Translation tests

The use of tests to select translators is often quoted in quality assurance procedures.  However, it is difficult to know what these tests actually involve. Several types exist; here we take a look at some of them:

Undifferentiated tests

A single source text is submitted to all candidates. We’ve all had to do this type of test. You just need to type in one of the sentences to be translated into a search engine and you will come across translator forums where the “solution” is discussed in threads dating back several years. These tests are often corrected by comparing them to a model translation and are supposed to ensure that the “translator understands the source language”.  Yet there is more meaningful evidence for this purpose, such as the language combination validated by a diploma in translation, the country where the translator studied or their country of residence. It seems however, that these methods based on common sense are not standardised, and so do not meet the mark. Some agencies vary tests according to the field (legal, financial, medical, etc.). This is a little better, but here again, if the same text is submitted to all translators, the test is distorted (imagine taking an exam where you already know all the answers in advance).

Targeted tests

Sometimes a company will contact an agency to entrust a large volume of translation and wants guarantees on the quality of translators used. In this case, the agency will organise a targeted recruitment campaign and will prepare a test in collaboration with the client who will validate the translations and the glossary at the same time. This is a good method as long as the tests are remunerated (and should never take more than an hour to complete) with the guarantee for the client that it is those linguists qualified by this process who will undertake the translations and proofreading. Some translation agencies do in fact have tests translated and proofread by expert translators in the required field, to then work with junior (less expensive) translators on the actual project. Some very large agencies even have departments dedicated to translating tests in-house. That is why some companies use two different agencies: one for translation, the other for quality control.

So what about Fairtrad?

At Fairtrad, we start by analysing CVs (only a real translator knows how to recognise a fake one) and we always have translations proofread, so each initial collaboration serves as a test. Upon express request from the client, we do accept to have tests completed but always paying the translator (on an hourly basis), as a test is only valid if it precisely replicates the working conditions for each client. Once the team of linguists has been trained, we can even organise a meeting to introduce to the client all those involved, or supply them with the names and contact details of the linguists if they so wish, in the interests of transparency.

And we should never forget that each translation is a test in itself, as it is always proofread by a colleague and validated by the client. Usually, if you work well and your client is satisfied, you will be called upon to work on future projects. That will be your proof that you passed the test with flying colours.