The question of which language is best for YouTube is one with no universal answer that can be applied to every YouTuber in every region.
Ultimately, the best language is the one in which you can make videos coherently and comfortably, but there are other mitigating factors that can pull your choice of language this way or that.
In this post, we’re going to lay out all the different factors to consider when deciding what language (or languages) to release your videos in, as well as some alternatives to consider if you don’t speak the language that would be best for your particular videos.
Let’s start with the basics.
The raw numbers, as it were.
If you were purely concerned with reaching the largest possible audience on YouTube, you would naturally want to make content in the language that has the largest possible audience bases such as English Spanish and Hindi.
As per Twinword’s analysis of YouTube statistics, we can use the following numbers as a guide for how the languages are spread out on YouTube from the creator’s side, meaning this is the percentage of videos that are made in each language.
It’s worth remembering that these kinds of statistics change all the time, but there is unlikely to be a significant change in terms of the share of those languages. For example, Hindi could creep past Portuguese without much fanfare, but Spanish would be very unlikely to overtake English any time soon.
Still, these are the percentages in which YouTube content is made but do not necessarily reflect the percentages in terms of the potential audience. For example, English is a second language in many countries, and while the primary language of a given region may not be English, many people in that region will speak it, which would mean they could happily consume English-speaking content, even if they would be more comfortable with a different language.
From a practical standpoint, this detail doesn’t make much difference. If you are primarily concerned with reaching the largest possible audience, you would make your video in the language with the most potential viewers, even if not all of those viewers consider English their first language.
So what of the audiences themselves? It is all well and good saying that the vast majority of the content on YouTube is made in English, but that is a creator bias and doesn’t necessarily reflect the language of the people who are watching that content.
There are no reliable statistics that we could find on language specifically when it comes to YouTube viewers, but there are statistics on things like region, which we can use to make a few educated guesses about the primary language of YouTube’s overall audience. Here are the top ten countries in terms of YouTube views (source).
|Country||Number of Views|
|South Korea||204 Billion|
As you can see from this table, there is quite a diverse spread of nations in the top ten countries viewing YouTube. We can see English, Hindi, Portuguese, and Thai in the top five languages, with plenty of other languages in the rest. Russian, Korean, Spanish, and Japanese.
However, things are not as diverse as they may first appear. For one thing, the three overwhelmingly English-speaking countries in that top ten—the USA, the UK, and Canada—account for 45% of the total views in that table. Granted, 45% is not a majority, but remember that none of the other countries in the top ten shares a primary language. India mainly speaks Hindi, Thailand primarily speaks Thai, Russia speaks Russian, South Korea speaks Korean, Spain speaks Spanish, and Japan speaks Japanese.
Further muddying the waters is the multilingual nature of some nations. For example, India lists both Hindi and English as their official languages, although it is thought that only around ten percent of India’s residents speak English. Still, India is second in our table with over half a trillion views—a potential ten percent bump of that half trillion for English is substantial.
It is also worth noting that, while the vast majority of Canada can speak English, they also have French as an official language, and around a fifth of the population can speak it.
So, what do we take from this? The first thing to take away from all of these numbers is that there is no clear cut statistic or table we can look at that will tell us which language has the most potential YouTube viewers. We can look at the languages which content is made in, but that doesn’t tell us if people are watching content in a language they are not fluent in. We can also look at the nations with the most YouTube viewers, but that doesn’t tell us what language the viewers are watching in.
If you are looking for a single broadest appeal language to make your content in, it is hard to argue with English, which makes sense as YouTube came from and rose to prominence in English-speaking countries.
Working With What You Got
All of the numbers and statistics on which languages are most viewed on YouTube may be irrelevant to you. If you only speak one language, or you can speak another language, but it is difficult to understand, you will struggle to make content in those other languages.
The first gatekeeper along your road to YouTube success is how watchable your content is. You could manoeuvre your videos to be in front of the largest potential audience possible, but if it is not watchable, you will not succeed. The phrase “content is key” may be cliched at this point, but it is cliched for a reason. It is 100% true.
