Translation Tests: To Do or Not To Do?
Thread poster: xxxsharshakov
xxxsharshakov
Local time: 13:59
English to Russian
+ ...
Oct 4, 2004

Here are some opinions of prominent translators quoted by Pavel Protopopov,
Certified Russian translator:
http://www.russiantranslation.ru/resources/tests.htm

" The whole situation is ludicrous. If you were going to contract a builder to build you a house would you ask them to build you a garage for free as a test of their competence? I think the answer you would receive would be far from pleasant."
Stephen Hernandez, UK

"One usually-effective response, when asked to do a "short and simple" test translation, is to offer, instead, to provide the names and contact data of satisfied previous clients and customers.
If that does not suffice for that interested agency, you're better off without their business."
Regards from Los Angeles,
Stephen H. Franke, Arabic, Kurdish and Persian-Farsi - languages

"I never EVER do freebies. In any case I resent the implication that my time is not worth money....! Any serious company should pay you for a test piece, however short. If you tell them this, and they still won't agree to pay you, don't do it, would be my advice..."
Alison Gaunt

"In fact, any serious translation company would NOT ask for a sample piece. They prove absolutely nothing. We have had this discussion before but I venture to assert from my 40 years experience as a translator, 10 of them running my own company, that they are useless and they are only used by agencies that know very little about translation, though French agencies seem to use them as a matter of routine, probably the copycat syndrome."
Josephine Bacon
American Pie/ Pholiota Translations

"I must say that I have spent a lot of time doing translation tests for mainly French agencies, but I have received only one answer (positive) to them; from that one (positive, I insist!) answerer, I have never received a translation request. My test seems to have been forgotten in the bottom of some drawer. All the clients I have found in France were sent by a fellow translator to me, or found me on the Internet or elsewhere when they desperately needed someone to do an urgent translation and came back to me as they were happy with the first job I delivered them. So now, I doubt a lot of the efficiency of translation tests as a way to attract new clients, and free tests are not my priority since they yielded so little for me..."
Xavier PITEL, EGUILLES - France
Translations from GB and IT into FR

"I have to agree that in my 25 years at this [and I am still a translator as well as an agency owner] I also cannot remember having obtained new clients by means of tests, with the exception of literary/publication type texts in a competition situation [best of 3]."
Dee Braig
Advanced Linguistic Services - France


"I, too, have never gotten work through tests, and I refuse to do tests. If an agency is still not quite sure about me, I invite them to give me a small job (paid, of course) to see for themselves. There are many short texts to go around, and agencies should be smart enough to use them to "test" potential translators (and they should pay them!). There is simply way too much abuse out there: one agency once tried to distribute a whole document among several translators, masking the whole thing as a "test", just to get a free translation - and there are plenty more examples like that."
Vernon George


"Our less experienced colleagues will have noticed recent postings from experienced translators who have agreed to take tests only to find that they are never given the results of these tests and never hear from the agency again. I had made it my rule never to take tests and I foolishly broke it recently during a quiet period. I never heard from the two agencies again, not even regarding the test results. There is one large agency that routinely makes people do tests because they want to use very young, badly-paid project managers and think that making everyone do a test is a guarantee that they will not have any problems with their translations. That is rubbish, of course. I have twice refused to do a test for these people who were apparently desperate for Hebrew-English translators. There are a million reasons for not taking a test (subject matter usually outside one's field, badly designed test, one does not know who is doing the marking, etc.) but the best one of all is that it is a complete waste of the translator's time and there is no guarantee that however brilliant the result one will ever get used. In effect, it is slave labour."
Josephine Bacon
American Pie/ Pholiota Translations

"As to translation tests, I did a few of them some years back and I did not get any jobs from the agencies I did these tests for, even though the ones that (much) later finally replied had said that the test was favourable.
I then decided that I would not ever again do any tests and I have only broken that rule twice since, and both were tests made for a specific large project with a sample text that actually matched the subject. In both those occasions I first had a discussion on the phone with the project manager. The difference here was that the project managers already promised me the job on the condition that I could demonstrate that I could handle the specific type of text and format.
I did get those two projects, and more later on."
Ulf Samuelsson

From the article by Andrei Gerasimov:

"...in my humble opinion, this approach - I mean test translations - is intrinsically wrong for a number of reasons:

1) The word count of some test translations exceeds a reasonable figure, so such tests sometimes look like a lame attempt to get a free translation.

