If you don’t work exclusively with direct clients, but also with translation agencies, you will be familiar with the application process for freelance translators and you’ll have experienced that in most cases a successful application is linked to passing a test translation. There can be many reasons why you might not pass a translation test for an agency, but here are a few tips to help you succeed:
Apply only to provide translation services in your specialised fields and only accept test translations in those.
Remember that you in most cases your test translation files won’t include a TM, so you have to be sure that you can master the kind of text that is sent to you. You only get one shot, so if you fail the test because you are not familiar with the subject, you won’t be working with that agency in your specilised fields of translation either.
Plan your time.
Make sure you leave enough time on the day you do the test translation and try not having a deadline for another translation project on the same day or having your extended family stay with you. Not feeling time pressure allows you to conduct your research thoroughly and to deliberately translate instead of rushing the translation just to get it done.
Get as much information from the translation agency as you can.
If you have any questions regarding a potential target audience, specific terminology or intended purpose of the document, ask the project manager who is handling your application and in most cases you will be provided enough information to complete the test translation successfully. Ask for the information to be sent together with the test translation as otherwise it might take a day to retrieve the information, e.g. if you are in different time zones.
Read the instructions carefully.
Don’t just scan the email with the test translation as it will usually contain valuable information with regards to the test translation, e.g. terminology, length etc. Ask questions immediately to avoid any delays.
Open the file and check that you can process it properly.
Do this as soon as you receive the file and don’t confirm safe receipt of the file before opening it. If you don’t already do this when receiving any translation project, include it in your translation process.
Do your research.
Read parallel texts and research client-specific terminology – in most cases you’ll find useful information. Maybe you have also got your Termbase that you can rely on to some extent. Or maybe you have already done some work for the same client which makes it easier.
Make conscious decisions throughout the translation process.
When you translate, think how you would justify each of your decisions if you had to – and you might well have to. If you come across an unfamiliar term, document your research and keep note of parallel texts where the same term is employed in the target language to show that you made a well-informed decision. If the reviewer finds issues with your translation, you can then argue and justify your decisions based on your research findings.
Proofread your translation.
This should be self-understood and not even be mentioned, but it is so fundamental that it needs to be in this list. Run the spell-checker, because nothing is more embarrassing than spelling mistakes made by a translator. If you translate into German, consult the Duden, and I’m sure other languages have a similar reference as to the spelling of words.
Send the file in the correct format.
You will be asked to send the translated file in a specific format. Make sure you can export the file correctly and send it to the agency back the way they need it.