Translation tests: What are the standards (if any)?
Thread poster: Dees

Dees  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:53
English to French
+ ...
Dec 13, 2005

Hello everyone,

I hope this topic is posted on the right forum...

I have a few questions about translation tests.

-What is the average number of words (or pages) you would expect?

- How much time on average should be given to complete the test?

- Is it normal to be asked to translate a whole text and not an extract?

I have done many tests before (all short extracts of texts) but I have received one that kind of puzzles me...

Many thanks for all your feedback!

Happy December!


sarahl (X)
Local time: 05:53
English to French
+ ...
Put yourself in their shoes! Dec 13, 2005

Hey Michan!

Just imagine you want to test translators for a job you need to outsource, then review that test in that light. That should tell you all you need to know.

You're a pro too, remember?icon_lol.gif


Angelica Perrini  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:53
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
Just some hints as from my experience Dec 13, 2005

Hi Mitsuko!
Below are some hints:

Mitsuko Moine wrote:

-What is the average number of words (or pages) you would expect?

Usually between 200-250 and generally no more than 3000 characters (=1 or 2 Italian "cartelle").

- How much time on average should be given to complete the test?

It depends on agencies requirements. It may be days or weeks. Some agencies do not specify any deadlines at all.

- Is it normal to be asked to translate a whole text and not an extract?

As for my experience, translating a whole text (especially when unpaid) may be time-consuming and unworthwhile. Besides, it may also turn up to be a pretext for having translators working for freeicon_frown.gif

my two cents,


Stephen Franke
United States
Local time: 05:53
English to Arabic
+ ...
Provide sample products & references to satisfied customers, versus taking a test Dec 13, 2005


An alternative part of your business model that may benefit all concerned, and especially satisfy the requester, is to provide sample previous products and references to satisfied customers, versus taking a test.

Since the requesting firm is implicitly engaging and paying some other qualified translator to evaluate and assess whatever test translation that an applicant submits as a "freebie" production, it might make better sense and provide a reality check to suggest that you do a test translation only as a paid project.



Stephen H. Franke
San Pedro, California


Paul Lambert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:53
French to English
+ ...
Translation Tests Dec 14, 2005


I work as a Project Manager for an agency in Spain and I never give deadlines to prospective translators. I freelanced myself for 4 years and I know that translation tests were always put on the back burner when I had more important (paid) jobs to be getting on with! Standard from me is to ask them to return them at their own convenience.

As for length, I try not to go over 300 words with the tests I send out. Be prepared though - agencies will normally send out tests that represent the highest level of diffiulty they will get (at least that's what we tend to do here) - so make sure that it's 100% correct. Just a few tips:

Make sure to run the spellcheck before you submit - I know it may sound obvious, but day after day I get tests in with incorrectly-spelt words.

Stick as closely to the original format as possible.

Do not leave anything untranslated - if you find something you cannot possible translate, make sure you explain this in the email you send along with your submission.

Basically, a translation test is your equivalent of an interview - you have a short space to make a huge impression, so make sure you give it your all




Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:53
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Sometimes the client is looking for style Dec 14, 2005

In some texts - publicity for instance - the client is looking for a translator with a style that fits their image or their particular target group. I do tests of this kind now and then. Occasionally we agree that the client should look for someone else.

This sort of thing takes some thought: If you can identify the end-client (or the agency tells you who it is), then take a look at their website and their products. Do you fit in? Do you want to?

Often this is fun, but sometimes there are clients and translators who simply do not fit together, and you might as well accept the fact before you battle through a major project that nobody is happy with.

Don't feel you are not a good translator if you don't get the job! Just see that you are good in your own field(s). That is what tests are all about.


Dees  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:53
English to French
+ ...
Thank you so much! Dec 15, 2005

Thank you so much Sarah, Elica, Stephen, Paul and Christine for all your responses and great advice and tips!

I wish you all a happy festive season and new year 2006!icon_smile.gif




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