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When you use the words translation and test in the same sentence, heads will turn and attention is guaranteed. When I reacted to a Twitter post by an agency that doesn’t believe in translation tests, I sparked off an avalanche of responses. So maybe it’s a good idea to explain our stance on translation tests, and to share why we believe they are a necessary evil.
It’s actually quite simple: the proof of the pudding is in the eating. You can fill your CV with all sorts of bold statements, and tell someone that you are an Einstein among translators. We're not saying people are deliberately lying. It's just that no one is going to admit that they are mediocre at best, let alone tell you that they’re crap. So tests are surely a better and safer way forward. Unless you want to ruin your reputation and drive your proofreaders mad.
Our tests are generally around 300 words long and assess a wide range of skills that for us, make all the difference. There will be grammar and spelling issues, specific terminology, deliberately misspelled proper names, hyperlinks that need updating, specific layout and details, lots of details... Furthermore, each paragraph demands a different style, as it’s on a totally different subject. In short, we pack every possible angle into just 300 words. As under 10% of tests are completed successfully, we see no reason to skip this testing procedure.
One point that I would like to stress is that we do not judge translators. We judge specific translation skills. So a failed test does not mean that you are not a skilled translator: you may simply not have the skills we are looking for. A great technical translator does not necessarily make a great champagne or fashion translator.
And no, we don't pay for tests. Why? Because we believe that any professional translator will view a short test as a long-term investment, not as a waste of time. We invest a lot of money in testing by paying senior proofreaders to evaluate every test, and we take pride in the fact that every testee receives a corrected test and a detailed evaluation form. So even if you do not pass the test, you will still have something you can work with and learn from.
Why would someone be willing to spend time and money on personal branding, on building a nice website, on writing a blog, creating a social media presence and attending translation conferences, but not on a 300 word test? It just would not make sense. If you ask me, translation tests are the best ROI for everyone involved. Even if you fail the test, you may still learn from it.
You can check out the lively discussion on Twitter by following me @BlueLinesT or on the following Storify link: http://storify.com/BlueLinesT/to-test-or-not-to-test-1.
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