Note: This blog post was originally written in Japanese for our Japanese website. We used our machine translation platform Translation Designer to translate it and post-edit the content in English. The original Japanese post can be found here.

Have you ever heard the word FIGS? It’s not a plural form of fig that is at issue here. Perhaps, you can guess that much. FIGS is an acronym that stands for:




and Spanish.

Undoubtedly, English is the first language that comes to the mind of many when translating Japanese documents and contents for overseas use, but FIGS are the major European languages that will come up as the next multilingual option. Sometimes, English and FIGS are put together and collectively called EFIGS.

In this post, we will discuss about the circumstances surrounding each language of FIGS and how they are changing under the current global circumstances.

Major languages in the world: French and Spanish

French is the second most spoken language in the world after English. It is an official language in 29 countries, including European countries such as France, Switzerland, and Belgium, and African countries that were once the territory of France and Belgium. It’s also one of the six official languages of the United Nations, so it’s safe to say that it’s a major language of the world. At the Tokyo Olympics last year, many of you may have heard it spoken at the opening ceremony as the first official language of the Olympics.

Spanish is the fourth language with the most native speakers after Chinese, English and Hindi.* Not only is it spoken in Spain and Latin America, but there is also a large contingent of about 50 million Hispanic Spanish speakers in the United States, and it is estimated that there are 480 million people worldwide who speak Spanish as their first language. As Spanish has the same number of vowels, five (a, e, i, o, u), as Japanese, it is said to be one of the languages that are relatively easy for Japanese to understand when spoken.
*Source: 5 Most Spoken Languages in the World, Insider Monkey

Highly influential in the EU: German and Italian

German may not be a global language like English, French and Spanish but has an overwhelming influence in the EU. Its native population is the largest in the bloc. Also, Germany has the largest national GDP in the EU. In terms of the number of web pages on the Internet, German comes the second after English with about 6% of all web pages in German. In Europe, it is used as a mother tongue not only in Germany and Austria but also in many countries such as Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.

Some of you may feel that Italian has a rather diminutive stature compared to the above three languages, believing Italian is only spoken by Italians. That’s not true. In fact, Italian is the language with the third largest number of native speakers in the EU after German and French. Italian is used as an official language not only in Italy but also in Switzerland and San Marino. And do you know that many music-related words such as piano, tempo, and Do, Re and Mi of a musical scale are Italian?

That’s the current status of FIGS, and you can see that each of the FIGS languages has a strong influence not only in Europe but also in the world. I think you can now understand why the instruction manuals for consumer electronics always include multilingual translation to the FIGS languages in addition to English.

We need FIGS, and more?

With the rise of BRICS in recent years, the demand for Portuguese has increased. The number of native speakers in the EU is not many with about 10 million, but since it is the official language of Brazil, which has a population of about 200 million, it is estimated that there are about 250 million native speakers worldwide, including speakers from the former Portuguese colonies in Africa.

Until recently, many people requested multilingual translation to the FIGS languages as a set. With the rise of Brazil, however, some now opt for Portuguese instead of Italian (FPGS), or for a set of three languages that includes Portuguese and Spanish in addition to English. The current situation surrounding multilingual translation is one in which there are many combinations.

Furthermore, with more Japanese companies going global, documents now require translation not only from Japanese. Kawamura International has a track record of translating various languages, including relatively minor European languages. We have experience in translation, for example, from English to Hungarian or from Danish to Japanese, in wide-ranging fields from pharmaceuticals to law.

In addition to simple translation services, we also offer various solutions such as machine translation with post-editing. Please feel free to contact us if you are looking for multilingual translation services.

Kawamura's translation services

For the FIGS languages and other European languages, affiliated companies of Kawamura International that are based in Europe will handle translation as our local partners. We provide professional translation services in specific fields ranging from IT to patents, law, and finance. We also support multilingual combinations for more than 40 languages. Options such as proofreading by native speakers and expert reviews are also available.

We also support many other languages not mentioned in this post. If you have any questions about multilingual translation, feel free to reach out to us.