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Translation agency asking to do the test and evaluate my competitors
Thread poster: Sergei Nikolenko

Sergei Nikolenko  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:06
Member (2007)
English to Russian
Oct 18, 2010

Hi all,
Recentely, in responce to my quote, I was asked to do a free test translation and, after I completed the test (I don't know whether my test was approved or not yet), the agency asked to evaluate other translators who did the same test (anonymously). I am hesitant about doing this for ethical reasons - the whole situation means that my test will too be evaluated by my direct competitors and I don't expect much objectivity in this situation. Did this happen to any of you and what do you think of this situation?

[Edited at 2010-10-18 07:10 GMT]


Ahnan Alex  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:06
Member (2010)
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Poor agency Oct 18, 2010

I just knew that it did happen to you, and I feel sorry to hear that. This shall be a poor agencyicon_smile.gif. Or, a new method to minimize the agency's budget? I never heard that this practice happened to me, and I do not hope that it will happen to me. That will be a kind of offense to me if an agency does so. In my opinion, this practice should not happen in any country, for the "subjectivity" will dominate. If I am a translator of the language pairs as yours, and I am asked to exchange the works, what do you think it is going to happen meanwhile I am your competitor in this case? Hmmmm, you gotta be patient Sergei. The agency must be somewhat insane. hehe


[Edited at 2010-10-18 07:23 GMT]


Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:06
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
I refused Oct 18, 2010

This happened to me once a few years ago. I refused to do the checks.


Els Hoefman  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:06
English to Dutch
+ ...
Does not seem so strange to me Oct 18, 2010

I don't know if this is so strange. Normally they would have to have your test revised by a qualified translator who they know is good, but what if they don't have anyone in your language combination yet? Asking the candidates to revise eachother's tests is an alternative method to get an idea of the candidates' quality. If they ask enough people to revise the same tests so that they can compare the corrections and comments, they will get a rough idea of who is really good and who is not, even if some people are just trying to make sure their competitors look bad.


Annamaria Amik  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:06
Romanian to English
+ ...
Happened to me too Oct 18, 2010

An Israeli agency asked me to do the same. First, I agreed, because it didn't involve much work, although I did warn them that unless the competency of all of the "voluntary" revisers is guaranteed, they will get an unreliable result.
No feedback, not even a thank you.
The same agency wanted the same test a bit later (although in a different field). Then I got upset - their vendor management system must have been really poor if they lost my original test. What irritated me most was that they asked for the "quick check" of the other test translations only AFTER I submitted mine, without warning me/us in advance. I refused this time.
I think this is a poor alternative to having a professional reviser. Except for one or two, those tests were poor, and I don't think that people who made the mistakes I spotted are able to correct other people's errors. Even if some of them clearly stand out, they might still be mediocre if evaluated by one, objective, professional and reliable reviser.


[Edited at 2010-10-18 07:41 GMT]


Simone Linke  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:06
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Oh gee Oct 18, 2010

I find this highly unprofessional and also highly incompetent.

Simple logic would show that this whole procedure is useless:

Let's assume the other translators are bad but not aware of it. They evaluate your test and say that everything is fine with it. What's their evaluation worth? If they don't know about their own mistakes, how would they find yours? (For the sake of this argument, let's assume that there are indeed a few mistakes in your test.. no offenseicon_smile.gif)

Or the other translators want to kick out their competition and say that your translation is bad (they could easily claim that the style sucks etc.). What's their evaluation worth if the agency doesn't know how reliable their judgement is?

Or all translators are good and give all the other translators a good evaluation. How will the agency know that these translators are really good? Can they be sure that they didn't just overlook any errors?

No matter how you turn it around, as long as the agency only relies on people whose quality is yet unknown, the whole evaluation is useless.

If they don't have anybody with the right language pair to evaluate the tests, they should hire an independent evaluator.

But letting test candidates evaluate each other is just ridiculous imho.


Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:06
French to English
+ ...
The test is pointless if they have no means of evaluation Oct 18, 2010

Els Hoefman wrote:
I don't know if this is so strange. Normally they would have to have your test revised by a qualified translator who they know is good, but what if they don't have anyone in your language combination yet?

If they don't have a means to review the tests, then conducting the test in the first place is pointless.

Getting test candidates to evaluate other candidates' tests is not sensible:
- their view is not unbiased
- if you trust their view enough to evaluate somebody else's test, why aren't you giving them the work in the first place...?

I've thankfully not been faced with this level of nonsense just yet, but it does remind me of situations where an agency turns down my quote to do a translation and then later asks me if I'll review somebody else's translation of that same work.

[Edited at 2010-10-18 08:29 GMT]


John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:06
Spanish to English
+ ...
Two questions a translator must ask Oct 18, 2010

Q1. Does this action suggest that the agency is professional and solvent?

Q2. Do I wish to be associated with this agency?


Annamaria Amik  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:06
Romanian to English
+ ...
To top the nonsense: Oct 18, 2010

The agency even informed us that the client was evaluating the tests ("in the meanwhile, as as you are already familiar with the text, could please take a quick look...." grrrr). If so, why would they need grades from translators whose quality was not confirmed? What if the client's choice differed from the peer evaluation? Would they really tell the client: hey, these people whom you rejected think that x is the best?

Sergei and I discovered that we were dealing with the same agency. My experience with them dates back to early 2008. I expect that many of the tested translators had the same reaction as we did, so how could they still maintain this nonsensical practice?


Inga Petkelyte  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:06
Lithuanian to Portuguese
+ ...
You are right Oct 18, 2010

Simone Linke wrote:

Or the other translators want to kick out their competition and say that your translation is bad (they could easily claim that the style sucks etc.).

I've been in a similar situation: Submitted the work done, got the feedback from the PM that "the client is veeery happy" and somewhat 10 days later an email: "The client is still very happy about your workbut the proofreader raises problems. He says your text is unreadable and needs to be revised because of stylistics", the last words are cited. I told the PM that any such observation should be grounded and not be a mere exclamation, but no any reference to which part of the translation needed to be revised ever came from the proofreader.

Well, in this case, I guess, someone just needed an extra cash; in Sergei's case it's no way ethical, objective or otherwise acceptable. The reviser must be qualified and impartial, that's it.


Sergei Nikolenko  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:06
Member (2007)
English to Russian
Thank you all! Oct 18, 2010

That is really funny, Annamaria, "in the meanwhile, as as you are already familiar with the text, could please take a quick look...." is the exact quotation from the email I got from themicon_smile.gif. It seems that is a routine practise of theirs.
At any rate, thanks everyone for your opinions. I am not going to do the evaluation, but I have already sent my test piece and we will see what happens.


Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:06
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
They have been doing this since 2004, at least Oct 18, 2010

This wonderful Israeli agency played the same game with me back in 2004. They sent me a test, required it to be returned within 24 hours, then came the same
Currently the samples are being evaluated by the client. Additionally we will be happy to have your opinion on the other samples (anonymously).
Based on the fact that you are already familiar with the text, it will take only a few minutes to go over the attached samples and rate them from 1 to 10 according to their quality (10 is the highest score, you can give the same grade to more than one sample).
This is not a must, but it will help us a lot with our final decision.

This email came with ten (10) samples attached...

Since I was in the process of being trained for a QA position for another company, I did the evaluations for practice, using one of the industry standard methods and metrics.
They did send me a thank you note, so I guess that is different from Annamaria's experience.
However, a few weeks later, they sent me an email, saying that I was chosen by the end client, so they want to know whether I am available, and the rate is X. This email was sent as a reply, quoting my original email (the very first one I sent them as an application for the job they posted on ProZ), stating very clearly my rate, which was 2X. (It was already a slightly discounted rate because the job was supposed to be 40,000 words.)

