Our infamous test translation: a walk through Mordor

“How do you always manage to find such great translators?” is a question we hear quite often. We’d like to dig into this a little deeper, because it leads us to the core of our DNA: top quality.

From the numerous CVs we receive, we select the most impressive. These translators are invited to take a test. Not just a standard test, either: it goes without saying that we take their specialities into account. Clearly, it wouldn’t be a good idea to give a financial translator a lifestyle translation test or the other way around.

Our tests have caused quite a furore in the translation community. People are even talking about them on translation forums worldwide. “Unreasonable, tricky, mean, quite a challenge, a walk through Mordor,” are just some of the ways our tests have been described. It’s true that they’re extremely tricky and full of pitfalls. It’s our way of finding the best of the best. After all, you can’t build a good reputation on mediocrity.

What are we testing for exactly? Well, in addition to grammar, spelling and a correct understanding of the source text, we also want an excellent writing style. Translators who can write without playing second fiddle to top-class copywriters: those are the kind of people we want. But there’s more. Is the translator checking the links in the test and localising them correctly? Is he or she running proper nouns and names through Google to make sure they’re correct? What about scouring the internet for the correct documentation and terminology? 

We only want translators who pass our extremely tricky test with flying colours. Translators who write and think like copywriters and just love ensuring that every last detail is correct. 

Below, we will discuss 3 sneaky snippets from our tests. Take a look and judge for yourself whether you think our tests are mean... 

Snippet 1
Avec l’arrivée de ses septième et huitième Airbus A380 dans sa flotte long courrier, Air France propose une cabine La Première au design renouvelé en collaboration avec l’agence de design Yellow Windows. 

> Pitfalls: links and proper nouns
We deliberately included an incorrect link here that clicks through to the Airbus A320 range. As a translator, you must check all the information in a source text, including the links. An alert translator will spot the error, report or correct the link and localise it if a translated page exists. What’s more, the design agency is actually called Yellow Window. A simple check in Google is all it takes to find out. 

Snippet 2
Heading the bill at the Europass launch conference in Malta are the new European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism –Ján Figel– along with Luxembourg Minister for Education and Vocational Training, Mandy Delvaux Stehres. The Europass* framework includes six existing European transparency documents that share a number of common features.
 *The European Parliament and the Council adopted on 15 December 2004 a decision (2241/2004/EC) on a single community framework for the transparency of qualifications and competences (Europass). 

> Pitfalls: interpretation errors and personal names
‘Heading the bill’ is very often misinterpreted as drafting a bill, whereas here it simply refers to the top speakers at the launch conference. Ján Figeľ is actually written with an apostrophe at the end of the name. We’ve left it out to see how alert the translator is. Will he check given names in Google, or not? The same applies to the name Mady Delvaux-Stehres. We just couldn’t help ourselves, and changed that name too. Why do we do this? Because we want to guarantee to our clients that we will correct errors in their source texts. We’ve saved their reputation this way more than once before now. Six existing European transparency documents? No, there are only five. If you want to be on our team, you’d better look it up! 

Snippet 3
TOM FORD LAVENDER PALM perfectly captures this side of California. The fragrance highlights the Lavender duo with the saturated vitality of a Palm Leaf accord and sparkling Aldehydes. Pink and White Oleander and Lime Blossom lend an ethereal facet. Vetiver and Cedar enrich the blend with a woody nuance. Smooth, fluid Benzoin and Tonka Bean, touched with Olibanum and rich Green Moss texture the bottom note with an addictive warmth that reveals itself slowly for a lasting experience. 

> Pitfalls: style and false friends
Style is very important here. You’ll need to show your idiomatic creativity and really make the reader smell the perfume, as it were. Would you translate Lime Blossom as ‘limoenbloesem’ or ‘lindebloesem’? You can never trust false friends!

Evaluation
We get the test translations reviewed by our best senior translators. They really know the ropes and also have an excellent eye for style. The test translations are evaluated in terms of interpretation, the use of correct terminology, correct grammar, spelling, consistency, attention to detail, punctuation and fluency. Working exclusively with the crème de la crème allows us to live up to our tagline every day.

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