SEF® — the top SEO extension for Joomla — you need to choose to enable or disable Language filter plug-in:

  • if you use sh404SEF®, the plug-in should remain unpublished. However, you can (and should) review, change as needed and save the plug-in parameters as you would normally. Simply leave the plug-in state to "Unpublished" (sh404SEF® will make sure everything works fine transparently)
  • if you do not use sh404SEF®, then Enable the plug-in by clicking on the Red icon in the Status column of the plug-in manager. If you have correctly enabled the plug-in, you will see green check mark appear. You can review and change plugins parameters as you see fit.

Publishing the Language Filter Plugin

3. If you are using sh404SEF®, you will also need to enable multilingual support in the main sh404SEF® configuration:

Enable multilingual support in sh404SEF®

Part C - Creating the required menus and menu items

Joomla multilingual web sites require a specific menu structure — each language needs a Home menu item. Since Joomla only allows one Home item in each menu, each language thus also requires it’s own menu.

If your site already has some of the menus and menu items described below, then you only need to create the ones you are missing. As long as the languages are assigned as described below, any existing menu/menu item will suffice.

As above, we will illustrate using a bi-lingual web site with English and French articles. Note however that you can of course use any type of Joomla content for your Home links as required.

1. In the Joomla administrative backend, select Menus > Menu manager from the main menu and create the following 3 menus:

  • Main menu - All
  • Main menu - English
  • Main menu - French

2. In the Joomla administrative backend, select Menus > Main menu - All > Add New Menu Item. In the menu item parameters, select the following:

  • Menu Item Type - Single Article
  • Menu Title - Home menu item - All - DO NOT TRANSLATE
  • Select Article - Any article, as long as the language of the article is set to All
  • Default Page - Yes
  • Language - All

Confirm the settings by selecting the Save button in the toolbar at the top-right.

All Menu Item Parameters

Please note that this menu item will be the default content displayed by Joomla if no language is specified/known for a page. But be aware that visitors to your site will likely never see it. We won’t actually enable this menu item for display, as your visitors only need the menu items for each specific language. Having an All home menu item is just a technical requirement for Joomla multilingual sites and once created can be ignored.

Note: We recommend that this menu item never be translated with Josetta®.

3. In the Joomla administrative backend, select Menus > Main menu - English (or Default Language) > Add New Menu Item. In the menu item parameters, select the following:

  • Menu Item Type - Single Article
  • Menu Title - Home menu item - English (or default language)
  • Select Article - My English Article (or default language)
  • Default Page - Yes
  • Language - English (or default language)

Confirm the settings by selecting the Save button in the toolbar at the top-right.

4. Publish a menu module on the frontend of your web site that loads Main Menu - English (or Default Language). If your site currently has existing menu items, move them all to Main Menu - English (or Default Language) and change their language to English (or Default Language). The Batch Processing tools that appears below the list of menu items can speed up this process.

Note: Menu items for additional languages will be translated later on in Josetta®.

Part D - Language Switcher module

In order for site visitors to view your translations, you need to provide a way to switch languages. Joomla includes a Language - Switcher module for this purpose. You can enable the language switcher module as follows:

1. In the Joomla administrative backend, select Extensions > Module manager from the main menu.

2. Select the New button in the toolbar at the top-right. Select Language Switcher from the list of available Module Types.

3. In the module parameters, set the title, position and other parameters as appropriate taking care to set the following option:

  • Language - All

Confirm the settings by selecting the Save button in the toolbar at the top-right.

Part E - Completing the source language

Your web site is now ready to accept more articles and menu items. Josetta® will help tremendously to create a Joomla translation for each items into the target language (French in our example above) as we describe elsewhere in the User Manual.

However, to get the most benefit from Josetta® you should create the remainder of your site content in the source language.

This is not different from content creation on a site with just a single language except you must ensure sure that the source language information is specified throughout.

Specifically, each time you create a new article (or menu item, or contact, or weblink for instance), ensure that the Language field is properly selected as the source language. Similarly, ensure that an English article or contact (for instance) is contained within an English category.

Since you will likely be using Josetta® to create Joomla translations, there is no need to create any content in the target language. It is much more efficient and easy to create each and every translation in the frontend, using Josetta®.

If you already have a Joomla multilingual web site with plenty of content in several languages you can still use Josetta® and you won’t have to re-enter your translations. As described elsewhere in the User Manual you can instruct Josetta® to use one of your existing content items as the translation for another item without any data loss.

For further information on installing and using Josetta®, please refer to other areas of the User Manual.

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