When it comes to viral videos, international borders are only a suggestion. We’ve collected the top-shared videos of 2019 across some of the world’s most popular languages in order to find the parallels that appeal to these globally connected audiences.
It’s a small world, and the social web has made it even smaller. Take a look at the top videos of 2019 in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Chinese, and Japanese below to see that the most popular social videos on Earth all follow similar formulas.
Here are some of the top videos of 2019 by language, plus best practices any brand can apply going forward based on these trends!
English Speakers Watch Heaps of Family-Friendly Content
In the realm of English-language social video, “children are our future” is not just lip service: videos targeted at kids have extremely high growth potential. It turns out toddlers, who crave repetition and love to hit replay, are YouTube’s ideal audience.
Out of all English-language videos, the second most popular video is “Learn fruits and Animals with funny Monkey style PC games.” Clocking in with 756M views since January 1, this low-budget 1-minute clip features a robot voiceover and crude computer graphics.
It’s second only to “Step Up: High Water | YouTube Originals,” a video that YouTube auto-plays as a mandatory commercial for viewers — and has 757M views in 2019 to show for it. The fact that a kids’ video is almost matching an unskippable ad is impressive in itself.
Short of advertising with YouTube or creating a platinum pop song (Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings” and Billie Eilish’s “bad guy” are both top English-language videos), it turns out kid fare is the best way to guarantee those repeat visitors.
It’s replicable, too: small children don’t care about fancy production values or even a real human voiceover. And while this trend got the most views in English, it’s a truly international phenomenon with kids’ videos ranking high in every region across many of the most popular languages.
Out of All the Languages of the World, Spanish Reigns Segundo
Want to go viral in Spanish, second out of all the most popular languages in the world? Set it to music.
Whether we look at Spanish-language videos originating only from countries with Spanish as the most common first language or throw in the U.S. as well, you’d be remiss to find a viral clip that isn’t in the form of a music video.
The top Spanish-language video for 2019 is Daddy Yankee & Snow’s “Con Calma” with a staggering 1.2B views.
From there, nearly all of the following top 100 videos are also by Spanish-language music performers. Even the obligatory top children’s entertainment is musical: “Diez en la Cama – Canciones Infantiles” with a hit count of 357M.
Another major way Spanish-language regions differ from English-language ones: a clear Facebook dominance. While YouTube and Facebook views are practically even in English, Spanish speakers show a strong preference for Facebook.
In 2019, that meant 300B Facebook video views. To reach the most Spanish speakers possible, brands should turn to Facebook — and make sure they set their messages to music.
Portuguese, One of Humankind’s Most Popular Languages
Amid music videos and children’s entertainment, Portuguese videos have an artsy wrinkle. One of the language’s most popular videos, “Os sonhos não se fazem, eles são únicos e vividos em apenas um momento” (“Dreams are not made, they are unique and lived in just a moment”), is an Instagram-based walk-through of an elaborately-planned 15th birthday party.
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Os sonhos não se refazem, eles são únicos e vividos em apenas um momento…@desinhapgf que prazer imenso poder estar com você, naquela noite única , vivendo seu sonho, testemunhando sua alegria. 🌸 🌸 🌸 🌸 🌸 #15anos #minhasdebutantes #debutanteslenasouzalima #lenasouzalimafestas #15anoslenasouzalima #festas #party #niver15anos Video by @janvianacinema
With 130M views, the video is part advertisement for a party planner, part glimpse of how the other half lives.
Another top video which translates roughly to “7 Fun Ways To Repair Old Toys,” features two beautiful women finding ways to creatively recycle their dinosaur and animal-shaped plastic toys. It owes its 17M views to combined humor and the soothing experience of watching somebody else do crafts that would otherwise take a lot of work.
