Translation samples - the other side

The other day I wrote (quoted from my website) a little something about my views regarding the never ceasing requests for translation samples, often also called "trials".
These always look like tests for the translator.
BUT I have come to think of these things ALSO as tests of the companies/clients requesting these trials.

1) I have been working 27 years as a translator and do not need to test today in order to know what I can do. Samples of my work can be found on my website too.

2) During these long years of work I have often been asked to "evaluate" some translations made by somebody else. If these had been work, it is "natural" that they are several (many) pages long, but there have also been plenty of trials. These were mostly 3-4 pages long. But I usually need AT MOST half a page to get an idea of what that person can (or cannot) do. If I go through the rest of these pages, this will provide me only with some more minor details, or some specific words that may have been used wrongly.

3) When I get something to "evaluate", I am expected to produce an output within hours, or at the latest 2-3 days. However, those "trials" I have been doing are send to some mysterious "reviewer" and it takes something LITERALLY months to get the "results" back. The details of these results are - as I wrote before - are most often kept "secret". If someone (the reviewer) needs THAT much time to come to a conclusion -> I as a translator feel sufficiently authorized to question his/her competence!

4) I also dare to doubt the competence of the reviewer/company when they are ONLY able to evaluate my skills with ONE PARTICULAR text. Anybody who claims to be a professional in this field should be able to evaluate the skills from ANY translation sample.

5) Then I get sample text, which contain mistakes = in the source language.
Thinking positively I could regard these as "part of the trial", intentionally placed there to see if I pick those up.
In case THAT was not the purpose, these mistakes reveal the lack of language skill of the client/company providing the sample. If ther are not able to write in their native language, how in the world do they intend to judge the quality of a certain translation?
Precisely this last aspect provides in MY MIND a red flag for that particular client. If I work for them, they are likely to come up with all sorts of unreasonable claims etc. I have seen this before. More than once.

So, I do a trial and observe how the results come back: this give me a certain view on how much the client can be trusted.

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Logo of the NHK (Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai) 日本語: 日本放送...
Logo of the NHK (Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai) 日本語: 日本放送協会 3つのたまごロゴ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
=普通のアルファベット文字、 = Thomas Blasejewicz (当然半角だ!)
あるいは「正しい」カタカタ =トーマス ブラーゼイェーヴィッツ

「それはどういうつもりか。外人を付き合わない事を表現しているか」と言う内容でNHKで問い合わせた所で、NHK から次の返事(抜粋)が来た:


Thomas Blasejewicz (特殊文字は何処にもない!純ASCII文字!)だ
横文字がそんなに大変であれば、何で貴社は自分の名前を横文字で表記するので しょうか = NHK。日本語の言葉をどうしても横文字で略する必要性あるか。

そしてそれを「全角カタカナ」で入力せよと要求されたら、自分の名前の正しい カタカナ表記:トーマス ブラーゼイェーヴィッツだ。これも受け付けない。



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Stop suppression

I've just joined an amazing organization called "Avaaz", which means "voice" in many languages. Check it out here:



Translation sample(s)

I (no - I believe EVERY freelance translator) am often asked to do a "trial translation" when I get in contact with a new company, or in some cases also for companies I have been working with for long years already, but where **new clients** ask for these trials. In the latter case at least the translation agency PAYS for the work done.
Otherwise somebody (who?) evaluates my work using some mysterious "quality criteria" that are neither defined nor disclosed and then comes to the conclusion, that I am not qualified - but, of course, cannot tell me why. I am sentenced guilty, but do not get a chance to defend myself (my work).
Typical example of a response from such a company:
"Our evaluators checked your translation strictly against the same criteria our Clients evaluate us, and we regret to inform you that your translation was not awarded a passing mark. We understand the disappointment, but in compliance with internal policies, evaluation details are kept confidential."
If they cannot tell ME about MY work, I must assume they are ashamed of THEIR work ...
In those cases in which the other party had the courage to show me (again an experience that probably ALL translators worldwide share) their "corrections" (those little red marks all over the paper), they usually turn out to be insignificant stylistic changes or even outright mistakes. 

To quote someone from a (translators) mailing list:

"If you actually ask them to make a list of what is actually "wrong", most claims are usually unfounded (style issues, minor formatting, ambiguous source text, in-house company-specific abbreviations, job titles etc).
Style issues are particularly bad for English where there often myriads of alternatives but you can only pick _one_ word. Customer A wants that word, but Customer B wants one of the other ones and Customer C wants something different again.
Quite often also, the "issues" disappear completely as soon as you ask the agency to put something in writing."