As you can imagine, I was not happy. I told them "no", and explained why.
They came back again a week later, saying they got a bigger budget from their end client, but then they do not have a budget to proof my work - do I have somebody to proofread my translation? (Yeah, right, like I would get somebody to proofread for free??)
I told them the truth, that this price does not include proofreading by a second person. (I guess I could have lied, but that is not my style.)
They never replied, except for a mass-email a month later saying the client chose another translator.

Next, in 2005 they sent another mass-email about their new invoicing procedures (so I was still in their database, I guess).

In 2008, they contacted me asking for information about my experience in various fields. I told them "I am not sure why you contacted me though, as all the discussions I had with [company name] during the past 3-4 years ended up with you offering rates that were at or below HALF of my normal rates, and I (obviously) refused them."

This email was forwarded to another person (some sort of manager, I guess) who said he wasn't aware that projects were declined based on a rate issue, and asked me for my rates. In response, he said:
I checked these rates with our tariff and there is no way we can afford them.

I thought this was the end of the story, but, no.

In 2009, they sent me another test, again due back in 24 hours.
In my reply, I told the lady that I already did a test for them years ago, and asked her to confirm that my rates were OK. Her response was:

Please send me the sample back no later than Monday morning.
Thanks & have a nice weekend.

Nice, huh?
So, I told her that I am not doing yet another free test just to be told my test was great but my rates are too high. She said she would forward the issue to her manager to see if they can work with my rates.
I have not heard from them since.

This company would definitely deserve a Blue Board entry, but I cannot do it, as I have not done any paid work for them. The work I did as test, evaluations etc. do not make me eligible for posting a rating for them.

Needless to say, I would never work for them, so that entry would be a "1".



Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:06
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Ethical issues? Oct 18, 2010

I don't quite see the ethical issues.

Aren't you sometimes asked by your customers to review the work of other translators who want to work for them (either in one of your language pairs, or into your mother tongue)? Why is this case any different?

Personally I see no ethical issue in reviewing other people's tests. However, I admit that it is hard work, since any correction you make must be justified with solid information and references, and that takes a long time to prepare.

I would see a problem in this kind of request if the customer expected me to do that kind of hard work for free! That would be an ethical problem, I mean working a long time documenting corrections for US$ 0...


Sergei Nikolenko  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:06
Member (2007)
English to Russian
Regarding the ethical side of things Oct 18, 2010

What makes this issue an ethical one, I belive, is three things.
1) First of all, they are using unverified people to evaluate translations. Wouldn't it be taken as an offence if a job of a highly qualified professional is given for evaluation to a jerk who has no clue in the field (I am probably exaggerating in this particular case, but only to make my thought clear)?
2) They use evaluation by direct competitors thus allowing conflict of interest in the process. In any business situation the conflict of interests is seen as an ethical issue and should be avoided.
3) They do that simply to save money at the expense of translators and their end customers (the translators - because their evaluation will probably be unfair, to the end customers - because the chances they will provide high quality service to them are low). As has been mentoined elsewhere in this discussion, if they don't have a reliable reviwer, they should hire one.

If they ask you, Tomas, to evaluate the translation knowing you very well and trusting your judgment, that is quite another issue. I also did quite a lot of evaluations for my customers, and I always tried to be as fair as possible. But that happened only after I had worked for them for quite a while and earned their trust.

[Edited at 2010-10-18 14:41 GMT]


Emma Goldsmith  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:06
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
chicken and egg situation Oct 18, 2010

Sergei Nikolenko wrote:

if they don't have a reliable reviwer, they should hire one.

I completely agree with you Sergei on all your "ethical" points. The only problem is if they don't have someone who works in your language pair, and have to hire a reviewer as you suggest. Who would review the reviewer's test?
Sounds like a bit of a chicken and egg situation to meicon_smile.gif

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