Please revisit the role of the "Sample text" field in job postings
Thread poster: Katalin Horváth McClure

Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:46
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Jan 8, 2010

I am starting this thread based on some of the comments made in these two other threads:

I think often time the role of the "Sample text" field is misunderstood by job posters.
The only way they can get an explanation is if they click on the little questionmark icon, and this is what they get:

Enter a sample paragraph or two that service providers will be required to translate.

If you do not wish to require a sample translation, leave this field blank (do not enter "None", "N/A", etc.).

Your sample text must be less than 500 characters.

Based on my reading of many job postings, I think many job posters do not read this description, and they think the role of the field is to provide "a sample of the text", so the translator would get an idea what the text is about.

Given the fact that requiring sample translations as part of the initial application/quoting step is controversial(*), I can understand how this misunderstanding happens, since the "misunderstood" role of the field is actually the logical one! (This opinion was also expressed by one contributor to the second thread I linked above - she said she used the field just to provide a sample and always indicated that she did not expect translations in the quotes.)

I think it would be beneficial to rethink the role of this field.
I would like to see it changed to an optional field where the job poster can provide some text taken from the actual job, as additional information, and not as a requirement to translate by everybody who responds to the job posting.
The name of the field would be changed to "Source text sample" or something, to make it clear that it is only for informational purposes, and the length allowed would be at least doubled(**). The Help text should be changed accordingly, for example to something like this:

Enter a sample paragraph or two of the source text, so the service providers could get a better idea about the job. Make sure the sample provided here gives a good representation of the general content, and does not contain confidential information.

If you do not wish to provide a source text sample, leave this field blank (do not enter "None", "N/A", etc.).

Your sample text must be less than 1000 characters.

(*) Requiring free sample translations is controversial in itself (see numerous past discussions with differing opinions), but requiring them as part of the initial contact is even more so. Why? Some clients have limited budgets that they do not publish, and the rate they want to pay would immediately disqualify them from the service provider's point of view, so the service provider wastes his/her time by supplying the free sample translation as it would not matter anyway. Some service providers would be disqualified by the agency just by looking at their resumes or response emails, without the need of reading through their translation samples - again, wasted time and effort.

(**) I think a proper sample may need to be longer than 500 characters, for example, this posting is 3250 characters (including spaces).


Egil Presttun  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:46
English to Norwegian
Well said, Katalin Jan 8, 2010

I totally agree, Katalin. This misunderstanding should be dealt with just the way you suggest.

However, I don't think a sample text, which is meant to be translated of several translators, should be longer than 500 characters.


Susan van den Ende  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:46
English to Dutch
+ ...
Actually, I don't use the field at all ;-) Jan 8, 2010

Hi Katalin,

Great idea!

I don't use the field at all, but include a sample in the body text of my job postings to avoid any confusion. Two reasons: because I know that the "sample text" box invites sample translations, but also because of the length restriction. Few clients are considerate enough to concentrate all the potential issues (terminology, Dunglish/Chinglish, complex sentence structure, bad writing, etc, etc, etc) in their text in a representative sample that's only 500 characters long.

I'm aware that there's actually also an option to upload the entire job, but I'm reluctant to do so for reasons of client confidentiality. I do usually want to give an idea of the text though, so as an outsourcer, I'd very much welcome the option of a seperate field for text samples, preferrably with a generous length restriction.

On an aside note Egil: I agree, sample texts for translation in most fields don't need to exceed 100 words or so.


Dr. Stephan Pietzko  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:46
Member (2002)
English to German
I agree, too Jan 8, 2010

Outsourcers that really require a test translation can always ask suitable service providers later in the process. It doesn't make sense in the bidding as Katalin outlined very well.

Far too often I have seen "sample texts" that were clearly not meant as a test translation but indicated as such by the system. It is just confusing and annoying.

Please follow Katalin's suggestions and change the system accordingly.

My 2 cents.



Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:46
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
My suggestion: uploaded samples Jan 8, 2010

Katalin Horvath McClure wrote:
I think often time the role of the "Sample text" field is misunderstood by job posters.
The only way they can get an explanation is if they click on the little questionmark icon...

I agree with you. I have posted several jobs in the past but I had never clicked the question mark because I had thought that it was obvious what the field was for. I only entered a sample text once in the past, and from that job posting about half of the applicants sent me a translation of the sample (much to my surprise, as it was never my intention to ask/receive sample translations).

I don't think 500 characters is enough for a test translation. 300-500 words is a better size for a test translation (and that would mean about 5000 characters, to be on the safe side). I'm not convinced that the original purpose of the field was to give outsourcers a way to require test translations -- the character count is too low, and there is no mechanism by which applicants can send their test translations if bidding is done via's system itself. Besides, the sample text field doesn't allow any kind of formatting, and the ability to retain formatting is quite important in many test translations, I think.

No, I think the field is meant simply as a way to show the applicant roughly what kind of text it is. But even then, 500 characters is very little.

Suggestion: Upload the sample text

For a source text sample (and also for a test translation, if such a thing would ever form part of the job posting in future), I think an uploaded file would be much better. This would allow outsourcers to show applicants more file types, and text with formatting. In some cases it would help clear misunderstanding about the format or file type in which the source text is provided and in which the translation is required. The uploaded file can be limited in kilobytes instead of characters.

I also agree that it should be made clear to outsourcers that the sample text is merely for informational purposes, and is not intended as a test translation text. In fact, I think outsourcers should be encouraged to provide sample text that is much longer than the average test translation.

[Edited at 2010-01-08 09:08 GMT]


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:46
Member (2007)
+ ...
sample and test - two different issues Jan 8, 2010

Samuel Murray wrote:
I think outsourcers should be encouraged to provide sample text that is much longer than the average test translation.

I second that, although I'd say "strongly encouraged" - a sample of the text gives so much information, especially if it retains the formatting. It doesn't need to be the whole file, but certainly a reasonable size is better than just a few lines.

The sample is also very important for proofreading jobs, where a representative sample of the text will give an idea of the amount of revision to be done.

The question of test translations is entirely separate, IMO, and the same text should not be made to serve the two purposes.


Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 17:46
German to Serbian
+ ...
Good points Jan 8, 2010

I support the ideas presented by Katalin. Makes a lot of sense.


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