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Tests for agencies/clients
Thread poster: Frances Leggett

Frances Leggett  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:54
Italian to English
+ ...
Sep 16, 2011

I received a request to apply for a new translation agency and I sent my CV. They asked me if I was willing to a translation test and I said I would do a test of no more than 200 words.
They sent me a translation test and a grammar test to do in Italian (I am an Italian to English translator). The Italian test was quite a complex piece of writing in Italian with words removed here and there. There were 60 words removed all together. My test was to read the Italian text and fill in all the missing words; they could be nouns, adjectives, prepositions etc. I found it quite difficult as I am not always able to do such an exercise in English without seriously thinking about it, let alone in my second language, despite the fact that English is my native language and I know it very well and I completed my entire undergraduate degree in Italian at an Italian university.

I asked the agency why they wanted to test my production in Italian given that as an Italian to English translator (and English native), I never translate into Italian. She replied that it was to test my comprehension. I replied that it had nothing to do with comprehension because even if I were to get some of the missing words wrong (or not be able to come up with any), it would have no reflection whatsoever on my ability to perfectly comprehend a text in Italian and competently translate it into English. To cut a long story short, I said I would do the short translation test but not the grammar test as it would take up too much of my time and had nothing to do with the purpose it was trying to achieve.

What are your opinions on this type of test for the language combination? Was it a valid test to ask of an Italian to English translator (or any other combination for that matter)?
I will only add that while reading through the text, I also found some grammatical errors in Italian!!
I would be interested to hear your thoughts.


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 08:54
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
I would take the test on 3 conditions Sep 16, 2011

That is, if:
1) I determined that I wanted to work with this customer.
2) The fees/rates were agreed on beforehand, pending successful test completion.
3) I reviewed the test and thought it was professionally designed.


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Frances Leggett  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:54
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
But do you think it is the right test to check my skills? Sep 16, 2011

I mean, regardless of wanting to work with the agency or not, surely they should be checking my comprehension of Italian by 1) making me do a translation test (which there was in addition to this Italian test) and 2) perhaps giving me a short text already translated from Italian to English with some errors, with the source and target text in front of me, and I could identify where the mistranslations were, etc, to show my capabilities in full comprehension of the Italian text in front of me.
Why test my ability to insert missing words into an Italian text, which is a test about my production in Italian, when I don't produce texts in Italian?
The test was professionally designed in my opinion, but I just didn't think it was the right test for me as an Italian to English translator.


[Edited at 2011-09-16 20:20 GMT]


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 08:54
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Grammar test vs Writing skills in source language Sep 16, 2011

I believe their aim is to test your grammar, which relates to reading comprehension in your source language, which in turn may affect the accuracy of your translation.

The test may be a good one or it may not. Of course I can't evaluate it for you since I don't speak Italian (but maybe our other colleagues could). I do believe a test like this could be useful if designed by a professional, i.e. a grammar expert in the source language who is familiar with the pitfalls that plague non-native speakers in that language.

I have some experience editing translations from Russian into English done by native speakers of English. Some of these texts demonstrated very poor grasp of Russian grammar. Most such errors caused mistranslations. Being subjected to and failing a Russian grammar test could, potentially, disqualify these translators. I don't know if a pass could positively *qualify* them. Then again, the same can be said about most tests.

Now, as for a test of *writing skills* in the source language: I don't think it's necessary, but I would definitely use such information about a candidate in my evaluation if it were to become available to me.


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xxxkalap
No, they are testing your compliance Sep 16, 2011

And you, from your side, are testing this client. Are they helpful? Good communication? Do they seem trustworthy? If yes, do this test, send them your rates and wait for the results. You will do tons of strange tests in your life, so do'nt worry for such a small thing and see it as a commercial investment.

[Edited at 2011-09-16 20:34 GMT]


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 08:54
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Re: Compliance Sep 16, 2011

I might be OK with doing an irrelevant test for a really lucrative customer.

For another less lucrative one I might consider the same irrelevant test as jumping through hoops and thus a 'failure' on their part.


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Rachel Fell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:54
French to English
+ ...
No, I don't think it's the right test Sep 16, 2011

Frances Leggett wrote:
... surely they should be checking my comprehension of Italian by 1) making me do a translation test (which there was in addition to this Italian test) and 2) perhaps giving me a short text already translated from Italian to English with some errors, with the source and target text in front of me, and I could identify where the mistranslations were, etc, to show my capabilities in full comprehension of the Italian text in front of me.
Why test my ability to insert missing words into an Italian text, which is a test about my production in Italian, when I don't produce texts in Italian?


[Edited at 2011-09-16 20:20 GMT]

I mean, I agree with your points above.

[Edited at 2011-09-16 21:06 GMT]


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Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
Ghana
Local time: 05:54
Japanese to English
Ditch it Sep 17, 2011

Unless there's a guarantee that the agency will send work your way once you pass the exam, I say ditch the grammar test. I'd say ditch the other test as well, but that's just me.

