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Translation "test" scam
Thread poster: FourSeasons
FourSeasons
Local time: 11:22
English to Chinese
+ ...
Jun 23, 2007

I sent my cv to a publisher for the position of freelance translator.

They asked me to do a translation "test", I did it, and then I haven't heard from them for a week.

Today they contacted me again and asked me to complete two assignments. Same kind of assignments as the "test". They said it's very urgent. There is no mention of pay, or the test I did last time.

I believe they're trying to trick me into working for them for free? So the "test" I did last time was probably actual real work?

What kind of action shall I take? Grateful for your advice. Thanks.


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Yolanda Broad  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:22
Member (2000)
French to English
+ ...
Give them a price quote on the new material Jun 23, 2007

If you think you are being asked to do a job, send them a price quote and let them decide whether or not they like your price. And if they insist that they want you to do it as a test, then assume that all three texts were being sent to you under the same conditions and send them a bill for the earlier translation.

When you send them a quote, make sure to spell out exactly what your terms are. For instance,

Terms: $0.XX/word or character (or $XX.00/page) XX days net (or XX days end of month).


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Tae Kim  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:22
Member (2007)
English to Korean
+ ...
Ask to get paid for your test Jun 23, 2007

I have done many, many tests so far, and I actually have met an agency who was gracious enough to offer me a payment on the test, and a very good price at that. These agencies are really good companies to work for.

Most of time, these samples tests will fail test takers. This sample test issue is probably one of the most apparent and biggest problems our translation industry has. I don't expect it to be corrected any time soon, it's not really a big problem if one knows how to handle it.

I'd ask, if an agency asks for a sample test, to get paid first. If they refuse, I'd just walk away. Sample tests are demeaning to experienced translators, because it's like asking whether you are worthy enough in your own line of work. Who would want to be tested for your competency when you have lots of experience already?

I have just about enough bad experiences with these sample tests, so now I don't take them anymore. I'd simple ask to send my own sample work, offer to send my references, or ask to get paid for sample tests. If all these don't work, then, you have no choice but to look for work in some other ways.


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Set word limit Jun 23, 2007

I've beent tested, despite my experiences. Like Kim, it is demeaning to a veteran like myself. Nonetheless it happens when I am marketing to new area.
However, there is an advantage in taking it in a case like following.
If I took the test and after job was submitted, the agency and/or client complained for my job whatever reason, I have one more good reason for rebuttal (hum ........ this brings a new thread to discuss about, I guess).
So I usually take the test if job is enough attractive to me, but on following condition.
I would not if test word count is more than 500. 300 is better.


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 05:22
English to Russian
+ ...
Not at all Jun 23, 2007

Tae Kim wrote:

Who would want to be tested for your competency when you have lots of experience already?


Maybe no one would want it but any engineer with an impressive resume will be interviewed on a professional level and likely invited to sit at the computer and do a few manipulations with the software he is required to use. Do you know the company that would pay for his interview time? I know that I would pay to see him fuffing at the interviewer - hey, don't you see my resume, take your tests and...:-). The most beloved and highly paid Hollywood stars fail castings/auditions once in a while:-). Certainly not because of the lack of acting techniques...

There are many reasons why even a good translator may not be fit for a particular job. Especially as a new addition to the established team. No reason to take everything personally, and it could be a blessing in disguise to avoid a relationship with the editor that does not like you.

I agree with one of your points though - it will never hurt to check out and assess if the outsorcer is worth the trouble.



[Edited at 2007-06-23 05:44]


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Akoma
English to Russian
+ ...
Tell them you don't do more than one test for one publisher Jun 23, 2007

FourSeasons, if I were you I would tell them that, first, I did already a test for them, second, I don't do more that one test for one publisher, third, if their selection procedures involve multiple testing they should have told you about it at once, before you started on your first one, and now that these new tests are sort of sprung on you in a surprise manner you are discinclined to go along. Be prepared, though, that the publisher may abandon you altogether.

