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How to choose a good text for a sample translation.
Thread poster: Vivien Green

Vivien Green  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2013)
French to English
Jan 9, 2013

I just wondered if there are any rules of thumb to follow? For example, if a particular application form asks for a sample of no more than 300 words, does it matter if you just pick an article from the internet and translate the first 300 words (thus not doing the full article) or is it important to pick an article that is short enough to begin with?

And is the degree of "interestingness" of the text important at all? If it's an engaging topic or a translation of an article on a controversial topic will this count for or against you in any way?

Do people tend to pick articles from well known newspapers or industry-relevant publications?

Are these stupidly trivial questions?!


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 07:26
Chinese to English
Not stupid questions... Jan 9, 2013

...but the answer to all of them is "just be sensible".

Length - doesn't matter, most samples are just part of larger documents. But it doesn't look good if it cuts off in a weird way. Try to pick something with a reasonably self-contained chunk of the right length.

Controversy - certainly shouldn't matter. But people are people, and if you choose to translate a highly political rant, it might look suspicious. Why on earth did this person choose that? And if you happen to send the sample to someone whose politics run the other way, well - people are people, you know? It can't help. Pick something neutral.

Subject matter - you're showing off your skills, and trying to win a job. If it's an agency that specialises in technical, pick technical. If you're claiming to be a legal specialist, do legal.

But more important than any of this is: make it good. If you click through some Proz profiles you'll be amazed at how many shoddy sample translations there are. You have all the time in the world to polish it and get it right. It sends such a negative message to have a poor sample.



Just to give an example of what I mean in point two:
A few weeks ago I got an email out of the blue from a translator asking if there was any chance of a collaboration, and attaching a sample translation. The translation was of a religious text. I thought, that's a bit funny. Is he really asking for work, or is he preaching at me? I wondered if I was being prejudiced, and tried to ignore the feeling. Anyway, I didn't answer immediately, and soon afterwards I got another email from him saying some things that I thought were not very appropriate. Not horrible, just not right for a business email. So my prejudices were confirmed in this case. There are certain subject matters that make it look like you have ulterior motives. It's best to avoid them.

[Edited at 2013-01-09 07:37 GMT]


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Sarah McDowell  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 17:26
Member (2012)
Russian to English
+ ...
Ask for permission first Jan 9, 2013

PromptResults wrote:

I just wondered if there are any rules of thumb to follow? For example, if a particular application form asks for a sample of no more than 300 words, does it matter if you just pick an article from the internet and translate the first 300 words (thus not doing the full article) or is it important to pick an article that is short enough to begin with?

And is the degree of "interestingness" of the text important at all? If it's an engaging topic or a translation of an article on a controversial topic will this count for or against you in any way?

Do people tend to pick articles from well known newspapers or industry-relevant publications?

Are these stupidly trivial questions?!


I asked the same thing a couple months ago. Apparently you can't just translate an article from an on-line or print publication without getting permission first. I was told that you must contact the author and/or publication and say that you will be translating one of their articles and using it for your portfolio. You will need to obtain their permission before proceeding further.

Hope this helps,

Sarah


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Stanislaw Czech, MCIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:26
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
Or use text with open licence or expired copyrights Jan 9, 2013

You could look for instance for text with Creative Commons license.

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Sarah McDowell  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 17:26
Member (2012)
Russian to English
+ ...
thanks Jan 9, 2013

Stanislaw Czech, MCIL wrote:

You could look for instance for text with Creative Commons license.


How will we know if something is a member of the Creative Commons? Will it say so on their website?


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Annett Hieber  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:26
English to German
That's not the easiest part Jan 10, 2013

Sarah McDowell wrote:

PromptResults wrote:

I just wondered if there are any rules of thumb to follow? For example, if a particular application form asks for a sample of no more than 300 words, does it matter if you just pick an article from the internet and translate the first 300 words (thus not doing the full article) or is it important to pick an article that is short enough to begin with?

And is the degree of "interestingness" of the text important at all? If it's an engaging topic or a translation of an article on a controversial topic will this count for or against you in any way?

Do people tend to pick articles from well known newspapers or industry-relevant publications?

Are these stupidly trivial questions?!


I asked the same thing a couple months ago. Apparently you can't just translate an article from an on-line or print publication without getting permission first. I was told that you must contact the author and/or publication and say that you will be translating one of their articles and using it for your portfolio. You will need to obtain their permission before proceeding further.

