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Unpacking the Contentious Matter of Testing Freelance Translators

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Tests for freelance language professionals get a bad rap, some of it well deserved. The least scrupulous language service providers (LSPs) have been known to save money by disguising their clients’ projects as unpaid “tests” for translators. But some professional translators may also object to tests, paid or unpaid, on principle, saying that their credentials speak for themselves. Both LSPs and freelancers have valid arguments, and the truth is that tests, like any kind of job interview, should be a two-way street. LSPs want some kind of guarantee that suppliers are able to handle the work, and candidates should be able to get an idea of the actual work they would be assigned. Deciding to integrate testing into the recruitment process is not a quick fix; rather, it is an investment in the pool of freelancers who project managers feel they can entrust with projects. When considering — and then designing — a test, LSPs should think about their goals, and why a test is necessary. In some cases, LSPs and freelancers might be better served by implementing a short “probation” period, during which a translator works on a set number of (paid) projects, and will enter the LSP’s pool of vetted and trusted freelancers depending on their performance. SlatorCon Remote returns on December 3, 2020, featuring the best of our proprietary research and network of language industry leaders. Register Now Of course, a test may be necessary as part of a proposal to a high-profile client. In other instances, most freelancers might struggle to follow the meticulous formatting rules required for certain clients, and someone working on a trial basis might submit work that requires too much editing to meet a client’s deadline. Perhaps typical certifications are not available to candidates working in a hard-to-source language, and the LSP needs some way to confirm that candidates are qualified. A Game Plan for Testing The best strategy is to test to as specific a task as possible. A generic test carries the potential pitfall of a candidate later claiming the passing grade qualifies them to translate any and all content. By contrast, a domain-specific test helps LSPs assess the ease with which candidates handle a specific vocabulary and concepts. ( Vendor managers , also known as VMs, are often responsible for creating and maintaining a system in the vendor database that identifies which translators are qualified to handle specialized kinds of work, based on the tests they have passed.) The test should also mimic the conditions of the work itself. If the task at hand is translating medical documents that include handwritten comments from physicians, the test should include handwritten text. Similarly, candidates should have access to the kind of resources freelancers typically have when working on these projects, such as style guides and clear instructions. Who will create and grade the tests? In a classic catch-22, an LSP tests candidates to build a pool of freelancers to handle a specific kind of work; if an LSP lacks at […]

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