2) No reference material normally provided to ensure consistency of terminology is sent. A client considers the translation to be good when the translator uses terminology this client is used to. This is especially important when the target language is Russian since various companies/clients in this country use different terminology.

3) There is no context. When translating a highly technical document, in many cases it is impossible to ensure meaning-based translation when only a short excerpt, detached from a complete document, is available.

4) The translator is not told to what audience the text is addressed. This is a serious disadvantage since many technical terms are translated differently depending on who the end user is. A service technician in car shop uses special terminology different from the terminology used by a reporter of an automotive magazine or by a car owner. This difference should be taken into account by the translator, who should always know for whom the translation is intended.

5) A test translation tells nothing about the translator's actual qualifications because any rookie can hire a seasoned ace to do or edit the test translation.

6) And the most important reason is an ethical problem - I would call it "who are the judges"? Usually the evaluation is done by the unsuspecting applicant's direct competitor! This situation undoubtedly affects the evaluation process at a conscious or subconscious level."


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:59
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Oct 4, 2004



[Edited at 2004-10-05 14:53]


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xxxBrandis
Local time: 12:59
English to German
+ ...
one should reach a balance oneself Oct 4, 2004

Igor Sharshakov wrote:

Here are some opinions of prominent translators quoted by Pavel Protopopov,
Certified Russian translator:
http://www.russiantranslation.ru/resources/tests.htm

" The whole situation is ludicrous. If you were going to contract a builder to build you a house would you ask them to build you a garage for free as a test of their competence? I think the answer you would receive would be far from pleasant."
Stephen Hernandez, UK

"One usually-effective response, when asked to do a "short and simple" test translation, is to offer, instead, to provide the names and contact data of satisfied previous clients and customers.
If that does not suffice for that interested agency, you're better off without their business."
Regards from Los Angeles,
Stephen H. Franke, Arabic, Kurdish and Persian-Farsi - languages

"I never EVER do freebies. In any case I resent the implication that my time is not worth money....! Any serious company should pay you for a test piece, however short. If you tell them this, and they still won't agree to pay you, don't do it, would be my advice..."
Alison Gaunt

"In fact, any serious translation company would NOT ask for a sample piece. They prove absolutely nothing. We have had this discussion before but I venture to assert from my 40 years experience as a translator, 10 of them running my own company, that they are useless and they are only used by agencies that know very little about translation, though French agencies seem to use them as a matter of routine, probably the copycat syndrome."
Josephine Bacon
American Pie/ Pholiota Translations

"I must say that I have spent a lot of time doing translation tests for mainly French agencies, but I have received only one answer (positive) to them; from that one (positive, I insist!) answerer, I have never received a translation request. My test seems to have been forgotten in the bottom of some drawer. All the clients I have found in France were sent by a fellow translator to me, or found me on the Internet or elsewhere when they desperately needed someone to do an urgent translation and came back to me as they were happy with the first job I delivered them. So now, I doubt a lot of the efficiency of translation tests as a way to attract new clients, and free tests are not my priority since they yielded so little for me..."
Xavier PITEL, EGUILLES - France
Translations from GB and IT into FR

"I have to agree that in my 25 years at this [and I am still a translator as well as an agency owner] I also cannot remember having obtained new clients by means of tests, with the exception of literary/publication type texts in a competition situation [best of 3]."
Dee Braig
Advanced Linguistic Services - France


"I, too, have never gotten work through tests, and I refuse to do tests. If an agency is still not quite sure about me, I invite them to give me a small job (paid, of course) to see for themselves. There are many short texts to go around, and agencies should be smart enough to use them to "test" potential translators (and they should pay them!). There is simply way too much abuse out there: one agency once tried to distribute a whole document among several translators, masking the whole thing as a "test", just to get a free translation - and there are plenty more examples like that."
Vernon George


