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Free German to English Translation Tests

Should you say "Yes" to a free German to English translation to test your translation skills?

This is a fairly common request. It normally comes up when a potential client wants to be sure that the German translator can do the job before being officially instructed. Although you wouldn’t expect a plumber/doctor/taxi driver to meekly agree to an unpaid test installation/examination/journey, somehow translation is regarded differently.

It’s “just translating”.

However, seen from the view of the outsourcer, your potential client, why should they spend potentially significant sums if they have no guarantee that the translation you’ll provide meets professional standards? They want to avoid wasting time and money getting your text redone.

So, when asked, your answer is....JEIN! ("JA" and "NEIN" – i.e. "yes" and "no"!)

As so often, it depends.

Reasons to say "Yes"

You may agree to a free German to English translation test when you:

  • Have heard of the client or outsourcer (agency) and are confident they can genuinely assess your translation abilities.
  • Are only asked to translate a maximum of one paragraph of text.
  • Are fairly sure that a good job done will lead to repeat business, making your initial investment in time and effort worthwhile.
  • Can’t provide a sample translation in that particular subject area but are confident of being able to do a good job.
  • Have carried out some research on the client (web searches, translator communities) and find no reports of them treating translators unfairly.

Reasons to (politely) say "No"

On the other hand, you might REFUSE to provide a free German to English translation where:

  • The potential job is too small to warrant the initial input.
  • You deem it unlikely that the job will lead to future work.
  • The test piece is a significant length – this indicates a lack of understanding about the work involved in translation.
  • The outsourcer is making the request of several translators simultaneously, significantly reducing the likelihood of you becoming the chosen German translator.
  • You can already supply sample translations in that particular subject area (remember to ensure client anonymity by blanking out removing names/figures where necessary).
  • Your CV clearly states that you have experience in the field in question and/or you can supply references from satisfied clients.

A cautionary note...

I’ve occasionally come across forum discussions on translator community websites warning about outsourcers who attempt to obtain a German to English translation free by asking several translators to provide “sample translations”.

Each translator is sent a separate section of the original text as the outsourcer attempts to get the entire text translated free of charge. Luckily active discussion amongst the translator community makes this sort of practice increasingly rare.

An important exception!

If the idea of a free German to English translation comes from you!

This is a really good way of showing a potential, direct client that you can really help their business by providing quality translations.

Limit the offer to 5-6 paragraphs, examine the company literature/website for a text which has either been badly translated, or not translated at all, and show what you can do.

This is putting your money where your mouth is, and a good sign of your determination to do a good job.

Go get that client!

A compromise?

You may want to consider offering a special reduced rate for a first translation. But bearing in mind that it’s always harder to put your prices up than to reduce them (!), the terms of any such offer have to be clearly spelt out.

Give your standard line or word rate and then offer a once-off discount, as a percentage. You might want to specify a maximum text length too.

This solution indicates that both sides are interested in entering a professional partnership.

I hope this gives you a little food for thought and helps prepare you for the inevitable free German to English translation request!

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