As reported last week, Google has launched versions of its video-sharing service YouTube in French and other languages. Localised versions now exist for the UK, Brazil, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the US.

The French YouTube site at features titles and help pages in French, and the top video is a welcome message from French rapper Kamini, who began promoting his brand of rural rap through YouTube's English-language site last November with a video clip entitled ‘Marly-Gomont’.

For now, the international sites draw on the same database of videos and rankings as the US site, but in time Google plans to add country-specific video rankings and comments,. For now, the French site displays French-language content and rankings previously posted to the main site.

Google executives including CEO Eric Schmidt will give further details of the new services at a news conference in Paris later today.

In preparation for the launch of the new sites, YouTube has already signed content partnerships with the BBC; French 24-hour news channel France 24; Spain's Antena 3 and Cuatro TV; Rádio e Televisão de Portugal; the Dutch VPRO and NPO; European football clubs such as Chelsea FC, AC Milan, Barcelona FC and Real Madrid, and non-profit organisations such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Médécins du Monde, said Google.

In the past, Google's cultural initiatives such as Google Book Search have faced criticism - from the head of the French National Library, Jean-Noël Jeanneney, among others - for the way in which they encourage the dominance of US values by making it easier to find cultural resources in English than in other languages. Linking with producers of local cultural content and making it easier to search that material may improve Google's image in some countries.

That said, YouTube has proved popular in Europe despite only having an English-language interface until now. In France in April, its US site had almost as many visitors as the French-language pages of local video-sharing service DailyMotion, according to market researcher comScore. (DailyMotion also offers services in a number of other languages, including English, German, Russian and Japanese.)

One European language notably missing from the new crop of YouTube sites is German. YouTube is already the number-one video sharing site in Germany, according to Comscore, narrowly ahead of the German-language service MyVideo operated by MyVideo Broadband SRL of Bucharest, Romania.

In Germany, it's more important to understand the German viewer's mind-set than their language, according to Anca-Alina Seghedi, CEO of MyVideo.

"Most of the German users of video communities already speak English, at least sufficiently to navigate on an international website. That means the
language barrier is not the main decisive point for users to choose their favourite websites," she said on Friday.

MyVideo may be better placed to understand Germans than YouTube, said Seghedi. "It is questionable whether they will be able to adapt to the German consumer tastes, which has been quite an important aspect of MyVideo's success in Germany."