Hope this helps,

Sarah


I was in the same situation some time ago. I was well aware of the fact that I had first to get the permission. The problem, however, was that the companies in question never replied to me.

Annett


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Vivien Green  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2013)
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Creative Commons Licence for French text? Sep 10, 2014

I'm reviving this thread after rather a long time. I haven't needed to look for any new work in a while but I'm hoping to start a new search soon as I would like to get some experience in new areas. So I need a portfolio (and I can't use any of my actual work due to confidentiality agreements).

Essentially, I wrote to an awful lot of companies and websites a while back and got absolutely nowhere with regard to official permission. Most didn't reply at all or replied months and months later with incorrect information about the people I should actually be contacting. So I got nowhere.

Does anyone have any ideas as to where I can find content I can use without the need for permission? How can I find French text with this Creative Commons Licence? Is that even what I should be looking for?


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Vivien Green  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2013)
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
open licence or expired copyrights Sep 10, 2014

I didn't realise I hadn't thanked those of you who answered first time around - my apologies!

And I meant to ask about open licence or expired copyrights in my last post too - how can you find French text with an open licence or expired copyright? I've done a few google searches but don't think I'm googling the right thing...


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 07:26
Chinese to English
Signed translations and academic abstracts Sep 10, 2014

Are what I use.

If you've done translations published with your name attached, you can quote from them. And I've published a lot of abstracts with translations on my blog. It's fair use so long as you're not claiming the ideas in the paper are yours!


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Vivien Green  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2013)
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Phil! Sep 10, 2014

I'll look into those options!

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Sarah McDowell  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 17:26
Member (2012)
Russian to English
+ ...
Maybe Wikipedia Sep 10, 2014

I think that the only thing you can be safe to use is Wikipedia articles.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipédia:Accueil_principal

I also tried contacting companies to ask permission for using their texts in sample translations. The problem is that they don't reply to these kinds of e-mails.

I suppose you could ask your clients (direct clients, not agencies) if it's OK to use portions of their text which are not confidential as samples.


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ATIL KAYHAN  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 02:26
Member (2007)
Turkish to English
+ ...
CV/resume Sep 11, 2014

I use my CV/resume for a sample translation. My CV/resume has been in English right from the start since the dominant language in my career is English regardless of the country I live in. I am a mechanical engineer, by the way. Then, it occured to me that it would be neat to have my CV/resume in Turkish as well. So, I translated it into Turkish a few years ago. I now use both editions together for sample work. In the same way, you might consider having your CV/resume in two languages instead of just one. Just an idea...

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Evi Geypen  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 00:26
French to Dutch
+ ...
Try Gutenberg Sep 11, 2014

Hi Vivien

You could try a work published by Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org). It mostly concerns old work who's copyrights have passed.

There are French texts available, but maybe not in the subject area you like.


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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:26
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
this is a brand-new concept to my ears Sep 12, 2014

Vivien Green wrote:

I just wondered if there are any rules of thumb to follow? For example, if a particular application form asks for a sample of no more than 300 words, does it matter if you just pick an article from the internet and translate the first 300 words (thus not doing the full article) or is it important to pick an article that is short enough to begin with?

And is the degree of "interestingness" of the text important at all? If it's an engaging topic or a translation of an article on a controversial topic will this count for or against you in any way?

Do people tend to pick articles from well known newspapers or industry-relevant publications?

Are these stupidly trivial questions?!


To me, a sample could mean either something you did in the past or something the client has sent to you for you to do a free test. I cannot imagine a translator would take his own initiative to translate something from scratch and show it to the client as a sample.

Maybe I'm too narrow-minded but I will never afford to handle the request of a sample this way.


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Vivien Green  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2013)
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
very helpful! Thank you! Sep 15, 2014

I will definitely check out Project Gutenberg, thanks for that suggestion Evi!

I hadn't really considered Wikipedia but it's a good idea too, Sarah.

I don't have any direct clients at this stage of my career and definitely can't use anything I've done to date, but thanks for the suggestion Atil. My CV is already in English, my native language, so I could only translate it "in the wrong direction", but again, I appreciate the input.

I think I have enough suggestions to be getting on with, I really appreciate everyone's advice and ideas, thank you again!


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