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Poll: How long should a fair translation test be?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
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Jul 4

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "How long should a fair translation test be?".

This poll was originally submitted by Ahmad Habab. View the poll results »



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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:56
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
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Other Jul 4

I don't think a short test is good measure of a translator's skill. The international organizations usually do all-day tests with several different texts, typically three or four of them amounting to about 2,000 words. Other clients pay an applicant to do a job. That's another good way to judge the translator's performance because it relates to the current workload.

At this stage in my life and career it's not worth it to me to take a test that is not meaningful and takes up time I could be using to make money.


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 09:56
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
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Other Jul 4

I no longer do them as a rule! Most of my potential clients come either by word of mouth or through my website and translation portals (like Proz or TC) and I get plenty of new clients without taking tests (free or paid). However I might be prepared to do a free test of up to xxx words on the odd occasion, if I was really interested in the job... As a matter of fact, I did quite recently a 400 words paid test (translation + transcreation).

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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
100 words Jul 4

OK, a paid job of 2,000 words plus is a more realistic test and certainly more appealing to us old hands, but in my experience 100 words is ample to trip up the jokers and generally sort the wheat from the chaff.

And trust me, there's a lot of chaff.


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Markus Perndl
Austria
Local time: 10:56
Italian to German
+ ...
"Fair" translation test? Jul 4

You can also ask: how high should a fair test payment be?

As no client would accept a test payment to prove his solvency, no translator should accept a (free) test translation. I don't know any other service provider who accepts such a lack of respect by a client who suggests that the translator is not qualified.

I've never got a free meal in a restaurant in which I'd never been before, I've never got a free hair cut by a hairdresser I didn't know before, and I've never got a free medical treatment by a new doctor. Translators seem to be the only ones who accept such an unrespectful attitude.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:56
Member (2007)
English
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I don't regard mine as tests Jul 4

I'll provide a free sample of up to 250 words of a potential client's own material. I think that's useful for both parties. But that's in my own specialisation of marketing, where so much depends on the writer's or translator's style. I suppose in other sectors it would be a test to ensure that the translator knows the terminology.

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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:56
Member (2009)
English to German
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A fair translation test... Jul 4

...should be paid for.

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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
In practice Jul 4

Thayenga wrote:

A fair translation test should be paid for.


Doesn't that depend on who is making the approach?

If I were an agency and had 100 translators' CVs on my desk, I wouldn't fancy paying all of them to do a test, especially a real job, knowing that maybe only 1 in 20 can adequately translate a generic 100-word test with no time pressure...

I'd use a short unpaid test to shortlist a handful for real-world testing on paid jobs.

All assuming, perhaps somewhat unrealistically, that I cared that much about quality as opposed to price...


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:56
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Make them as long as you want, as long as they are paid Jul 4

I find the practice of subjecting an experienced translator to having to provide an unpaid test rather objectionable. So I say make the "tests" as long as you want, as long as you pay for them.

As to Chris' point, I would say that if an agency's recruitment efforts have yielded no more than 5 passed tests out of 100, then this represents an embarrassing failure in its selection processes prior to any testing. In any event, agencies don't typically test anywhere near 100 candidates for for the purpose of onboarding a single translator.

If there is minimal due diligence on the part of the agency, then administering 3-5 paid tests of 200-500 words that all stem from a larger translation project should not result in lost revenues, since the final assembled product with minimal revision ought to be deliverable to the client.

Sometimes agencies never get back to translators with results of these tests. Sometimes those who proof the tests are not particularly competent. Sometimes "test fails" reflect the evaluator's preferences rather than any actual errors in the translation. Sometimes, the translator is informed of having passed the test, only to sit in the agency's database and never be contacted for paid work. Such experiences will not be unfamiliar to many freelancers who have gone through this process.

So I say: Do not ask me to do free work that will be subjected to an evaluation process likely to be unfair, arbitrary, or incompetent, especially when, it the best-case scenario of having emerged unscathed from such defective screening procedures, I will have no better than an even chance of ever being offered any paid work for my pains.

[Edited at 2017-07-04 15:11 GMT]


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:56
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
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Excellent points Jul 4

Markus Perndl wrote:

You can also ask: how high should a fair test payment be?

As no client would accept a test payment to prove his solvency, no translator should accept a (free) test translation. I don't know any other service provider who accepts such a lack of respect by a client who suggests that the translator is not qualified.

I've never got a free meal in a restaurant in which I'd never been before, I've never got a free hair cut by a hairdresser I didn't know before, and I've never got a free medical treatment by a new doctor. Translators seem to be the only ones who accept such a disrespectful attitude.


Excellent points. And the more such disrespect is countenanced, the more it will be dished out.


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Alexander Kondorsky  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 12:56
English to Russian
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Other Jul 4

It should be as long as necessary, but either it should be paid for or a detailed critical review should be provided, and if there are no gross mistakes it still should be paid for. Short tests are, in my opinion, useless.

