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Tests: 630 words within 30 minutes ... Is it reasonable?
Thread poster: Vladimir Pochinov

Vladimir Pochinov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 15:15
Member (2002)
English to Russian
Mar 14, 2004

Some time ago a coordinator from the HQ of a reputable agency contacted me via my ProZ profile page requesting a resume and a sample of my work.

As I had no samples for the exact product type in question, I suggested sending me a short translation test (200-300 words) instead. Nevertheless, I did send a sample involving another computer peripheral.

Three days later the coordinator advised me he was quite happy with the sample.

Two weeks later his colleague from their London office sent an email asking whether I would do a test translation in view of a potential project:

We'd like to initially give you a small test to see your style of translation, which takes no longer than 30 minutes to complete.

I assumed the test piece will be 150-200 words long (as was indicated in my initial response to the coordinator in the agency's HQ), and agreed to do the test. We did agree a specific date/time for that.

The test piece turned out to be 630 words long

As soon as I did the word count, I requested a confirmation that they actually wanted me to translate the whole text within 30 minites.

Please advise whether you do expect a throughput of 1,200+ words per hour, or is it just some misunderstanding?

I never received any response to either that enquiry, or to a couple of subsequent attempts to clear this issue out. And I never heard from that agency again (i.e. since last August).

I still feel somewhat uneasy about the whole experience. It looked very promising in the beginning (the agency is a well-known establishment, with well-known clients and interesting projects, and a prompt payer at that) ...

The big question is whether I did something wrong. Or maybe I am just too slow with my fingers? The Blue Board entry for the agency implies there are several happy translators who managed better than myself

FYI: Generally, I do 1,800-2,000 words per day on a freelance basis (I also work under a long-term on-site translation and interpreting contract that keeps me busy until 2PM Mon-Fri).

Sorry for this arm-long posting but I am really eager to know your opinions on this.


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Rosa Maria Duenas Rios  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:15
You are correct, Vladimir! Mar 14, 2004

I do not believe you did anything wrong and you are not slow!

In my pairs (English and French into Spanish), my average output per day (8 hours) is a maximum of 3,000 words! There is no way I could do 1,200 in one hour, even though I consider myself a fast translator and typist; and I am sure a lot colleagues will tell you the same.

In my opinion, the agency was trying to take advantage of you; otherwise, why would it remain silent to your questions on several occasions?

Sometimes, not everything that looks good is really good. If I were you, I would be happy that I am not doing business with such people!

Regards!


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Patricia Posadas  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:15
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
+ ...
That's too much! Mar 14, 2004

I think you were very sensible when asking if they expected you to do 1200 words per hour. In my language pairs (EN/FR into Spanish) anything above 400/500 words per hour is really fast!

It is surprising that a reputable agency asked you for such a thing! Maybe there was some misunderstanding and they were 'too busy to bother about you':-(


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David Brown  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:15
Spanish to English
630 words in 30 minutes..of course it's unreasonable Mar 14, 2004

[quote]Vladimir Pochinov wrote:
Vladimir..I only translate from one language..Spanish to English..and only in my specialty..scientific medicine..and I can just manage on a good day 300-400 words/hour...often a lot less..maybe the agency said or meant 1-2 hours? not 1/2 hour?


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:15
English to Spanish
+ ...
If you could do that... Mar 14, 2004

You'd blow their socks off!

In any case it is good recommendation not to do a test any longer than 250 words or so as many colleagues suggest.

I think those people are just trying to jack you around. Just forget them and move on.


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Tania Marques-Cardoso  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 10:15
Member (2006)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
No, you are not too slow Mar 15, 2004

Of course you are not too slow -- and the test is definetely too long. Supposing the agency is realy respectful, the only thing I can suppose is that they sent you the wrong file. Translating 630 words in 20 minutes is not sensible at all.

Anyway, do what they did: just forget it...

Cheers!

Tânia


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chopra_2002  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 18:45
Member (2008)
English to Hindi
+ ...
It is almost impossible Mar 15, 2004

It is almost impossible to translate 600 words in half an hour. Of course, if the subject matter is quite easy and expression is very simple, one can translate about 450 to 550 words in half an hour but the typing of same would also consume some time. So, I must say it is rather impracticable and unrealistic to expect translation of 600 words in such a short time.

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Vladimir Pochinov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 15:15
Member (2002)
English to Russian
TOPIC STARTER
Don't think this was the case, really. Mar 15, 2004

Rosa Maria Duenas Rios wrote:

In my opinion, the agency was trying to take advantage of you; otherwise, why would it remain silent to your questions on several occasions?