"Our less experienced colleagues will have noticed recent postings from experienced translators who have agreed to take tests only to find that they are never given the results of these tests and never hear from the agency again. I had made it my rule never to take tests and I foolishly broke it recently during a quiet period. I never heard from the two agencies again, not even regarding the test results. There is one large agency that routinely makes people do tests because they want to use very young, badly-paid project managers and think that making everyone do a test is a guarantee that they will not have any problems with their translations. That is rubbish, of course. I have twice refused to do a test for these people who were apparently desperate for Hebrew-English translators. There are a million reasons for not taking a test (subject matter usually outside one's field, badly designed test, one does not know who is doing the marking, etc.) but the best one of all is that it is a complete waste of the translator's time and there is no guarantee that however brilliant the result one will ever get used. In effect, it is slave labour."
Josephine Bacon
American Pie/ Pholiota Translations

"As to translation tests, I did a few of them some years back and I did not get any jobs from the agencies I did these tests for, even though the ones that (much) later finally replied had said that the test was favourable.
I then decided that I would not ever again do any tests and I have only broken that rule twice since, and both were tests made for a specific large project with a sample text that actually matched the subject. In both those occasions I first had a discussion on the phone with the project manager. The difference here was that the project managers already promised me the job on the condition that I could demonstrate that I could handle the specific type of text and format.
I did get those two projects, and more later on."
Ulf Samuelsson

From the article by Andrei Gerasimov:

"...in my humble opinion, this approach - I mean test translations - is intrinsically wrong for a number of reasons:

1) The word count of some test translations exceeds a reasonable figure, so such tests sometimes look like a lame attempt to get a free translation.

2) No reference material normally provided to ensure consistency of terminology is sent. A client considers the translation to be good when the translator uses terminology this client is used to. This is especially important when the target language is Russian since various companies/clients in this country use different terminology.

3) There is no context. When translating a highly technical document, in many cases it is impossible to ensure meaning-based translation when only a short excerpt, detached from a complete document, is available.

4) The translator is not told to what audience the text is addressed. This is a serious disadvantage since many technical terms are translated differently depending on who the end user is. A service technician in car shop uses special terminology different from the terminology used by a reporter of an automotive magazine or by a car owner. This difference should be taken into account by the translator, who should always know for whom the translation is intended.

5) A test translation tells nothing about the translator's actual qualifications because any rookie can hire a seasoned ace to do or edit the test translation.

6) And the most important reason is an ethical problem - I would call it "who are the judges"? Usually the evaluation is done by the unsuspecting applicant's direct competitor! This situation undoubtedly affects the evaluation process at a conscious or subconscious level."


Since I had started at the proz.com, and sometimes the testing process takes more energy, as these are generally around 250 words and widely varying type and further there is no pay in them. At the proz.com there is a Portfolio, where one could upload sample translations, which I did for some time periodically, but the wide variety of texts and the concentration areas of various agencies, it is very difficult to give a universal sample that fits all. But initially till one has regular customers some amount of testing would be necessary. Additionally, I feel if you set your base price too low, the agencies get sceptical about your quality translation, further to the personnel shift in the agencies leads to another new get to know process. So either way doing the tests is inevitable. But one must know also how far one can go with the testing process. A polite no or polite quotation " every word beyond 50 words or 250 words will be set in invoice" also can help, or you can also offer a dozen various tests you have already done earlier, fitting the test area for sampling purpose. Many agencies do not accept it, but that is a good alternative. I had a few situations where the tests were longer than 1200 words, then I had to request the agency to compress the text in a manner, to reach around 250 words not losing the content. Naturally they never came back, and I knew they wouldn´t come back. This area has become more of a buyer´s market. Keep up your patience and stamina above all clear head.
Rgds,
Brandis


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:59
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
An experience Oct 4, 2004

Surprise, surprise, agencies are also tested. In the middle of a paid translation I was doing, the client -- a 'best practices' candidate, if I ever saw one -- wrote me a postscript telling me the job was an agency test, so please make it ultra-good and they would process it through proofer, back-translator (to check the original and reconcile) and editor. All in all, quite a small investment.