Ranked #5 in Portugal for 2019, this craft video comes from 123 Go!, an international YouTube channel that has been dubbed into a dozen of the most popular languages. With millions of subscribers worldwide for its channels in Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic and more, it shows that some viral videos can transcend all borders. All they do is revise the voiceover in the target language; the actors’ expressive faces and crafty creations stay the same.
French Audiences Delight in Delicacies and Discord
Don’t get French audiences started about food. Cooking videos don’t just perform better in French-speaking regions; they also net far more engagement. Everyone agrees that the recipe is wrong — but it’s regarding what the chef should do differently where it gets controversial.
Take “La patate omelette,” a seemingly-innocuous recipe video on Facebook. Like many of the top French recipe videos, it comes from France-based food company ChefClub.
However, this clip has 75.2M views and 2M engagements — a far closer view-to-comment ratio than most global recipe videos — as amateur chefs critique every step of the process.
Another top cooking video, “Pousse Kebab,” has an unbelievable 3.8M engagements. There’s nothing incendiary about the video itself, but the comments section is long-lived with culinary fury from one of the most popular languages in the world.
It should be no surprise that in a country known for its cuisine, French-language videos that focus on food perform exceptionally well. Just be aware that it’s as touchy a topic as if your brand had decided to tackle the political landscape instead.
Germans Lieben Longer Video Content on YouTube
While other countries might prefer Facebook, German traffic strongly favors YouTube. With 24.6B YouTube views in 2019, this makes the German language video market particularly unique.
Most notably, this means that Germans tend to watch longer videos, and stay engaged longer, than their counterparts around the world. In 2019, the top video so far is “Schul Hacks | 10 Coole Und Nützliche DIY Ideen Für Mädchen,” a whopping 10 minutes long — even more impressive considering that most of the other videos in this article are under a minute long.
Our performance insights indicate that the vast majority of German-language viewership goes to videos on YouTube that are 10-15 minutes long; that’s a total of 7.4B views.
We’re not sure why German speakers have longer attention spans (though we could speculate that having some of the longest words in any language helps). But it’s a reminder that brands in this region can — and perhaps should — get a little long-winded.
Chinese, the Global Language of Our Time
Out of the most popular languages in the world, Chinese is spoken the most (Mandarin, to be precise). However, its relationship to video is tricky.
On July 1, the Chinese government passed new regulations to censor “short video apps” that Chinese citizens can view online. The rules, which forbid satire, sexual content, critiques of political leaders, and user comments, tighten up already restrictive laws that have made it difficult for brands and influencers outside of the country to reach Chinese speakers.
Thanks to this censorship, the Chinese-language social video scene is dramatically different inside and outside of China. Looking at creators, China Central Television is by far the biggest influencer in the country with 52.2M views on YouTube in 2019.
Outside of China, speakers in Taiwan and the U.S. prefer entertainment to news, with cartoons and interactive videos that double as games taking up the top 10 most viral results, with far more engagement — the top cartoon from yanni han has 207M views in 2019. It playfully hints at kissing in a way that is harmless enough here, but unlikely to get past the censors in China.
Because Chinese is the most commonly spoken out of all the languages of the world, it would be an ideal audience for any brand to target. But unless your brand already has a presence inside of China, don’t expect to easily reach Chinese speakers in the country.
Japanese Claims #9 Across the World’s Popular Languages
Few countries have exported their country’s pop culture as successfully as Japan. From pop stars to toys for kids, Japan has dispersed it all and this is reflected in the content of the top Japanese-language videos both in Japan and around the world.
The most popular Japanese-language video of 2019 has international appeal. “Supra is Back” is a commercial from Toyota featuring the newest version of the brand’s legendary race car.
Popular from the ‘70s to the ‘90s, the car gained new appeal when it was featured in The Fast and the Furious to the point where even this brief 1-minute clip netted 105M views.
From Sony to New Balance to Shiseido, brands top the charts in the Japanese-language social video scene. Japan’s focus on exporting culture—and in turn, its easy acceptance of culture from the west—make it one of the friendliest video markets for brands around the world.