Sometimes, not everything that looks good is really good. If I were you, I would be happy that I am not doing business with such people!


1) No, I don't think they tried to take advantage of me. I am sure there was some misunderstanding between us. It's quite possible that I was expected to translate as much as I could within these 30 minutes, not necessarily the whole text ...
2) Maybe my request for clarification offended the person who had sent the test piece (it's the only logical explanation given the circumstances)? I re-read my letters and could not find anything offensive in the wording, but she still might think different. People differ, you know...
3) If it's just this person in their London office who lost interest in my services, I would like to try and remedy the situation, if possible (regretfully, my initial contact at the HQ seems to have moved somewhere, either within the agency or without it ).


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Ahmed Ismail  Identity Verified
Egypt
Local time: 15:15
English to Arabic
+ ...
Did you Call her? Mar 15, 2004

It's quite possible that I was expected to translate as much as I could within these 30 minutes, not necessarily the whole text ...I re-read my letters and could not find anything offensive in the wording, but she still might think different.


Even if they want you to translate as much as you can, this person should be patient enough to clear things for you....this is very normal in our business...if not..then your are not to blame yourself...you should have called her the following day to clear things.
But I still see 630 words in 30 min. is a weird type of tests that I will never do before I get a clarification like you did.

[Edited at 2004-03-15 15:26]


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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:45
English to Tamil
+ ...
If no typing is involved, perhaps one can try Mar 15, 2004

Let me explain with an event that really took place. I was to broadcast for the French Division of the All India Radio External Services. The car was to pick me up at 10.30 P.M. and reach the radio station by 11 P.M. The News in English will usually be handed over on arrival and I will have to keep the French version ready for reading live during the broadcast. But on this particular day the car came very late, I reached the radio station at 00.45 A.M. and the broadcast was to start at 01.15 A.M. Further, I was the sole person in charge of the announcement as well as News reading lasting 10 minutes. There was no time even to despair. I just collected the News in English and rapidly translated the headlines and had a rapid examination of the News in detail. The News had to be started at 1.20 A.M., just 5 minutes after the commencement of the broadcasting. At the appointed hour I started reading the headlines. I then took out the first sheet and started ex-tempore translation. My eyes read the news in English and my vocal output was in French. One by one the sheets were read out in that manner and 1.30 A.M. approached. I just read the headlines again. And that was that. For 10 minutes of reading, I guess it will be 1200 words. And it was done in 10 minutes. As they say fear provides wings. And I had a nice flight. The control room people were quite happy and I too was not unhappy.
Well, I wouldn't be exactly looking forward to such an experience again!
Regards,
N.Raghavan


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:15
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
630 words of unfamiliar material should take an hour and a half Mar 15, 2004

I can only tell you my own experience. I did various secretarial courses in my teens and learnt to type at about 65 w.p.m. This does definitely increase my speed of doing translations now. However, even in these circumstances, if the material to be translated is easy and familiar and I can translate most of it at the same speed as I can type, I can only do 600 words per hour.

If the material is unfamiliar, 600 words would take me about an hour and a half - and I assume that someone who is not a trained secretary may need up to 2 hours. Therefore, you are correct: it was a 1 - 2 hour test.

I do not think it will be very easy for you to arrange to do business with the agency concerned now. However, they employ different people at different times, and you could try making contact with them again in a couple of years, as they will probably have different staff by then. Otherwise, your best hope is to find some event where agencies are represented, and meet people personally. That kind of opportunity is also not particularly easy to come by.

In the meantime, cultivate the agencies you have hit it off with. Good luck!

Astrid


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Julie Arbon  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:15
French to English
+ ...
Wow, have I chosen the right profession! Mar 16, 2004

Vladimir Pochinov wrote:

Some time ago a coordinator from the HQ of a reputable agency contacted me via my ProZ profile page requesting a resume and a sample of my work.

As I had no samples for the exact product type in question, I suggested sending me a short translation test (200-300 words) instead. Nevertheless, I did send a sample involving another computer peripheral.

Three days later the coordinator advised me he was quite happy with the sample.

Two weeks later his colleague from their London office sent an email asking whether I would do a test translation in view of a potential project:

We'd like to initially give you a small test to see your style of translation, which takes no longer than 30 minutes to complete.

I assumed the test piece will be 150-200 words long (as was indicated in my initial response to the coordinator in the agency's HQ), and agreed to do the test. We did agree a specific date/time for that.

The test piece turned out to be 630 words long

As soon as I did the word count, I requested a confirmation that they actually wanted me to translate the whole text within 30 minites.

