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Translation test - How would you react?
Thread poster: Constance Mannshardt

Constance Mannshardt  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:47
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Aug 21, 2008

After quoting for a job, I was asked to do a (non-paid) translation test. Although the agency is well rated, I was puzzled upon two aspects: 1. I was told to do the translation test in Tag Editor. 2. I wasn't told how many words the test was, but it seemed to be something like a chapter or paragraph of a technical manual (I counted the words later: 341).
Normally I don't do non-paid translation tests at all, but work has been less last time and I had time enough, so, why not? I told them I would like to know how many words was the test translation and that I found it suspicious to do it in Tag Editor. I didn't want to offend them, but that was the message they got and not necessary to say, in the end I dropped it.
How would you react in this situation? Maybe I am too sensible...:-?


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 03:47
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Why suspicious? Aug 21, 2008

I personally consider unpaid test translations a waste of time, but if you're going to do that sort of thing, there's nothing wrong with doing it in TagEditor. Maybe the agency has files that require its use and wants to be sure that you know how to use the tool. Nothing wrong with that. A number of my agency clients have mentioned translators that claim to have various skills with Trados but in the end can't do much useful with the software. A test like this is one way to filter out such people.

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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 22:47
English to French
+ ...
Principles Aug 21, 2008

I agree with Kevin. However, I wanted to add something of my own.

I figure most people who don't accept to work on translation tests without pay do it out of principles. Now, would you disregard your own principles because the current situation is not in your favor?

Look at it this way. If most of us had principles and never let go of them, I bet there wouldn't be any rock-bottom rates, unreasonable payment terms, unrealistic deadlines and people expecting you to do free test translations. If there are so many outsourcers out there expecting to get translation tests done free of charge, it is mostly because there are too many people who are willing to disregard their own principles.

I understand the situation is no fun (I am going through a bit of a dry spell myself) but reacting to it by abandoning your principles will only deteriorate your situation once things are back to normal. For example, how do you expect a client to whom you already provided a free translation test to pay you for the next one? I don't think it would do you any good to tell them that you only accepted it free because you were desperate for work that time. It would only tell the client that you are willing to charge less, work longer hours and accept payment delays if you really have to. This would most likely only help you to be busy at lower rates and with worse conditions.

All the best!


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Constance Mannshardt  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:47
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Principles, suspicious etc. Aug 21, 2008

Thank you so far for your replies!

Well, not doing non paid translations tests isn't a matter of principles to me. It's just the fact that I usually really have no time and can't see why I should do a unpaid translation having tons of paid work to do!

Maybe I found the text to be translated in TagEditor suspicious because it seemed to be a short and complete paragraph. As I never saw the original, I can't tell for sure, of course.
Also I think that the agency could have been more transparent just explaining me their normal proceedings - why not? They needed a translator and seem to be interested in quality, so it wouldn't have been nothing extraordinary.


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:47
German to English
If you don't need the work, don't take the test Aug 21, 2008

Translation tests only exclude the hopelessly incompetent. Unfortunately there are a lot of hopelessly incompetent wannabees looking for work.

It is certainly possible that the paragraph you were offered contained key terminology of an ongoing or upcoming project, and the agency wanted to make sure that the candidates knew the proper terms. The length doesn't seem inappropriate -- in all likelihood, it would have taken only an hour of your time.

Requiring the use of a specific tool, as Kevin L pointed out, is simply a means of making sure that the candidate possesses competence in that CAT software, nothing more. Many high-end agencies have clients who primarily provide editable documents, and frequently TagEditor is the tool of choice. On large projects, it is paramount that all team members have the same tool. By specifying its use up front, the agency is sparing itself some surprises at a later juncture.

Whether to take a test or not is a personal decision. If you have an hour to spare, it might be worthwhile, but if you don't need the work, then why bother?


