Poll: In your experience, are translation tests useful?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
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SITE STAFF
Jul 2, 2011

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "In your experience, are translation tests useful?".

This poll was originally submitted by Cariboudoudou. View the poll results »



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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:54
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other Jul 2, 2011

Useful... but what for? Transation test are an important part of any university-level language course worth its salt IMO.
They may also be useful for agencies or potential clients to sort out the wheat from the hordes of chaff.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:54
English to German
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No. Jul 2, 2011

For example, I will never understand why an outsourcer, looking for a translator who can translate accounting texts, is sending a text about refrigerators.

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B D Finch  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:54
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
It depends Jul 2, 2011

I understand this as referring to tests used by agencies. It depends on whether the test is well-designed and relevant to the subject area and on whether the applicant is honest and doesn't get somebody else to do the test for them. It also depends on whether the agency concerned is capable of properly assessing the completed tests.

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Angus Stewart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:54
Member (2011)
French to English
+ ...
Sometimes Jul 2, 2011

B D Finch wrote:

It depends on whether the test is well-designed and relevant to the subject area.


I couldn't agree more.

Tests are particularly useful for large projects, where the test comprises a short extract of the text to be translated. This allows the agency to test not just the accuracy of the translation, but also more subjective matters, such as whether the translator has the right style for them. At the same time it allows the translator to assess the precise nature and level of complexity of the text, which in turn is relevant in negotiations concerning the rate and turn around time for the project.


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xxxInterlangue
Angola
Local time: 21:54
English to French
+ ...
Depends Jul 2, 2011

They are compulsory to answer the calls for tender by some international organisations (instead of references), but I am not sure they are thoroughly assessed. They can be punctually requested by an end client (through an agency) who can then choose the style he/she likes best. They are useful for agencies that can attract a new client and possibly give the work to someone else

As said previously, they MAY be useful for larger projects (though in the long run, agencies and PMs know the translators they work with), especially involving several translators but they should NEVER be done for free!


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:54
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Other Jul 2, 2011

B D Finch wrote:

I understand this as referring to tests used by agencies. It depends on whether the test is well-designed.... It also depends on whether the agency concerned is capable of properly assessing the completed tests.


For an agency it might be useful to request a translation test - as long as it stays within the required field/s - to get a first hand impression of a translator's qualifications to meet its (the agency's) requirements. And, of course, for as long as it is within an acceptable range as not to render the impression that the agency is looking for a free translation.

B D Finch wrote:

It depends ... on whether the applicant is honest and doesn't get somebody else to do the test for them.


No translator of good standing would do this. And those who do, well, they will prove themselves to be very "short-winded".


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Michaël Temmerman  Identity Verified
Costa Rica
Local time: 13:54
English to Dutch
+ ...
depends, but rather no Jul 2, 2011

There are to many if's to make test translations useful. If the translator is honest ,if the agency has skilled people to grade the test, if the test is adapted to the translator's skills, etc.

It's also funny that translators are usually prepared to do free test translations.
When was the last time that your toilet was leaking and you had 4 plumbers come over for a free test before finally hiring one to fix the problem for good? (If one of them seems good enough for the job!)
When was the last time you went to see 4 lawyers and asked them to all work out a small test contract of about 400 words, to see which lawyer is the best?
The same for architects, doctors, etc. The best they can do, is just refer to previous work. So why can't translators do that? We all have made translations that have been published (so no legal problems). And if agencies don't trust us that we are speaking the truth and actually referring to our own work, then why would they trust lawyers, architects (an architect can claim to have designed just about any house by sending you pictures), etc.

Translators, a weird race with a weird business logic...

Interlangue wrote:
They are useful for agencies that can attract a new client and possibly give the work to someone else



Exactly. Agencies have an experienced translator with a good cv do a free test translation, get the contract and then give all the work to cheaper translators. Happens all the time.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:54
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sort of Jul 2, 2011

[quote]Michaël Temmerman wrote:
When was the last time that your toilet was leaking and you had 4 plumbers come over for a free test before finally hiring one to fix the problem for good?
[quote]

I sort of do this, not actually giving them a test, but assessing their general attitude to the job and how they do the work as well as how they behave towards me as a client. I don't normally just employ the first one that comes along, and usually find tradespeople by word of mouth recommendation.

I recently went back to my former mechanic, even though it means going 20 minutes further away to get there, simply because he knows (and enjoys) what he's doing and understands my needs.


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xxxInterlangue
Angola
Local time: 21:54
English to French
+ ...
Re Jul 2, 2011

Michaël Temmerman wrote:

Exactly. Agencies have an experienced translator with a good cv do a free test translation, get the contract and then give all the work to cheaper translators. Happens all the time.


Don't remember ever doing any for free!

And I don't think agencies often assign that job/client to someone else... their reputation is at stake! Just as mine is for a test.


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Michael Harris  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:54
Member (2006)
German to English
yes Jul 2, 2011

and mainly because you can see if someone is trying to make an effort or not, even those translators that have degrees, etc. I have had so many test translations on my desk (basic texts about the subject to be translated in the future) where I have had to ask myself if these persons who say they are native speakers, actually know what they are talking about / have made the effort to find correct words (research) in internet.
I do not mind doing test translations myself, as long as they are topic related, otherwise I do not do it.

[Edited at 2011-07-02 20:32 GMT]


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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:54
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other: for some purposes Jul 2, 2011

I have both written and graded exams for in-house positions. They tend to include several passages and take a minimum of 8 hours. In these circumstances, it's only fair that all candidates be tested on the same material (rather than judging their work based on individual freelance assignments they have done). The tests definitely separate the wheat from the chaff.

I also think it's useful for a vendor to ask for translation of a passage from a job they post on ProZ. I would like for them to pay for it. Whether or not I do it for free is my decision, and that wasn't the question here.

On the other hand, translations of short passages for a vendor to keep on file don't make sense to me. A short passage doesn't measure a translator's skill. A passage is only useful if it is related to a particular job to be done.


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Michaël Temmerman  Identity Verified
Costa Rica
Local time: 13:54
English to Dutch
+ ...
Re Re:-) Jul 3, 2011

Interlangue wrote:

Don't remember ever doing any for free!

And I don't think agencies often assign that job/client to someone else... their reputation is at stake! Just as mine is for a test.


Sorry, didn't mean to imply that you ever did free test translations.

And you're right about the reputation of agencies being at stake. Good ones won't ever consider doing something like that, but there's a lot of weird companies out there. I have seen and heard many things already, but agencies always manage to amaze me time after time...
Thank God, there's good agencies out there too!


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Michaël Temmerman  Identity Verified
Costa Rica
Local time: 13:54
English to Dutch
+ ...
wow Jul 3, 2011

neilmac wrote:

I sort of do this, not actually giving them a test, but assessing their general attitude to the job and how they do the work as well as how they behave towards me as a client. I don't normally just employ the first one that comes along, and usually find tradespeople by word of mouth recommendation.


Maybe it's different in Spain, but in Belgium, people are happy to find a plumber that is willing to come over to fix a problem. It's not easy to make them come to your house for minor things that will barely make them money!

That being said, it's not all that weird that you want to know who you will be hiring. However, no matter how nice the guy is, how good his work ethics are and even how good a friend he may become later on, you still don't have a clue about his abilities until he actually fixes your toilet, simply because you don't test him. And the testing part is the subject of this poll:-)


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