Please advise whether you do expect a throughput of 1,200+ words per hour, or is it just some misunderstanding?

I never received any response to either that enquiry, or to a couple of subsequent attempts to clear this issue out. And I never heard from that agency again (i.e. since last August).

I still feel somewhat uneasy about the whole experience. It looked very promising in the beginning (the agency is a well-known establishment, with well-known clients and interesting projects, and a prompt payer at that) ...

The big question is whether I did something wrong. Or maybe I am just too slow with my fingers? The Blue Board entry for the agency implies there are several happy translators who managed better than myself

FYI: Generally, I do 1,800-2,000 words per day on a freelance basis (I also work under a long-term on-site translation and interpreting contract that keeps me busy until 2PM Mon-Fri).

Sorry for this arm-long posting but I am really eager to know your opinions on this.


As a post-graduate student of translation studies, I am really pleased to hear that the expected translation rate is 1200 words per hour! Let's see, over a forty hour working week, that's 48,000 words charged at let's say 75 euros per thousand words,... I make that 3,600 euros per week! Hooray, I'm gonna be rich! Only one problem, since I'm currently spending about 3 hours on each 500 word homework assignment, I think I still have a way to go as yet.


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Uldis Liepkalns  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 16:15
Member (2003)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Why, Mar 17, 2004

I today received a requst for a 1,5 page test translation, sent 17/03 at 6 PM and asking it to be delivered at midday 17/03. And not from the US, but from a region with time zone difference 1 hour

Uldis

Vladimir Pochinov wrote:
We'd like to initially give you a small test to see your style of translation, which takes no longer than 30 minutes to complete.
.


[Edited at 2004-03-17 23:05]


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xxxItaliano
Local time: 15:15
Polish to Italian
+ ...
How it's possible? I'm more more fast than you... Jun 5, 2004

I'm italian, i live in Poland and i work as translater from polish to italian, and also from english to italian. My written english isn't good, because i must only read in english, i just write in italian.

Today i readed about your speed. At beginning i'd a problem, because in poland we use PAGE and not words. so PAGE is 1800 char (with spaces). For me it's NORMAL to translate 3 page/h.
Today i was very angry that translating a stupid menu (restaurant) full of difficult words in polish i used nearly
1 h every page. For me it was a shame...

BUT: counting in words, 1 page (1800 chars) it's around 300 words!

so my NORMAL SPEED in polish-italian and english-italian it's
900 words/hour. My orrible speed (first in my life) it's 300 words/hour.

I tried just now to see how fast i TYPE. (Just typing, not translating) and the result was: 300 chars/minute.

it means 18000 chars/hour. So my "fisical" limit, due to fingers is 10 PAGES/hour (3000 words/hour), and my real speed in translation is 3 PAGES/hours, so 900 words/hour..

When i write 900 words/hour i mean the WHOLE time, counting
also the proofreading, and some research..

How is possibile? I know a women which live in Poland too,
she is also a translator, and her speed also it's similar to my.. But i know other translators which work at 300 words/hour here in Poland, and i had the impression that they choose the wrong job..

please answer to me.. i'm really shocked..
i thought to be NORMAL, until now...
by

Mario Pace


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Vladimir Pochinov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 15:15
Member (2002)
English to Russian
TOPIC STARTER
Lucky you :-) You should be on your way to becoming another Bill Gates ... Jun 6, 2004

mariopace wrote:

My NORMAL SPEED in polish-italian and english-italian it's
900 words/hour. My orrible speed (first in my life) it's 300 words/hour.

I tried just now to see how fast i TYPE. (Just typing, not translating) and the result was: 300 chars/minute.

it means 18000 chars/hour. So my "fisical" limit, due to fingers is 10 PAGES/hour (3000 words/hour), and my real speed in translation is 3 PAGES/hours, so 900 words/hour..



Hi Mario,

If I understand you correctly, you do not understand how I can make a living with my slow translation speed. Is it the case?

Well, MY physical limit (i.e. typing speed) is about 850-900 words/hour. Generally, I translate at a speed of 300-400 words per hour (including research, etc.).

As I have mentioned above, I am now in Cyprus working under a long-term on-site translation and interpreting contract. This job keeps me busy till 2PM Monday-Friday. On average, I work 20 hours per week doing freelance jobs, i.e. about 80 hours per month. With my current rate of US$0.10/source word, this translates into at least US$2,400/month (gross). With my primary job paying approximately just as much (and my company paying for accomodation, electricity, water, heating, medical insurance, etc.) I am quite happy with the situation.

With your speed, you are in the position to make about US$14,400 per month, if you work 40 hours per week. Good for you!


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