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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
No Jul 4

Markus Perndl wrote:

I've never got a free meal in a restaurant in which I'd never been before, I've never got a free hair cut by a hairdresser I didn't know before, and I've never got a free medical treatment by a new doctor. Translators seem to be the only ones who accept such an unrespectful attitude.


That's not a fair comparison. We're talking B2B here, not B2C. I suspect many of those you mention would happily supply a free sample to win a long-term business relationship. That's how business works!

As I said before, it's about who makes the approach. If they come to me, they must pay. If I go to them, I must jump through their hoops.


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Mario Freitas  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 07:56
Member (2014)
English to Portuguese
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Market rules Jul 4

We all konw that in our market, diplomas in arts and laguages and all certificates and memberships in associations mean practically nothing. The only instrument the clients and agencies currently count on to evaluate the quality of a translator's work is these tests, and that's why they have become praxis in such a diversified market. I see no other way for an agency to select their professionals.
Now, if these tests should be remunerated or not is a controversial discussion. We translators think they should. The clients don't. So what is the wisest thing to do? Refuse to do the tests for free or accept them to a certain limit?
It is obvious that the most experienced translators have already found out we must do such tests free of charge to get new clients. So what we do is to set a limit to the number of words, hence the poll. My limit is 300 words, i.e. 15 minutes of my time to get a new client is fair enough.
If you are among those who refuse to take such tests, good luck.


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:56
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Some credentials - and combinations thereof - are more meaningful than others. Jul 4

Mario Freitas wrote:

We all konw that in our market, diplomas in arts and laguages and all certificates and memberships in associations mean practically nothing. The only instrument the clients and agencies currently count on to evaluate the quality of a translator's work is these tests, and that's why they have become praxis in such a diversified market. I see no other way for an agency to select their professionals.
Now, if these tests should be remunerated or not is a controversial discussion. We translators think they should. The clients don't. So what is the wisest thing to do? Refuse to do the tests for free or accept them to a certain limit?
It is obvious that the most experienced translators have already found out we must do such tests free of charge to get new clients. So what we do is to set a limit to the number of words, hence the poll. My limit is 300 words, i.e. 15 minutes of my time to get a new client is fair enough.
If you are among those who refuse to take such tests, good luck.



I agree with Mario that membership in a translation association in and of itself is meaningless. There are other credentials that I would say are not so meaningless - individually and/or in combination. These include being a *certified* ATA member, DipTrans, and AIIC membership. None of these latter are credentials that can be purchased for the price of a membership - or won at a carnival. And surely university degrees should not simply be dismissed out of hand.

Yes, credentials of any kind have their limitations and, within the translation field, there are excellent translators with minimal formal credentials and education as well as mediocre translators with a long list of degrees and certifications. But this point applies to any profession.

Then there are contributions to forums like Kudoz which, while also not the be all and end all, sometimes offers an indication of a translator's competence, particularly within certain subject areas.

The predictive value of tests, whether paid or unpaid, also deserves to be challenged. Assuming that the unpaid tests are evaluated properly (such has not always been my experience, and I know I am not alone) performance on such a test is no more of a guarantee of good work on a given project (or on a series of future projects) than any of the credentials mentioned above. Maybe the translator got loads of help for the 200-word test that would not be practically accessible in taking on, say, a 5000-word translation under a tight deadline. Maybe the translator "bore down" and really did a fine job on the short test, but is generally not so careful in handling routine work. Who really knows?

I still occasionally do unpaid tests, but only if I am very interested in the project or agency in question. Like Mario, my limit on such tests is 300 words. But I have not found my willingness to do such tests generally rewarded with paid work by the agencies demanding them (see my previous post). And I also find something highly condescending in being asked to do an unpaid test (even a short one) when I have more than 15 years of experience as a translator as well as two university degrees, ATA Certification, Certification as a State Court Interpreter, and 15 years of respectable contributions to Kudoz within my single working language pair.

[Edited at 2017-07-04 23:57 GMT]


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Luiz Barucke
Brazil
Local time: 07:56
Member (2013)
Spanish to Portuguese
+ ...
Tests and pilots Jul 5

There 2 different tasks, test and pilot, and I handle them differently. I consider a test when an agency assesses my translation skills to add to their database as a vendor. In turn, a pilot is when an agency I already work with needs to provide a sample to their end client seeking a potential project.

I always charge for pilots, since risks - and potential profits - are not mine. If agency gets the project from their final client, they get the profits and they will send me the whole batch IF they want to and IF I'm available. So I'm not the tested one here. It's the opposite. Agency is sending me the pilot because they believe I'm good enough to win the project (for them). So I need to get paid for this task.

But when an agency doesn't know me and, even more, if I was the one who contacted them to offer my work, I have no problem to provide a free sample of my work. Actually, 200-300 words take less than 1 hour of my life and, usually, provide me a lot of paid work afterwards. I consider these tests an investment and I have no problem with them (of course, if they don't have 2,000 words).


[Editada em 2017-07-05 00:22 GMT]


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