Requests for samples
Thread poster: sonjaswenson (X)

sonjaswenson (X)  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:23
Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 11, 2011

Often I am asked for samples of my work and I have a few small documents I keep available for this, usually short translation tests or snippets of things containing no confidential information.

However I am increasingly being asked to provide specific samples of medical record translations, general medical translation, or legal/contracts I have done.

The problem is that by definition, medical record translations are confidential and I have signed an NDA with the agency. Often the medical translations I do are research material for publication or to be presented at a medical conference and are also confidential.

Legal documents might be a little more forgiving if I were to spend the time blacking out the identifying details.

But even if I were to do that, the client asking for samples would surely want the original document as well for comparison, and more often than not, these are in PDF files which can not be altered or shared anyway.

How do you get around specific requests for samples? I have so far been saying simply that while I have experience in xxx field, I can not provide the documents but suggest that the client contact the agency I worked for and provide an email or telephone number.


Hazel Underwood  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:23
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Test translation instead Aug 11, 2011

I never provide samples. I always think it's a bit strange if an agency asks for these anyway. How can they be sure those are your translations?

I always reply politely that I cannot provide samples due to data protection reasons but state that I am willing to do a short test piece instead (up to 300 words).


Phil Hand  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:23
Chinese to English
Tell them not to be so daft Aug 11, 2011

I mean, be polite about it, but don't beat around the bush. It's a stupid request. I had one of these the other day, refused to provide samples, and never heard from them again. I don't regret it for a minute.
It's important to be sympathetic to agencies and clients on this issue - it's difficult to pick translators, and they want to find a straightforward, cheap way of making sure they're getting someone competent. We should be flexible and open to helping them. But asking for work we've done for other clients is way beyond the bounds of what's possible, and there's nothing wrong with saying so, firmly.


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:23
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Find some published material Aug 12, 2011

There are models for how to write medical records - sorry, can't give links just now.

Or find a typical routine physical examination and remove the figures and any other identifying features. I have one from a research project that was more or less anonymous in the first place. The usual stethoscopy, blood pressure, palpations here and there and normal findings... It should be possible to find a couple of hundred words that show you know the terminology without revealing anything sensitive.

For legal texts, find a piece of public information on the Net somewhere or an example in a textbook, and translate a few hundred words.

I think samples are definitely preferable to giving references from other clients, and thus showing potential competitors.

It is an advantage if you can choose the text yourself and translate at your leisure. You can then re-use the same text if appropriate. I also translate short samples provided by clients - and have found some good long-term clients that way.


José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:23
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Bilingual web site Aug 12, 2011

My web site is 97% bilingual. A few parts either are not interesting or wouldn't make sense in the other language (e.g. what would be the point of explaining differences between the Brazilian and European variants of Portuguese in Portuguese?).

So whenever they request samples, I refer prospects to my web site, stating - and it's true - that I wrote every single word there.

Acting paranoid, if all this prospect wanted was to show my samples to some end client to get the job, and then have it done by cheaper translators, it would backfire: before I worked for that outsourcer in order to have my relationship with their end-client prevented by a NDA, that end-client would be able to search a snippet of that sample on Google, find and contact me directly.


Alisa Schwell
United States
Local time: 18:23
English to Japanese
+ ...
Similar issue Aug 15, 2011

I have encountered a similar issue with the medical translation samples. Most of the documents I translate are medical equipment manuals, pharmaceutical documents, and medical journals. If I start taking out the identifying company or product's name for a sample purpose, it will take me ages. I generally ask the company that wants to work with me to provide a sample that they want me to translate and limit it to 250 words.

Today, I got an e-mail from a company with Proz rating of 4.9 from more than 70 requesting a test translation. The problem is that the document they sent me is an actual medical journal. I have a feeling that they are going to use my test translation to submit to clients as an actual job, but have it done for free by me. I am not comfortable with it. I could be wrong with this but that's the feeling I am getting. I wanted to ask them if they could send me a different document for a sample translation but I want to write it carefully so that it doesn't sound like I am accusing them of shady business. Any suggestions?


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