In what other industry and for what possible product/service would this kind of claim be possible? For a reclamation about a defective product you have to produce evidence of the shortcoming/defect = show the defective product. If you take a written examination, usually you get back at least your grades and most likely also the examination paper WITH the correction marks. 

If a translator does a trial which is then rejected, the company that considers the quality of that trial inferior, must certainly be very confident about the quality of their own work and the editors who evaluated the trial. If they are absolutely right and have so much confidence -> well then there cannot be any sensible reason for this secrecy! 
For these reasons I have to decided NOT to do any trials any more. Above (refers to a page on my website: http://www.einklang.com/Translation%20samples.htm) I provided a number of actual translation samples. Check / investigate / judge them any which way you choose. If you like them: fine. If not: I am sorry.
And ... if ANY of (your) evaluators tells you, they can check/evaluate the quality of my translations ONLY using the sample that particular company has provided ... then you have a SERIOUS PROBLEM with your evaluator(s)!!!

Thomas Blasejewicz
The chief virtue that language can have is clearness,
and nothing detracts from it so much as the use of unfamiliar words.

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Degrading translators

HAWORTH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08:  Bronte books ...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Apparently I submitted a quote on a job offer through Proz.com, although I really do not recall that one. That company, "mygengo.com" replied yesterday:

"Thanks for your response to my ProZ ad regarding Japanese to English translation. It would be great if you could create an account on our website and begin our translator qualification process. There's an automated 5-question test and an approx. 300-word translation test that we require."
They want to check my "qualification", but then suggest to potential clients, that it is not necessary to pay for "a level of expertise". What about me???

So, I checked their website and found the following:

"The question we asked ourselves was whether or not customers should always be paying for a level of expertise when they don’t actually need it. The answer we came up with was absolutely not."

My comment:
THAT is the wrong question when working with "real" humans, because the level of "expertise" (experience) of a translator is what defines him or her and cannot (or at least SHOULD not) be turned ON/OFF. Thus, requiring that a translator does NOT show any expertise is to my mind AT LEAST degrading to that translator or rather an outright insult!

"When comparing our services to others in the industry, we rates up to 70% lower AND we offer the same professional-quality.  We also provide a 100% money back guarantee. Our customers know that if they’re not satisfied, we’ll make it right."

My comment:
Should it not be "our rates are"? -> A mistake that should not occur on a professional website, where it is actually presented for the entire world to see.
"Money back guarantee" -> does that imply:
"No money for the translator when the customer does not feel like paying"? No, thank you. As a professional translator depending on my translation work for a living THAT is not an acceptable option. Or will this agency cover any such mood swings of the customer?

"Say good-bye to clumsy machine translations and expensive professional agencies. Welcome to myGengo."

My comment:
"Say good-bye to expensive professional agencies." This presumably means for the translator: "Say good-bye to proper/decent pay". As opposed to machines, real people (translators) need to eat! But if their work cannot (literally) "put food on their tables" , the only resource for the clients left will be those "clumsy machine translation" … And if the clients are companies that take pride in their products, they should also take pride in the translation of their materials.

"Standard translations at myGengo begin at just $0.05/word and $0.03/character (Chinese, Japanese and Korean). "

My comment:
MAYBE (?) people living in rural China or India can still afford to work for these (slave labor) rates. But not ANYBODY I know of, who is living in ANY of the developed countries of the world. Definitely I cannot afford to work for this rate here in Japan. The result would be STARVATION -> and this is NOT a joke!
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Four pages ... how much is that?

English: Portrait of Thomas Jefferson, founder...
Image via Wikipedia
Again and again I get job offers through a number of translator sites like Proz.com etc., like this morning, where the offer sounds like this:

"We are looking for some one to translate around 4 pages from Japanese to English. Please let us know let us know the cost and turn around time of the translation."

However - and I DO NOT think I need to mention this to ANYONE actually "working" in the field -

"translate around 4 pages from Japanese to English"

can mean a lot of things: from hand written pages with only a few characters per page to fine print patent specifications, where "4 pages" would be 15 pages of translation. Naturally, both costs and turn-around time will be different.

So, what would I supposed to offer this outsourcer?
I have seen similar job offers over the past 15 years (since working via the web has become fashionable) countless times and am really wondering, if the outsourcers placing these job offers are incapable of understanding the significance of being SPECIFIC in their offer, when they want a SPECIFIC (cost, time) answer.

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties
than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to
control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by
deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks
will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up
homeless on the continent their fathers conquered." Thomas Jefferson, 1802
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