Why translation tests tend to be misleading

What should we do when we hear: “You will need to take a free test to get the job” in a translation offer? Make sure first that a real project is not hiding behind the test.

The Issue Of Translation Tests

Despite one’s many prestigious academic references and references to extensive and impressive experience, prospective clients request translation tests to the point where it has now become a general requirement, and a highly irritating one. Who hasn’t come across that famous phrase: “You will need to take a free test to get the job” in a translation offer? This sounds like common selection criteria designed to ensure that the client will get a quality translation before assigning the job. As we are trusting folk by-and-large, we are perhaps, willing to do so. However, as a matter of principle, would it not be better to refuse? What position should we adopt regarding this type of request? Should we proceed with these requests when they prove to be legitimate?

Beginner Translator: Beware of Scams!

When I started in the profession, naive and inexperienced, I remember very well when an unknown customer asked me for a sample translation by email. My first translation test! I was over the moon. Very excited, I flung myself headlong into this task of such extreme importance. I could already see myself sending off my first invoice, wielding my seal of tempered steel, a cigar in hand and a bulging portfolio of clients. How disappointed I was to learn that this same client asked most of my classmates to take the same test and that the test files were all different! By piecing together the evidence, we realized that the unscrupulous client was in fact trying to translate their website thanks to the famous translation test which they sent out on a wide scale. The typical free translation scam! And that’s how we uncovered it. So, from then on I’ve been very cautious when asked to take a test and advise you to do the same.

Be Careful About Saying No Outright

However, if you systematically reject all tests, your chances of getting new customers will be significantly reduced.  Recently, I agreed to do a test because the interlocutor seemed very professional, and she promised some interesting projects and a good financial arrangement. She ended up being a very good customer. Sometimes it also happens that some mixed companies are required to issue a call for tenders that includes a translation test. In these cases, the organization often issues a detailed timetable and explains the procedure. It goes without saying that rejecting the test out of sheer paranoia is just plain dumb. Of course, if you want to check whether the party issuing the tender is serious, you can usually set up a meeting with them to see what the potential is, because a customer who is unable to even take a minute to see you and is overwhelmed with work does not augur well for any future working relationship. Therefore, you can see that subjective criteria play an important role when ones needs to decide whether to accept or refuse taking a translation test.

Everything depends on your instinct… and your principles.

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