Literary Translation Tests
Thread poster: Elena Vazquez Fernandez

Elena Vazquez Fernandez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:59
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jun 17, 2008

Dear all,

Recently I have been approached by an agency looking for translators for a few small fiction novels, and although I have translated fiction before, that was long time ago, and I have spent these last years working in technical translations, so I don't know if what they have sent me as "test" is now usual or If they are out of their minds....:-)

I have received a test of 4,360 words (7 pages), and although it is not difficult...I think this is too much.

Am I wrong? Are tests this long now?

Thank you in advance for help.

E.


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Ivana Friis Wilson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:59
Member (2008)
English to Danish
+ ...
??? Jun 17, 2008

I have no experience with literary translations, but it would seem they ar trying to get you to work for free...

Or it is a mistake and this is actually the job, sent to you so you could have a look.

I do not do tests over 200 (edited; typo 20) words. I offer samples instead, and many agencies are much happier with "real" work - this is of course if you have work with no NDA.

[Edited at 2008-06-18 08:13]

[Edited at 2008-06-18 08:13]


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Juliana Brown  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 04:59
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Hi Elena, Jun 17, 2008

I do literary translations on and off and I can't imagine a test that long (or for that matter for any other field). A page MAXIMUM, and even that is pushing it. Tell them about your experience, and explain that you would be happy to do a paid long test, or a more reasonable short one.

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Elena Vazquez Fernandez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:59
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
So I was right... Jun 17, 2008

Then is the same in literary than in technical. Good to know. I haven't done anything bigger than 200 myself and that was just two times and only because there were large projects and I hadn't worked with them before.

Thank you very much!


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Elena Vazquez Fernandez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:59
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Just one more thing... Jun 17, 2008

Is 8 Euros per 2100 characters an average rate?

Thanx!!!


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Celia Recarey  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:59
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not uncommon in Spain... Jun 17, 2008

I have been translating books for both agencies and publishing houses for a while now and I can tell you, at least in Spain, it is quite the normal practice (especially with publishing houses). Unless you are a reputable translator in the publishing industry, most clients will want to see a substantial bit (5-10 pages) to assess your writing style before establishing a working relationship. In most cases though, they only require that type of test for the first assignment... [if it's any consolation]

I know it may sound a bit too much for a test, but, as I said, most Spanish publishing houses won't assign a 300-page book to an unknown translator after seeing just a paragraph.


According to a recent forum thread, it seems it is not uncommon in France either:

French Foodie wrote:

Generally speaking, I agree that a test translation should be around 300 words for commercial translation through an agency, but this is a novel and manga, which is a whole different ball game, as far as I'm concerned.
Important question: was this test for a translation agency or a publishing house?
I do a lot of literary translation, and it is perfectly normal and in fact necessary for the sample translations sent to publishing houses to be longer in order for the editor to get a good feel for your style. There is *no way* I would give a novel translation to someone based on a 300-word sample.
It is also quite normal for publishing houses to take some time (several weeks is not unheard of) to assess the various samples they receive before contacting the translator they wish to work with.
That said, I think confirming receipt of your sample would have been the professional thing to do, and I would definitely touch base with them again just to make sure they did in fact receive it.
I do believe there have been threads in the past on the differences in sample translation practices for commercial and literary translation.

http://www.proz.com/forum/business_issues/107147-how_to_handle_a_translation_test_scam.html#871165


[Editado a las 2008-06-17 20:49]


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Celia Recarey  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:59
English to Spanish
+ ...
As for rates... Jun 17, 2008

I would say 8 euros for a 2100 character page is on the medium-lower end of the market for agencies. Though, again, I have seen worse (sad bad true). Acett (www.acett.org) recommends a minimum rate of 10,5 per 2100 charater page. You may want to visit their website for information on rates, contracts, etc.

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Nuno Quintas
Portugal
Local time: 09:59
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Bigger tests not uncommon Jun 17, 2008

Hi Elena,

As far as the rates are concerned, I cannot evaluate them as I'm not familiar with the Spanish market. (For the Portuguese market, those are average/fairly good rates, but it does depend on the area and size of the publishing house.)

As for the size of the test, I've worked as a technical translator and I've started a couple of months ago translating fiction. I am now translating a North-American novel (334 pages) and, to get that, I did need to do a test with approximately 3,000 words, which was reviewed and evaluated. It's the only one I'll need to do, and it is long indeed if one compares with the tests done for agencies and technical translation.

However, I've been meeting with other literary translators and this seems to be the rule rather than the exception. Besides, after doing the test myself, it seemed to me that it would be difficult to assess just 200-300 words. It's crucial to get a (very) good feel of your style and translation options, something that is not as necessary in technical translation.

(I know, this is highly debatable and it always depends on the area. I'm thinking, for instance, of one of my main specialisations: marketing. Still, you can more or less get away with it if you're familiar with terminology. Not so with fiction.)

Please note, this applies only to literary translation.

Any questions, just say so.


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Elena Vazquez Fernandez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:59
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks to all Jun 17, 2008

for your feedback.

I really appreciate all your help in this, but I have decided not to go ahead with the test.

I will keep on technical. If you need anything about aircrafts / engines / aircraft maintenance, etc. I promise to repply

Once again thank you to all

Elena.


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Jack Qin  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 16:59
English to Chinese
+ ...
20 words Jun 17, 2008

Ivana Friis Wilson wrote:

I do not do tests over 20 words. I offer samples instead, and many agencies are much happier with "real" work - this is of course if you have work with no NDA.


It is 20 words? Maybe too little to illustrate one's capacity.
or 200 words, you just carelessly skip one zero.

Normally, a test translation of around 200 words is acceptable---that is the case in China.


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Yaotl Altan  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 03:59
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
100 words. Jun 18, 2008

Hi, colleagues.

I use to translate no more than 100 words. Sometimes, less words can compose a good extract to translate if the sender chose it properly.


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xxxaaron-123
English to Chinese
500 words Jun 23, 2008

I think 500 words is the top. 7 pages is too much, if they don't hire you, it's a waste of your time.

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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:59
Member
English to Turkish
Long tests are common in book translation Jun 28, 2008

I have never translated a book through a translation agency, but with publishing houses, a test translation might be as long as a chapter, unless you have proven experience (=published translations to present). A test of 100 words, even 500 words is not a sufficient basis of assessment to entrust a whole book to a new translator. On the other hand, you will get extensive feedback and might even have a chance to discuss your translation with an editor. However, since you mention a translation agency here, better to have all this clarified beforehand. If they treat such tests the same way they do others -that is, if there's the chance that you may not even hear back from them- I'd agree that it is not worth your time.

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Marc Adler  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:59
Japanese to English
Five pages is about right Jun 30, 2008

I've translated two books from Japanese to English, both for the same publisher (one fiction, one non-fiction), and they wanted me to do a five-page test the first time I worked with them. I knew one of the editors in another capacity, and he was aware of my reputation as a tech translator, but wanted to make sure I could handle fiction.

That said, the "test" is probably going to be the first few pages of the book you'll wind up translating, so it's not all a waste.


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