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AnaAngelica Amador
English to Spanish
+ ...
A word of warning ... Oct 5, 2004

When you give agencies your references, make sure you give them a list of other agencies and not your direct customers.

I made that mistake years ago, and while I was thinking they were going to contact my customers to inquire about me what happened was they sent very fancy and persuasive proposals to them. Why wouldn't they? I had given them contact names - silly me!

Thank goodness I alerted my customers and let them know I had used their names hoping their comments about our good business relationship and satisfaction would bring me more opportunities to work with agencies.

The very first thing they noticed from the agencies was their lack of work ethics. Then they had a chance to compare their prices and the samples they sent with my prices and work I had rendered for them. To make a long story short, my clients are still mine ... but for a while I was afraid I would lose them.

Moral of this story: No freebies and no leads. Agencies have a bigger operational budget, let them use it to pay for their own everything!


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xxxBrandis
Local time: 12:59
English to German
+ ...
sure but a few agencies are serious Oct 5, 2004

Parrot wrote:

Surprise, surprise, agencies are also tested. In the middle of a paid translation I was doing, the client -- a 'best practices' candidate, if I ever saw one -- wrote me a postscript telling me the job was an agency test, so please make it ultra-good and they would process it through proofer, back-translator (to check the original and reconcile) and editor. All in all, quite a small investment.
They explain from the beginning, what the project is like and the whole lay-out steps etc., and what you should take care of etc., and close " if you feel secure, then the test need be done" and continue further - what happens with the test and how it will be evaluated various involved steps and so on, and in this process they give you ample time and lots of reference material etc., then 300 - 500 words is fine, because you have a choice of imagining what it´s all about and still decide whether to do that translation or not, unlike the other agencies demand, as per the motto, well you are there and I am planning to give you a translation project, now rush and do the test. I find this approach is ill-mannered, taunting and doesn´t respect your role, well after all you are doing or going to do the translation sample initially, so why not build up a good positive relationship from the beginning. I mean the approach mentioned initially makes things easier. But too many tests, umm doesn´t have to be. I have / had an outsourcer, a very noble one, demands like a king or a queen but never in an negative manner, and forgets everything about the test etc, and comes back again, now for this customer next for the next one, in the meanwhile I have delivered atleast 10-12 samples to reject finally, informing that things do not function like this. It is difficult to adjust but not impossible. Rarely there are any outsourcers paying for the sample.
Rgds,
Brandis


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Leon Hunter  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:59
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Do we have a choice? Oct 5, 2004

I find it very annoying. But when you have just graduated or you do not have a lot of references from previous clients, you have to go along with the fact that agencies will want to test your ability.

There are other reasons why experienced translators would be willing to do tests. The position could be well-paid, in a prestigious company or in a subject area(s) which interests the translator.

However, I feel that some agencies don't respect even the most basic etiquette and manners. And this should definitely not be OK.

I find it especially irritating when:

- agencies send tests which are far too long or look like real pieces of work.

- you send back the test translated and they don't reply (not even a "thanks" to acknowledge they have received the message). (very often I've sent a second message asking if they had received my translation and still haven't got a reply).

- you are invited to an interview and put "on the spot" with a test they hadn't warned you about (you were not aware you were going to be asked to do a test).

- you are told your test was the best one of all they ones they received and then the agency hires another person (probably a friend or a relative).

All of the above are common practice in Spain.

I find it bizarre that nobody has ever asked me to do a test for interpretation (simultaneous or consecutive) when it is, I believe, a lot more difficult than translation. It is also a lot easier to "mess up" and it could be potentially disastrous.


