Test translation in a non-specialist field
Thread poster: Mirella Biagi

Mirella Biagi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:23
Member (2013)
French to English
+ ...
Dec 3, 2013

Hi everyone,

I have recently been asked by an agency to do a test translation. Since this seems to be standard practice for translation agencies, I said yes. Besides, I have done a few tests in the past and some of them have led to work.

This morning I found the test in my inbox and I discovered it was a legal text. I am in no way specialised in legal translations, in fact I avoid them at all costs. I also clearly stated in my original email to said agency that I am specialised in the marketing sector.

Given that I have no legal experience the chances that I would fail the test are very high. Should I do the test anyway or should I email them and ask for a different test? Has anyone been in this position before?


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:23
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Not a good start, is it? Dec 3, 2013

I must say that I would already be doubtful about this potential partnership. I move in the same circles as you and I certainly wouldn't do a legal test. I have occasionally accepted them for my marketing clients who see me as a convenient one-stop translation supplier, but always with a lot of provisos.

By emailing them, you'll find out more about the way they do business: an apology along with a marketing test could mean an honest mistake by someone you'll be happy to work with; no response, a terse "that's what we give all our translators", or even a "just do it, will you!" would speak volumes about future minefields.


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Gudrun Wolfrath  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:23
English to German
+ ...
Ask them for a text in your field. Dec 3, 2013

Gudrun

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Paz González  Identity Verified
Chile
English to Spanish
Do not do that test Dec 3, 2013

Hello Mirella,

It happened to me few times. Some agencies asked me to do some tests on some fields that I know I am not good although I have told them about my fields of expertise. In those cases, I had to let them know, again, that I am very bad on those areas and that I couldn't do the requested test. I had no problem with those agencies and they have sent to me another test on my areas of specialization. I think that it is better for you to be honest even though this, maybe could mean that you won't win the job but they are going to keep you in mind when they need a translator on your areas of expertise.


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Mirella Biagi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:23
Member (2013)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Dec 3, 2013

Thanks for all the advice. I just took the plunge and emailed them explaining that it would be a waste of both my time and theirs if I did the test (I put it a nicer way obviously!). I'm not used to saying no to anyone, even in non-work related circumstances...

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Gudrun Wolfrath  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:23
English to German
+ ...
So you have practised something Dec 3, 2013

no matter how things will turn out: the art of saying "no".

[Bearbeitet am 2013-12-03 15:03 GMT]


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Texte Style
Local time: 14:23
French to English
A most valuable skill! Dec 3, 2013

Gudrun Wolfrath wrote:

no matter how things will turn out: the art of saying "no".

[Bearbeitet am 2013-12-03 15:03 GMT]


I've been doing this all day and I hate it, especially turning down stuff that I really enjoy but just can't fit in. I also hate when the PM comes back with "but you're the best person for the job".

So what happened? did they send you a more appropriate test or ignore you?


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:23
Spanish to English
+ ...
Know your onions Dec 3, 2013

If I really wanted to get in with this agency and I had enough time on my hands, I'd probably do the text anyway, but I'd also explain that it's not one of my specialities. However, I think that has more to do with me being a chancer than anything else and I wouldn't recommend this approach to anyone with any misgivings at all about it. When I started out in translation I was ready to try my hand at almost anything I was offered, regardless of the field, and I usually did so successfully, but then again maybe I was just lucky and I wouldn't recommend my approach to anyone else.

I stopped doing financial translations - which I never enjoyed anyway - a couple of years ago after an argument with a client who insisted that I refrain from using synonyms. I don't do a lot of legal texts nowadays either, but in my opinion there is legal which is doable and legal which calls for more expert knowledge and/or experience and I'd always avoid the latter, usually passing it on to a more capable colleague.

When in doubt - leave it out


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Preston Decker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:23
Member (2013)
Chinese to English
Just had similar situation occur Dec 3, 2013

Mirella,
If it makes you feel any better, I just had a (somewhat) similar situation occur. Received a sample translation from a potential client a couple of days ago, but didn't look over it carefully until last night, when I discovered that I couldn't even understand the text in its original Chinese, much less translate it.

I've translated my fair share of difficult texts, but this was some level of difficulty beyond even those. Showed the text to my native Chinese-speaking translation partner, and she also had no idea what the text meant. So either the sample is meant for a true specialist in the IT field (I only do general IT translations), or the piece was poorly written/an excerpt of a larger piece without which comprehension is near impossible. I suspect that this may not even be a standard test, but may be a translation given to them recently by a client, as the PM was rather insistent on an ASAP hand-in deadline.

Finally gave up and told the PM it was beyond my ability. Figure that if this was a 'good' test then I'm clearly not the right translator for them; if it's simply a poorly written or incomplete document, then the company will either realize their mistake and send another, or, if they don't, I'm probably better off staying away from them.


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shfranke  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:23
English to Arabic
+ ...
Test translations - a related question Dec 3, 2013

Greetings to all in this interesting thread.

May one observe that a related, and corollary, question pertains in such situations: does that requesting firm also and already have an expert translator with that specific background who can do the assessment and evaluation (and presumably is properly paid for those expert services) of such an attempted and "with-best-possible-effort" translation?

Hope this helps.Today is Tuesday, 3 December 2013.

Regards,

Stephen H. Franke
Senior veteran Arabic linguist
San Pedro (Los Angeles Waterfront Area), California




[Edited at 2013-12-03 20:57 GMT]


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Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:23
Member (2003)
French to Italian
+ ...
seconded Dec 3, 2013

Gudrun Wolfrath wrote:


Ask them for a text in your field


I am a legal translator and I can assure you that it requires a very particular structure of sentences and terminology.

[Edited at 2013-12-04 10:10 GMT]


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Mirella Biagi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:23
Member (2013)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
No news yet Dec 4, 2013

Thanks again everyone.

I haven't heard anything back from the agency yet... still time yet I guess


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xxxnrichy
France
Local time: 14:23
French to Dutch
+ ...
Same opinion as Neilmac Dec 4, 2013

neilmac wrote:

I don't do a lot of legal texts nowadays either, but in my opinion there is legal which is doable and legal which calls for more expert knowledge and/or experience and I'd always avoid the latter, usually passing it on to a more capable colleague.

When in doubt - leave it out


As a marketing translator, you cannot avoid general conditions and other legal sales information in websites. This is entirely doable by someone who has a logical mind. Avoiding them is cutting yourself in the fingers, because lots of websites consist for 80% of information of this kind - big chunks of 8,000 or 10,000 words. The first one is complicated, but training material is widely available

As a generalist and marketing translator I don't have problems for these texts, just check the translation 3x against the source text, but one of my friends, a legal translator, is not able to do creative marketing texts.

In the same way, you have HR translations which are doable for a generalist translator (instruction manuals) and work contracts which are not.


[Edited at 2013-12-04 14:11 GMT]


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