If you have lofty ambitions for your YouTube channel, you may consider learning a language so that you can make content in that language.
For some people, learning a new language is intuitive. They can pick up the structure of the language relatively easy and, with some time and practice, speak the language with more clarity than even some native speakers of that language. On the other hand, there are people who have moved to a foreign country and lived there for most of their life and still have thick accents that make them hard to understand when speaking the local language.
This isn’t a linguistics blog, so we won’t pretend to know the reasons some people can pick up new languages easily and others cannot, but if you are the latter—if no amount of speaking a particular language makes it feel comfortable on your tongue—you would be better placed putting your energies into making the best possible content you can in your own language.
There are other options, of course, but more on that below.
How Important Is Language to Success on YouTube?
This is an important question to ask yourself because the work involved in making your content available in a language other than the one you are comfortable with—especially if you are going to learn a whole new language just so you can speak it in your videos—is considerable.
It is important to establish a realistic sense of what “success” means for you when starting out on YouTube. If your idea of success is being able to pay the bills and live comfortably with the revenue generated from your YouTube channel, you probably don’t need to conquer the world. If we take the data from the top countries viewing YouTube above, the twenty-fifth country on the list—Romania—still accounts for an impressive 63 billion views. The average CPM (the amount you make per one thousand views) on YouTube is typically around the £2-4 mark (after YouTube takes its cut). If we go for the middle ground and assume you will make roughly $3 per thousand views, and we take the average US monthly salary of around $3,500, we can say that you would need to get around 1,200,000 monthly views to match the average US citizen’s salary.
Without a doubt, 1.2 million views per month is a lot, but it is only approximately 0.002% of the total views coming from Romania. Would it be harder to get that many views from a purely Romanian audience than the much larger English audience? Of course. But it is certainly an attainable goal.
Of course, if your idea of success is to conquer the world of YouTube and overtake PewDiePie as the most successful individual YouTuber, that’s different. You’re probably going to need to make videos in English to do that.
At least, for now.
We mentioned alternatives to settling for your own language or learning a new one, so let’s talk about that. Making your content available to other languages doesn’t necessarily mean creating that content in those languages.
First of all, YouTube makes it very easy to caption your videos in multiple languages, even to the point that they have an automated captioning service that, while not perfect, is getting better all the time. There are also many transcription and translation services on the web for very affordable rates—typically a dollar or two per minute of audio. Captioning your videos is a good practice to get into regardless of language because it makes your video more accessible to people with hearing problems, but it also provides a way to make your content more accessible to other languages.
The other option is to have your videos translated and recorded so that you can upload alternate language versions of your videos with the translated voice-over dubbed onto it. There are services that will take care of the translation and voice over for you, or you might choose to have the translation handled separately, such as if you have a particular voice-over person you want to work with, but that person doesn’t do the translation.
If you go down the route of alternative language versions of your videos, it is important to make it clear that you have those alternative versions out there. First impressions tend to stick on YouTube, and if someone comes to your video because the content of the video is exactly what they are looking for, but they land on a version of the video using a language they don’t speak, they may dismiss you entirely because they can’t speak that language. Always put links to alternative language versions of a video in the descriptions of those videos, and it would be wise to have some kind of note in the video at the start mentioning that the video is available in other languages.
In an ideal world, you would not be concerned with the global reach of your videos. You would make the content you want to make to the best of your ability, continually looking for ways to improve and grow and let the views pan out how they may. That being said, we understand that reality is rarely ideal.
There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to reach viewers in the largest markets, but it is important to ensure your content is good. Creating a hard to understand video in English when your native language is Japanese, for example, will not just not help your channel; it may actively harm it. If you get a reputation for creating videos that are hard to understand, the people who would have watched that content in the first place may not come back when you have improved further down the line.
If you are learning a new language, use your time making content in your first language to improve and grow as a YouTuber, and hold off on making content in your additional language until you can speak it fluently and clearly.
And, remember; there are plenty of views out there no matter what language you speak.