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Dr. Birgitte Eggeling  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:47
German to Danish
I have done it Aug 22, 2008

I have made a couple of translation tests, and I find this okay. Only one agency came with a feedback at once and told me that they were very satisfied, and I work for this agency now. The two other ones have not commented my test translations. This, I think should be a minimum if you are willing to make such a test.
Best regards
Birgitte


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:47
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Occasionally, tests produce positive results Aug 22, 2008

I don't know about this particular case or how the Tag Editor requirement would affect it, but it could be worth doing this short test if you have the time.
In my experience, translation tests rarely lead to actual work, or indeed any feedback at all, but I must say that in a couple of cases they have led to my finding excellent clients who now send me masses of work, so it could be worth your while. I repeat, only if you have the time.
Best wishes,
Jenny.


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Penelope Ausejo  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:47
English to Spanish
+ ...
I don't do them anymore Aug 22, 2008

I took them at the beginning (thought it was common practice). I don't do them anymore. If they want to test me, that is 100% Ok with me, but I don't work for free (cannot afford it). I ask them to pay me for it. If I am really interested in the company, I offer them to be paid only if approved. Some of them accept it, and some don't.

There are many good agencies and clients out there that pay good rates, pay for translation tests, respect translators in all senses, etc. It is a matter of keep on searching and not wasting time, not working long hours for peanuts, i.e. doing tests for free or working for low-paying agencies.


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Penelope Ausejo  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:47
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not suspicious Aug 22, 2008

BTW... As Kevin and others have said, I don't find the fact that they ask to work on TagEditor suspicious. They are testing at the same time if you can work with the tool.

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xxxsavaria
Hungary
Local time: 04:47
English to Hungarian
+ ...
My view Aug 22, 2008

I am willing to take such tests if they are not longer than a paragraph.If the aim of the test is to filter out those applicants who have no experience whatsoever about the given field,then the question of whether the given applicant is competent or not can be decided from that quantity,too.On the other hand, if they want to get X number of candidates do the job(splitted into Y number of parts,I mean sections) for free(I mean,without having to pay a penny),then they really need to sweat to find that many people.

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James O'Reilly
Germany
German to English
+ ...
Are test translations a waste of time? Aug 22, 2008

Revealing Benchmark Reasons for No Sample Translations...
In The Light Of These Significant Reasons, It's Better To Offer Linguistic Consulting Alternatively

A blog from GALA Globalization and Localization Association points to an interesting compilation:

http://www.gala-global.org/blog/2008/are-test-translations-a-waste-of-time.html

Here is the compilation of arguments against sample translations. The recommendations are based on quality best practices from a very big global player in the translation industry, and of course a member of GALA. No freelancers are allowed as members to GALA, so it is interesting to know what the big boys really talk about from a structural viewpoint:

http://www.gala-global.org/GALAxy-article-why_sample_translations_break_all_the_rules-8668.html

Abbreviations used:
RFP... Request for Proposal
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RFP

Thanks!

James O'Reilly, e-i-consulting
US-EN < > DE, Engineering - Economy - Law

[Edited at 2008-08-22 12:44]


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Ali Al awadi  Identity Verified
Romania
Local time: 05:47
English to Arabic
+ ...
No unpaid tests! Aug 22, 2008

I reject any and all offers of unpaid translations in case the test exceeds 150 words. Should the agency like to know more about my proficiency, I would propose doing a small paid project at my usual rates or invit the would-be client to visit my profile and check my clients' feedback about my work. If I have some free time, I would rather spend it in a recreational activity: have an outing, watch TV, etc.

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Ritu Bhanot  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 04:47
Member (2006)
French to Hindi
+ ...
100-150 words tests Aug 22, 2008

I do unpaid tests up to a maximum of 150 words.

Of course, I'll do a 3000 word test if the client was willing to pay my usual rate.

[Edited at 2008-08-22 14:51]


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 08:17
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
I have done unpaid tests Aug 22, 2008

Mostly they were within 350 words. The results have been mixed. I got a very large project once after one of these tests, which I wouldn't have if I had opted out of the test.