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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 13:54
Chinese to English
You might be right, but... Sep 17, 2011

I've been thinking about the kind of tests I'd give to a potential collaborator, and they aren't necessarily just straight translation tests. I'd be interested to see how someone reads, what kind of a writer they are. I might design all sorts of odd tests.
This agency may have found that this grammar test is useful to them for picking out good translators. You may not believe it. They may not be right. But either way, this is the barrier to entry that they have chosen to put up. They're an autonomous entity, and they have the right to test whatever they want (within the law). Your only question is whether you want to take the test.
Incidentally, don't imagine that because you're not confident of getting 100%, you should be worried about the test. Like you say, even native speakers struggle on these things. They may well have a grading structure that says anything over 90% is excellent - definitely work with this translator. There's no need for you to second guess them. Be confident in your abilities, demonstrate your abilities, and ignore those who don't appreciate you.


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Brannigan
Italy
Local time: 06:54
Italian to English
+ ...
One or the other Sep 17, 2011

I agree that it may not seem like the most effective way to judge your translation skills. However, it is understandable that they want to see your grasp of the Italian language: it can be fairly easy for translators to guess from the context. As you know, sometimes seemingly simple things like using negatives in a sentence can change the meaning entirely, so maybe they think that this kind of test really lets them see your level of Italian.

I also agree with Phil regarding scoring - they may not necessarily be after 100%.

I think it's more of a business issue: by doing the sample translation you are already giving them some of your time for free. Perhaps you could offer to do half the grammar test as a goodwill gesture and they can take it from there. I guess it depends how long it would have taken you to do both. I totally understand not wanting to dedicate that much time to something that might not lead to anything else!


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Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:54
Dutch to English
+ ...
There are two kinds of people Sep 17, 2011

the ones that are good and the ones that are bad at tests.

I find tests which do filling in words without listing the possibilities very harsh. My husband does them at the EU as part of the higher level exams, but his students have been trained in them and the tests will usually have words which were addressed in class. Spotting mistakes is another one.

Personally, he admits, he himself (a native speaker and his students' teacher!) finds them hard to do because he has many more words to choose from in his head than his students have. I usually spot more mistakes than there are in the key of a spot-the-mistake text, and usually the wrong ones. Even in Dutch I am bad at spotting mistakes, unless I have been given a score of exercises in that area and have been training myself during the course of weeks to spot mistakes everywhere (and I mean everywhere!). And even then the result is doubtful.

As it is, mostly that kind of thing doesn't occur in real life as a translator, so it shouldn't be tested. If they would like to see the quality of your comprehension, that they give you a small translation to do and see how the client likes it. If it is no good, it's clear you are no good, if it is, then great.

If I ask an electrician to come and do the lectrics in my house, I don't ask him to perform a (free) test first, do I? And if he doesn't do his job properly, my house can burn down. If I need an electrician, I'll ask my neighbour whether he knows a reputable one, and I have never gone wrong with that (up till now).


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Christoph Verplancke  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 06:54
English to Dutch
+ ...
Cloze Test Sep 17, 2011

The 'grammar' test described by Frances is called a cloze test (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloze_test). It's widely used in second language assessment.

Translation can be seen as comprehension of a source text, followed by rendition of what's been understood in a target language. The cloze test is meant to test the first stage of this process, while the 'translation' test addresses the second stage. Both stages are important for the final result, so it makes perfect sense to test both.

It's up to you to decide if you want to spend your time on an additional test. There may be easier options to demonstrate your proficiency.

[Edited at 2011-09-17 11:00 GMT]


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 03:54
English to Portuguese
+ ...
If tests were reliable... Sep 17, 2011

... there wouldn't be so many lousy drivers (and traffic accidents) worldwide.

I lost my faith in translation agencies' tests when a colleague (?) tried to hire me to proofread his (awful!) translation test for a supposedly big job. Can anyone get a driver's license by hiring a surrogate driver? Nevertheless millions of bad drivers everywhere pass the local test and get it.

In some cases a specific (and short!) translation test may be justifiable, to ascertain whether that specific translator's writing style in the target language matches the desired purpose.

However for most other situations, IMHO the best is to assign the aspiring translator an actual job, and have it assessed and reviewed by whoever would be scoring their test. If they admittedly don't have anyone in that language pair and direction to score it, what would have been the point of assigning a test?

Though I passed many tests, I have never been assigned any job by any of the companies/people who had me take them. One of these - on which I got feedback - was quite peculiar: the reviewer/evaluator condescendingly passed me, yet considering the corrections that person made to my translation, I'd have failed him/her!


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Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
Ghana
Local time: 05:54
Japanese to English
Same here Sep 17, 2011

Though I passed many tests, I have never been assigned any job by any of the companies/people who had me take them.


My experience is similar, except for one thing: I have never been assigned a job after passing a free test, but I have been assigned jobs after passing paid tests. It's most peculiar. After several such incidents, I've decided not to do free tests any more.

[Edited at 2011-09-17 18:05 GMT]


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Christel Zipfel  Identity Verified
Member (2004)
Italian to German
+ ...
-.- Sep 17, 2011

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

Though I passed many tests, I have never been assigned any job by any of the companies/people who had me take them. One of these - on which I got feedback - was quite peculiar: the reviewer/evaluator condescendingly passed me, yet considering the corrections that person made to my translation, I'd have failed him/her!


I have also done and passed a handful of tests free tests in my life with no result. However, I did and passed some paid tests which were all followed by a pleasant collaboration.

So guess what? I'll never do any free tests again.


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