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Monika Rozwarzewska  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 11:22
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
Not more than 200 words Jun 23, 2007

Susan Koyama-Steele wrote:

I would not if test word count is more than 500. 300 is better.


Susan, I do believe the volume of a test translation shouldn't exceed 200 source words for one subject area.


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Elzbieta
Netherlands
Local time: 11:22
Dutch to Polish
+ ...
Ask for a "test payment" Jun 23, 2007

If they want to test you why couldn't you test them? With the first test you have already proved your competences, now it's their turn to proof that they are reliable.

Seriously, I would never accept a test translation with a tight deadline because it looks very suspicious to me. It is already quite exceptional for our profession that we accept free tests. Like other colleagues pointed out in previous discussions: would you go to a new restaurant for a free test dinner or to a hairdresser for a free test hair cut? Not likely.

There are many ways for agencies to test a new translator. This can be achieved simply with the first job, small but normally payed. Or by putting standard test files for different subject areas on their website, so that everyone can download and complete the test on their own time. And if an agency sends a free test to you personally, there should be no deadline at all or only a very general one - because it's a test, not a regular job. Professional companies will also send you some feedback, so that you can see what they like in your translation and what are the problems.

Do you trust this company? Your message shows you don't. So why bother on sending them any more work for free?


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Martin Wenzel
Germany
Local time: 11:22
English to German
+ ...
There isn't such a thing like an urgent "test translation" Jun 23, 2007

An urgent test translation is a contradiction in terms because one must not rush a test translation...

You can be sure it means they need somebody to do a free translation job...

It is too late to test somebody if the agency has already agreed to an order.

Of course, some of their "angel" translators might fallen ill...

I have done many a test translation that must have been pretty bad because I never heard from them again...


I, for one, don't do any free test translations any more...

I translated two very difficult medical texts the other day ...which took me almost four hours...

They didn't even bother to provide feedback. No thank you for the test translation, NOTHING.

When I approached the lady from the agency about an evaluation of my "test translation" a couple of days later she got snappy in her email and told me it was up to her to do so and that she was very busy...

Well, yes, busy to find new translators...

I have thought of the following "trick" for future tests.

Leave out a line in the middle of the test translation, but mention with a translator's note that this is in order to make sure the test translation cannot be sold w/o your knowledge...


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Tae Kim  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:22
Member (2007)
English to Korean
+ ...
Agencies should offer some kind of payment for sample tests Jun 23, 2007

I think the bottom line is that if a translator who takes sample tests is a beginner in translation industry, he or she will take it, but experienced ones will not. And it's better to ask for a payment on free test, becasue no one would want to spend valuable time on something that has almost no chance of making you money.

The passing rate of sample tests, I believe, is a little more than 10%. If a sample test-giving agency really wants a job done, I believe the passing rate will be way up. Or, they will simply forego sample tests and ask to have translation job done, sometimes probably without even asking for references either.

But, sometimes agencies will pass your sample tests. It did happen to me a couple of times so far, but out of like 20 samples tests or so.

So, it's not really an irksome kind of thing to take sampel tests, but it's not a pleansant and eager thing for translators to do. I would rather spend my time on something that will actually make me money, like real work that pays. And I don't think it's not a polite thing to do actually ask for payment on taking sample tests. That way, both agencies and translators can show respect toward each other. The payment doesn't have to be big, but just enough to make sample test taking not a waste of time in the end.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 07:22
English to Portuguese
+ ...
One way to foil fake tests Jun 23, 2007

One way to make sure these urgent tests are not actual work, or at least to give apparently not-so-honest outsourcers a ride, if you really want to take the test, is:

Do the translation, but use some neat calligraphic font. There are too many of them, so it would be useless to list, but think of a font resembling the one on the Ford logo. My father's handwriting was just like that. It's extremely legible for humans, but gibberish for OCR software.

Then print it on hardcopy, and either:
a) FAX it to them; or
b) scan it at 72 dpi, and e-mail them a JPG file.

