Poll: How many words do you think are reasonable for a free sample translation?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 11:53
Jul 4, 2014

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "How many words do you think are reasonable for a free sample translation?".

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Teresa Borges
Local time: 19:53
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
300 words, maximum Jul 4, 2014

In principle, I'm against free tests. There should be other means of demonstrating a translator’s competence without providing free translation samples (whatever the length), but the truth is that I gained several excellent clients after agreeing to a test…


Markus Perndl
Local time: 20:53
Italian to German
+ ...
0 Jul 4, 2014

I have a university degree in translation studies, I've been working as a fulltime-translator for over ten years and I have a lot of satisfied clients. So why should I proof my skills for free? I don't know any other service provider who would do that.

I think clients that require a free test translation are not serious. Sure, a new collaboration is always a risk... but for both sides, as I also don't know if the new client will pay me as agreed. Would he accept a "test payment"? I don't think so.


Yetta J Bogarde  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:53
Member (2012)
English to Danish
+ ...
Max. 300 words Jul 4, 2014

Actually, I like to take the tests. Then everyone is happy.


Parrot  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:53
Spanish to English
+ ...
To be reasonable... Jul 4, 2014

... the same amount as "fair use".


Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
300 Jul 4, 2014

I agree with Teresa in principle.

In practice, however, having assessed far too many test translations over the years, I know that they are a very useful and effective way of screening out the complete jokers, who are very much in the majority.

And all of them have already supplied acceptable CVs, testimonials, samples etc, so those methods just don't work.

To my mind, therefore, it's an entirely acceptable approach from agencies.

It's also fascinating to see how many different translations you get of even the simplest sentence, like the "cat sat on the mat". And how many manage to mistranslate it.


Jana Kinská  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 20:53
English to Czech
+ ...
300 at the most! Jul 4, 2014

Having passed a number of tests for many agencies in the course of time, I realized such tests and "free samples" - and the way they are (not) managed and evaluated - actually said quite a lot about the particular agencies (aka potential clients).
Nevertheless, I don't find them much efficient, all in all: it is true I have gained quite a few very good, returning clients but in most cases I couldn't help but feel such tests were something of an administrative burden for both sides...

[Edited at 2014-07-04 09:49 GMT]


Thayenga  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:53
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Maximum of 300 words Jul 4, 2014

Usually, if ever, I agree to taking a free test of between 200 and 250 words.

However, unless it's for something special, e. g. subtitle translation or poetry, I personally believe that one's WWA should suffice. Yes, I'm aware that some entries might be "buddy favors", but all in all, there's no reason to make a "false or beautified" entry.

A secon, also important aspect of free test translations is the question whether or not this will lkead to a job or, even better, a long-term business relationship.icon_smile.gif


Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:53
French to English
Seldom requested Jul 4, 2014

On the odd occasion, a potential client has asked me to translate a sample text. If I were testing someone, then 100 words would not be enough. More is necessary, but with the right text, a couple of hundred words should give you an idea.
However in roughly 20 years as a translator, I have not needed to do samples, except for agencies. I'd say no more than three times in 20 years, as I work almost exclusively with direct clients who come through word of mouth alone.


Helen Hagon  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:53
Member (2011)
Russian to English
+ ...
Depends on the job Jul 4, 2014

I don't mind doing a sample translation as long as there is a realistic prospect of work. Less than a hundred words is not really sufficient to gauge someone's translation abilities, so I would normally consider 100-300 words reasonable. However, if the project is a literary translation of an entire book, I would expect to provide a longer sample, although if it amounted to more than a couple of pages I would probably try to negotiate some form of remuneration.


Andris Dinaburgskis  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:53
English to Latvian
+ ...
Other Jul 4, 2014

I don't like free tests. Free sample translation can't reflect the proficiency of translator. If a sample is too short, any translator can pass the test; if it is longer, most of good translators will reject this job because normally they have too many other tasks.


Marjolein Snippe  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:53
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
300 words Jul 4, 2014

To me, up to 300 words seems reasonable; as long as the text is chosen with some care, this should give a fair indication of the translator's skill and ability. Much longer starts to feel like just asking for a free translation.

I don't mind doing free test translations, as long as they are not too long; I much prefer it to giving references because I would rather not bother good clients by asking them to provide one.


Yaotl Altan  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:53
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
0-100 Jul 4, 2014

Less than 100 if you are an experienced translator with more than 15 years in the field. Preferably 0, if clients are professionals and want their project done quickly.


Mario Freitas  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:53
Member (2014)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
It depends Jul 6, 2014

A good tip is to check the Blue Board and see if the requester is worth it. If it seems to be a good outsourcer that provides jobs regularly and pays well and in time, it might be worth the sacrifice to be a bit more generous. Otherwise, 300 words is reasonable enough.

[Edited at 2014-07-06 14:10 GMT]


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Poll: How many words do you think are reasonable for a free sample translation?

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