We don’t bite our tongues: translation tests

If you are familiar with the translation field, the Spanish translation field specifically, you may already know the process to get a job as a translator. No matter if you are a freelancer or you are planning on working for a company, most translators will have to face the dreaded translation tests. These tests are dreaded by beginners because of their difficulty, and dreaded by experienced translators for their predatory nature.

Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

What is happening?

Well, translation tests are not bad in theory. They are short, specific extracts of text with some tricky parts to assess the abilities of the prospective translator. So far, so good, right? But, as time passes, more and more companies use this resource to take advantage of translators. 

There have been recent examples of companies that use translation tests to get free translations. Instead of using an example extract for assessment, they will send out texts they need translations for, divided for different applicants in order for them to do that job for free. This is the predatory nature we were talking about. Not at any point does the company want to hire someone. They are taking advantage of beginners, as they do not know the etiquette for these tests. We are here to help you, though, if you are a beginner translator:

How should translation tests be?

There are two types of translation tests: example tests and short projects. Sometimes, the company will offer you to work on a small project to see if you are a good fit in the team. In this case, the test should be PAID, as you are working in a real project that benefits the company (unless in for a volunteer job).

However, more often, companies will send you an example test. That is a short text (1000 words tops, and that’s already too long, in our opinion) with intricacies related to the field of that company. They can give you restrictions in terms of software, or more tools like glossaries to complete it. They give everyone the same text for fairness and corrections will be as objective as they can be (bear in mind they are corrected by fellow translators/proofreaders who may choose to say things differently, but they should be able to evaluate the correctness of your work). 

Our opinion on the matter

Now, are these translation tests the best way to evaluate the aptitude of a translator? Not always. At least, that is what we think. The truth is that these tests do not always have the same topic or are in the same field of expertise than the real projects you would participate in, so your aptitude in that field does not really matter, they can only evaluate your general ability to translate and communicate with other professionals.

They also take a lot of time out of your day: documentations, translation, proofreading, asking questions… all of this for the possibility of collaborating with a company. And even if you pass the test, it might take months to get a response or an offer for a project! Some companies won’t even give you feedback after they tell you if you passed or not.


So, what are the alternatives? The company might get you on smaller projects in the beginning, assess them and choose to continue with the collaboration. You get paid for those projects and you both choose whether you are a good fit or not. Another way is through samples. If you have previous experience (and consent!), you can select short extracts that are relevant to the job position (if you have no experience, you can choose a short text in the same field and translate it to add it to your samples, but this is less recommended). 

Do you still believe translation tests are a good method? Let us know below!

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