If they are really desperate to get that translation out (at your expense), someone will have to type it, and someone will have to check it for typos. This should teach them a lesson. You will have done your part. They wouldn't have the poker face to tell you "but we needed your test to copy&paste"...


I once had an agency that wanted me to translate and record the audio for 4 long PowerPoint presentations. On top of translating I'd have to rent a sound studio and hire voice talent. As the agency was located on the opposite side of the planet, there would be no way to ensure payment.

So I offered to deliver them the whole recording, being the first 5 minutes with crystal-clear sound, and the remainder of it mixed with just enough "pink noise" to render it commercially unusable. As soon as I got paid, they'd receive the clean job.

Never heard from them again.


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FourSeasons
Local time: 11:22
English to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Jun 23, 2007

Thank you, all of you, for your advice.

I know how to give an answer to that publisher now.

I don't mind if they never contact me again. After all, if they're not worthy to work with, it's not a loss.


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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 07:22
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Quote your price Jun 23, 2007

FourSeasons wrote:

I sent my cv to a publisher for the position of freelance translator.

They asked me to do a translation "test", I did it, and then I haven't heard from them for a week.

Today they contacted me again and asked me to complete two assignments. Same kind of assignments as the "test". They said it's very urgent. There is no mention of pay, or the test I did last time.

I believe they're trying to trick me into working for them for free? So the "test" I did last time was probably actual real work?

What kind of action shall I take? Grateful for your advice. Thanks.


Hi,
They may be trying to trick you, but maybe not...maybe they're just a bit disorganized. I've been working for a company like that for quite a few years. It's not ideal, but they're nice people and pay fairly, so I have hung in there with them. Just to give them the benefit of the doubt, quote them a price for the two assignments. Simple, really.

Amy


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Clarisa Moraña  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 07:22
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Why do you think it's a scam? Jun 23, 2007

I don't think so. It has happened many times to me: I'm asked for a sample translation, no feedback at all, and a week later I receive an assigment.
Had you send them your rates? Inform the agency about your rates. Ask them if they will accept it for the translation assignment, and tell them to send you the PO. I'm sure you send you cv at the right moment, they liked it, and liked your translation sample, and the want you to work with them. They are just a little bit disorganized.

Regards

Clarisa Moraña


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 05:22
English to Russian
+ ...
Quite the opposite Jun 24, 2007

Tae Kim wrote:

A beginner in translation industry, he or she will take it, but experienced ones will not.


Only a very unexperienced agency will send the job without a test. Likely the agency that does not have editors on staff, which means that they are small and weak and have never seen a serious project in their life. By serious I mean something like a 3-5-year contract with an oil tycoon requiring 15 people for an in-house team and many freelancers.

With one small exception ~1.5 years ago I myself have done my last test 7 years ago but for a totally different reason - I don't need any additional clients. 4 instances of quite extensive testing feed me for 16 years. The agencies I did tests for had huge projects at hand, in 2 cases - 7 digits worth. They would laugh off the email any translator claiming that the test with them is too much of a bother and must be paid for. They have things to show for their worthiness. I invested in them and now I am way past continuous chasing of new clients, with or without tests. I would never do a test without a confirmed knowledge of a major project already in the hands of an agency. I am not interested in doing tests for someone giving me 2-3 pagers once in 2 weeks, and I am not interested in doing tests to collect 50 clients like that to stay affloat. I would never work or do the test for a new client unless I have a good knowledge of their position, portfolio and reputation on the market, preferrably complimented by a recommendation from an esteemed colleague. With those parts of the equation in place, should they require the test and I'll be interested, I shall do it without hesitation and, moreover, shall have even more trust in them. That's what I call an experienced translator attitude:-)

Same as with the native - non-native issue. At best amateur, in many cases plain unprofessional and at worst dishonest behaviour of lousy "agencies" popping up like mushrooms after the rain is being mixed up with good and safe business practices.

For experienced translators it's not about not doing the tests, it's about not catching everything that floats on the surface.

Regards,
Irene


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