Finding resources for a business/legal translation
Thread poster: Celine Grossemy

Celine Grossemy
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:42
English to French
Jun 28, 2017

Hi everyone,

I have been given a test translation ( EN to FR ) to do as part of my application to a translator job in an agency. The ST is part of an Industry Standards document on trucking safety.
Unfortunately, I am only starting out my career as a translator and I haven't got much experience in terms of translating business law.
I understand the ST perfectly but I am struggling to translate it because I am not sure how to word it in French.

The ideal would be to find some kind of French Standards that I could use to give me an idea of the official way of wording the document.
I have searched the internet but haven't found anything useful.

Would anyone know where I can find resources of this kind ?
Does anyone work in the business / legal field and could give me some tips ?

Thank you!


Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:42
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
A couple of ideas Jun 29, 2017

Hi Celine,

As far as finding documents in French with accurate trucking and trucking safety terminology, some judicious Google searching of combinations of terms that are likely to be associated with these fields ought to yield hits linking to reliable documents that can help you. Searching the governmental entities in France and other French-speaking countries charged with road safety and enforcing trucking safety regulations should be useful also (i.e., the equivalent of the Department of Transportation [federal] and Department of Public Safety and State Highway Patrol [state-level entities] in the United States.

I hope this helps. It seems unfair for you to be tested on material that you have such little familiarity with. But I suppose that you can take a positive view of the task as a kind of "baptism of fire" to test your research skills and see if you can create a viable translation under these rather adverse circumstances.

In any event, I hope that you find some of my suggestions helpful, that the test isn't too long, and that you get a passing score.

[Edited at 2017-06-29 14:08 GMT]


Nina Esser
Local time: 15:42
Member (2017)
English to German
EUR-Lex Jun 29, 2017

You might also want to check out EIR-Lex - surely there is some European directive, regulation or whatever on truck safety. Just google "EUR-Lex truck safety" or something similar. On the EUR-Lex website, you can have the documents displayed in various languages side-by-side.

Hope that helps!


Teresa Borges
Local time: 14:42
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Céline Jun 29, 2017

Have you tried EU has a lot of documents on road safety and trucking:


Good luck!



Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Oftentimes Jun 29, 2017

creativity helps. For example, you can type in Google, or any other browser, a term/phrase between quotation marks and then write EUR-LEX, such as:

“term” EUR-LEX

Usually, you will get access to multilingual documents, one language being original and the others being a translation.

Now, this will not (I repeat, will not) help if you are not familiar with the subject matter. I would never accept a text I am not comfortable with. You will suffer, probably will not get paid, and this is unfair not only to the customer but also to you.

If you are starting out, the best I could think of is staying within the field of your interest/comfort/expertise. I’m sure you did some studies, have worked in an office environment with a subject matter. Stay there. This is good not only for those who start out but also for those who are already settled.

[Edited at 2017-06-29 08:36 GMT]


Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:42
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Testing your expertise Jun 29, 2017

In my experience, when agencies ask prospective new recruits to perform a test translation, they intentionally set a tricky, challenging text that is known to contain errors and difficult, nuanced phrases. This is to test the translator's expertise and punctiliousness.

In your case, I suspect the agency is actually going further: they may be testing your ethics, to see whether you have the professionalism not to accept translations in fields in which you have no expertise.

I would therefore suggest that you should courteously tell the agency that you notice the test is in a field in which you have no expertise, in which you would therefore not normally accept translation work, and that you will be happy to do a test based either on a general text, or a text that falls within one of your general fields of specialisation.

Any attempt by you to translate a text in a field in which you have no special expertise is almost certain not to succeed.

[Edited at 2017-06-29 09:15 GMT]


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:42
Member (2007)
+ ...
Did you apply as a business/legal translator? Jun 29, 2017

Your profile says that you specialise in poetry and literature, and indeed you've already translated a work of fiction - great experience for you. I can understand that you want to expand your income sources by applying to translation agencies, but it doesn't sound as though what you've been asked to do is at all in line with what you've done in the past or would aspire to doing in the future. Maybe the wisest choice would be to tell the agency that at the start, to avoid misleading and dissatisfying them, and having a thoroughly stressful and unhappy time. There are very many texts out there that are more suited to your skills (or at least, the skills I imagine you have), e.g. marketing.

Of course I don't know you, so maybe this advice is way off the markicon_smile.gif. In which case, knuckle down to that research. For any freelance translator, research skills are second only to linguistic skills, with entrepreneurial skills coming in as a close third.


Celine Grossemy
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:42
English to French
Thanks everyone, Jun 29, 2017

All those links and tips are really usefulicon_smile.gif

I do think that the agency is trying to test me on my research skills and, like Robert said, see how I can fare regarding the little experience I have in this field.

I would just like to point out that I did not apply for a business / law related position, just a general in-house translator position, and had I been able to chose the kind of text I would be tested on, this is not something I would have chosen.
However, since I'm only a beginner and the only translation experience I have comes from what I studied in uni and the work I have done as a volunteer translator, I do feel that I cannot limit myself to just literary translation.
I do want to expand my horizons and gain more experience, and to do so, I need to do more than just what I'm used to.

[Edited at 2017-06-29 14:10 GMT]


Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:42
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Consider what Tom and Sheila have written, but... Jun 29, 2017

I can say in all honesty that I was about to make some of these same points in my post last night (including suggesting the possibility of opting out). I decided not to because I thought doing so might come across as overly "pessimistic."

Yet I think that the points that Tom and Sheila make are entirely valid, although I think Tom goes too far when he writes:

Any attempt to translate a text in which you have no special expertise is almost certain not to succeed.

If all translators took such a view to heart in the early stages of their careers, we would all be back at the Tower of Babel. After all, even Blessed St. Jerome did not spring to life full born with the knowledge and skills required to translate the Holy Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin.

In other words, we all have to start somewhere.

In this connection, I would point out that if you really want to earn a viable income as a full-time freelance translator, you most definitely will have to expand your comfort zone beyond "Poetry & Literature" - at least until such time as you secure enough work in this latter field to earn a viable full-time income.

So taking on unfamiliar work (again, assuming that you want to be a full-time freelancer) is an absolute must, and not merely an option. In my view, the "big three" general fields where a lot of work is contracted out are business, legal, and medical, and most full-time freelancers need to be "comfortable" doing work in at least two of these three broad fields. (Yes, there are exceptions.)

So you need to decide what you want to do here. I do not think that the agency is testing your ethics and therefore expecting you to bow out of the assignment. I think that the opposite could well be the case (i.e., if you refuse the assignment, the agency might think: "Ah, look! She wilts under the pressure of dealing with material outside of her precious little comfort zone."). But backing out is one possible course of action.

Yet another possibility is advising the client (i.e., either before beginning or when delivering the translation) that such material is not familiar to you, but that you will do/have done the best you can/could.

I think that if I were you, I would go ahead and do the test translation and turn it in without comment or apology of any kind. If, in a worst case, the agency informs you that the translation was not up to standards, then at that point you can indicate that you were unfamiliar with the material, that you did the best you could, and that you realize that you have a great deal to learn as a translator.

In a way, you are like a goalkeeper facing a penalty kick: There will be no shame in failure, but success will be a significant accomplishment indeed.

Once again, I wish you the best of luck!

[Edited at 2017-06-29 15:21 GMT]


Celine Grossemy
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:42
English to French
Thank you again Jun 29, 2017

Robert, you have put my thoughts exactly into words !

I do have to start somewhere, and I don't want to back out from the opportunity. I will do the translation and, as you said, deliver it without comment and see what happens from thereicon_smile.gif


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