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Ruxi
German to Romanian
+ ...
My answer Oct 5, 2004

I am sorry for what happened in this forum (thread).
I just read the message from the moderator and wanted to delete my message, I saw it and the next minute, when I was logged in to edit, it disappeared.
I don't know how much time we have to correct or edit. I didn't know when the message was put in forum, I don't look all the time on the site,
I want to say that I am very surprised of the consequence of an article put in a forum.
I did not and did not have the intention to offend anybody here. It was only an article and no persons from ProZ where involved.
I also don't understand where the offend was and I don't like this kind of things.
I was attacked and offended in this forums several times but I did not go to the moderators to ask them to judge or to help by deleting those messages.
It was only an oppinion and I don't understand why it hurts.
I was directly and personal offended and I tried to forget it.
But if the rule is like that I will find the messages and send them to the moderators.
I also think we are old enough to have an own position and deal with different opinions wether we like them or not and to deffend ourselves. Truth often offends and hurts, it is true.
I am sorry and I would like to ask the moderator of this forum to close this thread because I find it to offensive. The first message was an invitation to opinions pro and con, starting with the title.I did not like it at all.
Once again I did not mean to offend, I may be to open and critical in my opinions and I also defend my position. I feel offended by many messages and especially by rules which keep me (and not only me) away from getting a translation job. I just happen to love justice and fight for it.

Ruxi


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:59
English to German
+ ...
Thanks, Ruxi Oct 5, 2004

Hi Ruxi,
I will respond to your private message - privately.

Just a few points regarding issues raised in your response:

I am sorry for what happened in this forum (thread).
I just read the message from the moderator and wanted to delete my message, I saw it and the next minute, when I was logged in to edit, it disappeared.
I don't know how much time we have to correct or edit.

There is no fixed period of time - normally, if a posting is found to be in breach of the rules, it's hidden immediately. I didn't want to do that, as I would have preferred to leave the remainder of your posting. I contacted you immediately through your profile; this triggered an e-mail to the address stored there (IOW you would not have needed to be active on ProZ.com to receive my message). When I checked this morning, nothing had changed, so I removed the posting.

I was attacked and offended in this forums several times but I did not go to the moderators to ask them to judge or to help by deleting those messages.

That's your decision - please feel free to contact a moderator.

I am sorry and I would like to ask the moderator of this forum to close this thread because I find it to offensive. The first message was an invitation to opinions pro and con, starting with the title.I did not like it at all.

Whether you like a thread is a different issue - I'm afraid I do not see a reason why the thread should be closed.

Regards,
Ralf


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LindaMcM  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:59
Swedish to German
+ ...
May I ask a question, please... Oct 5, 2004

I read Ruxi's post (as it still was here) and so far as I bear it in my mind there was nothing offending in it, just an opinion - and to me a very interesting one.
Why was it deleted? Just because she was "pro translation tests" and stated her thoughts of why people refuse doing tests? I don't want to add fuel to the flames (if there are any), I'm just trying to understand where acceptance and tolerance of personal opinions end...

Linda


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:59
English to German
+ ...
A specific statement was considered offensive Oct 5, 2004

Hi Linda,
Why was it deleted? Just because she was "pro translation tests" and stated her thoughts of why people refuse doing tests?


Most certainly not.

The posting contained a general statement labelling all those who refuse to do tests as being afraid and "not good". As you could see, Tina felt offended by that and complained to me.

As I didn't find the posting that seriously offensive (yet had to respond to the complaint received), I contacted Ruxi directly, suggesting to edit the posting (that suggestion is still valid). Unfortunately, there was no response until this morning, which is why I hid the posting.

Hope that explains it.

Best regards,
Ralf


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LindaMcM  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:59
Swedish to German
+ ...
Thanks for explaining Oct 5, 2004

Hi Ralf,

thank you for explaining the "problem". I don't want to start a new discussion so I leave things as they are

Linda


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Aleksandr Okunev
Local time: 13:59
English to Russian
Yeah, nice and dumb testers, not tests Oct 9, 2004

Brandis wrote: They explain from the beginning, what the project is like and the whole lay-out steps etc., and what you should take care of etc., and close " if you feel secure, then the test need be done" and continue further - what happens with the test and how it will be evaluated various involved steps and so on, and in this process they give you ample time and lots of reference material etc., then 300 - 500 words is fine, because you have a choice of imagining what it´s all about and ...


Absolutely. I did a couple of tests, which got a lot of praise and fetched no job but the agencies provided to much reference, lingustic and other, I'd pay *them* for that test.

Ruxi, my offer to design a web page for you still stands, and don't lose heart, please!


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