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Test interpreting: does such thing exist?
Thread poster: Ana Novikaite

Ana Novikaite  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:44
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
Feb 2, 2009

Dear interpreters,
I am starting as an interpreter (my main occupation is translating, though). I have very little experience in interpreting and recently I had the situation when I was called by organisers of a conference, stating that they would like my services, and invited to come in 30 minutes to talk about the topic and presentations of the event. When I came, they told me that actually they are still looking for an interpreter and wanted me to do TEST-INTEprETING. The text contained a lot of specific terminology (in fact, so specific that if I was doing test TRANSLATION, I would have to use dictionaries). In the end, they said that they do not want to use my services. That was quite frustrating, I would like to ask you if you have any ideas about that: do you have such kind of experience? does such thing as test interpreting exist?


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Sara Senft  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:44
Spanish to English
+ ...
Apparently does exist/Some advice Feb 2, 2009

It sounds like test interpreting does exist; It's the same basic thing as a translation test. The purpose is to try you out and see if you fit their requirements.

In the future, I recommend that you do plenty of advance preparation. One way I prepare for an assignment is to gather plenty of information about the location, type of appointment, the person for whom I am interpreting, etc. I won't do as well if I jump in to the assignment clueless about what is happening.

There are some articles about interpreting advice listed in the articles directory here on ProZ. Reading them will help you learn more.



AnaNa wrote:

Dear interpreters,
I am starting as an interpreter (my main occupation is translating, though). I have very little experience in interpreting and recently I had the situation when I was called by organisers of a conference, stating that they would like my services, and invited to come in 30 minutes to talk about the topic and presentations of the event. When I came, they told me that actually they are still looking for an interpreter and wanted me to do TEST-INTEprETING. The text contained a lot of specific terminology (in fact, so specific that if I was doing test TRANSLATION, I would have to use dictionaries). In the end, they said that they do not want to use my services. That was quite frustrating, I would like to ask you if you have any ideas about that: do you have such kind of experience? does such thing as test interpreting exist?


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Magdalena Macinska  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:44
English to Polish
+ ...
Briefing vs. tests Feb 2, 2009

Honestly speaking, this situation seems a little strange to me.

First of all, from what you are saying it looks like the conference organiser was not clear with you about the purpose of the meeting and that does not seem very fair to me.


A conference organiser may want to organise an "interview" with you as during which he will want to find out more about your experience, knowledge about the subject etc.

Briefing sessions are also common and they are at the client's and interpreter's best interest. I can even imagine that if the organiser invites you for a "30 minute talk about the conference" it may a be combination of an interview/briefing, during which both sides can make the final decision whether they want to cooperate on the particular assignment.

Personally, I have not heard of interpreting tests exept in the case of such institutions as the EU or exams for sworn interpreters.

I could imagine that an Agency might organise such a test (although I do not know if this in case it was a direct client or an agency), but surely this would be done in a different manner. A candidate would be informed beforehand and the examiner would want to evaluate the overall competence and skills in interpreting and not just the knoledge of specific terms.


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Jurate Janaviciute  Identity Verified
Luxembourg
English to Lithuanian
Ask for more information in advance Feb 3, 2009

An organization, where I was on an internship at that moment, organized a conference with simultaneous interpreting. And I remember that the interpreters were provided with available conference material and a dictionary with specific terminology well in advance. The interpreters came to the conference very well prepared. I doubt if there was any interpreting test, but they would have passed it very well. Of course, I cannot guess what the result would have been without any preparation, but I do not think it is reasonable to expect that subtleties of accounting terminology or any other field comes with linguist's general knowledge.

If the client wants to get the highest quality possible, I think you should ask him to meet you halfway. Maybe he will not have any special material, but you are definitely entitled to know at least the topics in advance.

Also, maybe it is just me, but I find the idea of a surprise test appalling. I think one should know that one is going to be tested, even if it will happen in 30 minutes.


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Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 07:44
English to Russian
+ ...
They were extremely unfair to you. Feb 4, 2009

First, if they wanted you to come to a test, they should have been clear about that. It is simply unethical and plain WRONG to have you come to the test without knowing it.

Second, interpreters are not expected to know all the specialized terminology in every imaginable field. Before an assignment where specialized terminology is required, it is reasonable for the interpreter to ask for preparation materials in advance, and it is reasonable for the client to provide it.

If they wanted to hire a person who already knew the specific terminology, they should have stated so from the beginning and not waste your time.

Shame on them.

In my opinion, it would be appropriate to put their information on the Blue Board so your colleagues would stay away from them. I certainly wouldn't do business with that company.

On the bright side: things like this don't happen too often, and you probably shouldn't worry about it again.


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Ana Novikaite  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:44
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Feb 4, 2009

Thank you for your ideas. That was quite relieving to read that such a practice of immediate test interpreting is not so common. However, I totally agree with everyone that it is quite unprofessional to undertake a task of interpreting without thorough preparation. I wouldn't like to blame the translation agency that offered my services to the client, as this was the client's idea to do such a test.

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pink baby
English to Chinese
preparation Feb 5, 2009

To be honest, the interpretation is a job which needs lots of preparation. Every body who do not know your abilities can give doubts about you. And of course, they could give you a test. Actually, someone would offer more than one test. Maybe it is a rather fair way to estimate.

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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 16:44
English to Croatian
+ ...
of course it exists Feb 7, 2009

I've been tested for all sorts - consecutive, simultaneous, etc.. there was no preparation in terms that I knew the test topic/ area - that I didn't know. And they combined various areas.

If you are a qualified translator / linguist, you shouldn't do so bad as to fail, regardless of the topic.

Say you are interpreting a conference or an interview / dialogue. How can you " prepare" for that ? It's a live session / language, and you never know what topic will be brought up during a (spontaneous) conversation / or a conference? Following this realistic characteristic of each conference / or conversation, don't be surprised that they want to test your skills with the kind of testing you described above.

No dictionaries in the world of interpreting, sorry.



[Edited at 2009-02-07 00:37 GMT]


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