At the other extreme was an agency for which I did a test some two years ago and that was the last I heard of them, till recently. One of their POs again approached me for a test. Fortunately I keep records of all transactions with outsourcers (thanks to TranslationOffice3000!) and was in a position to point out to this PO that I had already submitted a test two years ago and also named the PO to whom I had sent it.

I got a chagrined reply that this PO was no longer with them and they had no records of the test I had submitted!

Generally I try to accommodates tests, but when I am very overburdened, I don't do test translation even when they are paid.

I haven't had uniform results with paid translations either. I was asked to a test translation for a very large prospective project running into hundreds of thousand words. I spent quite a lot of time doing the test translation. It also involved quite complicated formatting. The test translation was approved by their end client. The PO I was dealing with was kind enough (or inexperienced enough!) to inform me that the test translation has been approved. But that was the last I heard of the project. I suspect that after they got this project, they assigned it to some other translator who was prepared to do it cheaper than me. It was quite a mean trick they played on me, if you ask me.

There was another interesting case of an outsource first asking me to do a test translation in the English to Hindi pair in which I work and then asking me to evaluate the test translation he has received from other Hindi translators, all unpaid work of course. Clearly this outsourcer was trying to be too clever by half. Apparently he had no way evaluating the quality of the Hindi translations he had received, and he was obviously trying for a large job from some other client which required the submission of a test translation,and he wanted to send the best test translation he had received. But he had no way of knowing which was the best, hence the request to me to evaluate them. He hoped to pick the best on the basis of my evaluation and send it to his client and when he got the job, to give to the cheapest translater. Regrettfully, I obliged him once or twice, though I never heard from him again regarding that particular job. But soon I understood the game he was playing and have stopped to entertain his test translation requests.

I have not formed a principled stand on whether or not to take test translations. I have accepted it as part of normal procedures for selection in an industry where the client has no easy way of ascertaining the calibre of the person doing their job. But the method itself is open to much misuse as the examples I have cited from my experience indicate.

Off late, I have refused quite a many test translations either due to lack of time or just disinterest.


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Paula Tizzano Fernández  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:47
English to Spanish
+ ...
So the question is, who is most interested in getting what? Aug 22, 2008

Sorry to jump in, I'm Paula, and this is an interesting topic.

You have mentioned several aspects: time availability, personal interest, speculative thinking about the possible profit against the time or effort invested, matters of principles, consideration of payment or not--

As I see things, the most interested in getting something from the other will have the winning hand.

If the agency contacts you, of course you can tell them about your own conditions: want a test, no problem but you'll have to pay for it.

But if you are looking for a job or you want to expand your network of clients or outsourcers, and you take the initiative when approaching, then it's obvious you'll have to stick to their terms.

If I wear the hat of an outsourcer or project manager, I see no way of assessing the true ability of a translator other than a test. In general, a 200 words test should suffice. I think that more than 300 words for test purposes is not reasonable, as there are many outsourcers who post one-page translation jobs these days.

Resumes are interesting in themselves as a report of scholarly and professional background, but it is also true that "having worked as a translator" does not necessarily mean that you are "a good translator". Proof of this is the huge amount of awfully translated books you can find in any bookstore; people who’ve done these translations do include them in their CVs a considerable amount of (poor) real work.

The bottom line is action, as I see things. And a translation test speaks louder than many presentations. I have seen very poor translation tests by people with a terrific resume, and people with a very simple CV who've made amazing and totally satisfactory tests.
For the purpose of hiring a translator, we could think of a test just as we think of an interview when it comes to any other job. People who are interviewed also wast (invest) their valuable time, take taxis or pay parking tickets, take all kind of troubles to attend these selection meetings. And of course, the company will not pay their applicants for their time.
(However, when people at a company are intent on hunting you and they call you to make a work offer, they will invite you for lunch at a nice restaurant.)

Having said all this, I admit to the fair and right call for paid translation tests when outsourcers are the ones hunting for talents. The fact is that translators will be in a weak position to press for test payments when their applications are unsolicited, they are unknown to the agency, and they are pressed for work.

Best regards,

Paula


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