Translation tests and LQIs

By Cristina Plaza, Project Manager in Nóvalo.

One of the main ways translation companies have to assess translators are translation tests. After receiving an application with a curriculum vitae and a letter of introduction, and selecting a possible candidate, most translation companies decide to send a translation test in order to assess translators’ knowledge, aptitudes and attitudes. This translation can be a real project or a text that has been manipulated to check certain skills. But in any case this is only a test that will allow translators to be part of a translation database. Their continuance in that database will depend on the quality of their future jobs, assessed with linguistic quality inspections (LQIs) of the projects they deliver, apart from their methodologies and personal attitude, as my colleague Valentín pointed out in this post about empathy.

For translation tests some companies prefer sending short texts (about 300-350 words). In our opinion, this is not the best way to carry out a translation test, as the candidate will not be dealing with a real situation. We would suggest using current projects for translation tests, as in that case the translator will have to work in a real context, with deadlines (it should be taken into account it is a test, so some extra time should be given), references (glossaries, style guides, translation memories, checklists…), possible inconsistencies in previous jobs, translation tools, among other aspects. Of course, the text shouldn’t be very long, a test for example of 10,000 words. On average, the text should have among 1,000-1,500 words and it should be a paid job, except in specific circumstances. This depends on the company’s policies. It goes without saying that the project manager (PM) has to inform about these conditions to the translator.

Regarding the subject, the text should match translator’s specialization. Some translators think translation tests become meaningless if there is the possibility to send it to a colleague that “helps” us with that test. As we mentioned at the beginning it is not only the translation test, but also our daily jobs. If the last ones start getting worse and project managers detect it is not our specialization field, they will not trust us for future projects.

As I did in my previous post, I’ll try to give some advices for translators and companies doing translation tests.

Tips for translators

1. You’ll be assessed by a linguist and a project manager, so you’ll have to prove that you are as good in translation as in dealing with problems, instructions, etc. Furthermore please note your attitude will be an important factor when deciding if you will be finally part of the freelance database, so try to be polite and friendly.

2. Try to manage your questions so that the PM only receives one or two e-mails with them. It is also advisable trying to solve questions on your own, as lack of security in the use of tools, for example, can give the wrong impression. Refer to user guides or online tutorials. Regarding linguistic queries, please follow the procedure indicated by your PM.

3. Before delivering, be sure you have run the speller, in Word if possible and twice if needed, and deleted all double spaces and spaces before punctuation if you are translating into Spanish. This seems quite obvious, but we continue finding a lot of errors of this kind, even if they affect negatively LQI results. In Spanish, there are also two typical errors in grammar: the use of “el mismo/la misma” as anaphoric element is incorrect and the expression name + the preposition “a” + verb is a gallicism.

4. Avoid extensive delivery notes justifying your decisions. Use them only when needed. When you receive the LQI results, analyze them and check if the reviewer is right or wrong. Most LQI forms have a column for translator’s comments. If the reviewer is right, recognize your mistake and propose solutions for the future. However, if the reviewer is wrong, try to show your point of view in an objective and transparent way. This can be a positive point as you will demonstrate you can justify your translation properly and in a professional manner.

Tips for reviewers/PMs

1. As PM provide all the material needed to carry out the translation. Try to be helpful when solving the translators’ questions even if they are not pertinent. This also implies getting familiar with the instructions. The translators will appreciate this attitude and this can mean they will prefer working with you in future projects than with other clients.

2. As reviewer, take into account that preferential changes regarding style should not be considered errors. Include them as preferential changes in the LQI form. Style can be very different from one translator to another, but the text can be correct in both styles. The problem arises when there are a lot of stylistic issues that make the text sounds strange for a general reader. In that case, other opinions should be taken into account.

3. The LQI results should be sent to translators as soon as possible. In that way they will be able to send back their opinion on their errors and decisions. It may occur the translator failed the test, but aptitudes and attitudes seem to fit our requirements. In those cases, I always suggest a second translation test in order to have a new opinion.

4. For the LQI, I would suggest using a standard metric, such as the LISA QA metric. It is nowadays a well established reference and it is considered a standard in the industry. Errors are categorized as minors (with a weighting figure of 1), majors (with a weighting figure of 5) or criticals (with a weighting figure of 10) for different kind of errors: mistranslations, inconsistencies, terminology, typography, etc. When an error is categorized as minor, major or critical, it is multiplied by its weighting figure and finally all scores are added together to provide a final score. It can be a Pass or Fail depending on the amount of words LQIed.

What is your experience in translation tests? Do you think they are effective?