Friday, 18 September 2015

Translation Tests: To Do or Not to Do?

When to avoid or accept doing a translation test.

Most translators will probably face this dilemma at some point in their career. In the fifteen plus years I've been working as a freelancer, I’ve been asked to do tests on several occasions. But should you do them?

Well, let me start with a story.

When I first started out, I hadn't really entertained the idea that there might be bogus agencies out there. Bad payers yes, but not translation thieves! Parasitic companies that ask translators to do tests to get their clients’ projects done for free.

I was only a few months into my freelance career when an agency contacted me, asking me if I could do a translation test, with the promise that there would be more work if I passed. New to the game and eager to get established, I stupidly agreed to do a free translation of approximately 4000 characters. [I saw you shake your head and roll your eyes then].

To be honest, I did have my suspicions, but I'd checked their website - they seemed a legit agency - and we'd exchanged several e-mails. N.B.: they were always very responsive during the negotiations and when I had any questions about the job...

Anyway, I finished the job on time, sent it off and awaited their almighty verdict. Nothing came. I sent them an e-mail, asking them if they’d received the work, but they never replied. I chased them again: not a bleep came from my inbox.

So, I went on the company's website to look up their telephone number and, to my horror – and shame –, I discovered they didn't have one. Again, mia colpa, I should have known better. I'd checked just about everything else except that one extremely important detail. 

I'd been taken for a proverbial ride.

Determined not to let it happen again, I started trawling the online forums and found quite a lot of sensible advice – as well as disagreement  on whether it was good practice to do translation tests or not.

Armed with this contrasting but valuable knowledge, I decided that I would only do a translation test under very special circumstances, i.e. if a reputable client was offering a long-term contact, and, in any case, I would never do a test of more than one file (I usually work on a 1500 characters, spaces included basis, which is roughly half a page).

This decision has, in fact, served me well for the rest of my career, and I’m usually able to spot one of these rats a mile off now. 

Which brings me to the reason for this post.

Last month I responded to an advert for an Italian-English book translator. They said they were selecting for long-term translators – the guy claims he is an experienced publisher, who is launching a new publishing house – and that they would be in touch with the short-listed candidates in September. I also checked him up online: he didn't have a company website yet, but he did appear to have a history in publishing…

Well, what do you know? Yesterday I got an e-mail from this, ahem, ‘publisher’, who said that they were now contacting all of the translators to ‘wheedle out’ the ‘false mother tongue speakers’ (i.e. those with a British surname, who might not be pure native speakers, because they’ve grown up in Italy, for example) and that if I wanted to be considered for the job I would basically have to do a two-page [!] translation test of the book. After which, if I passed his  'exacting standards', he would send me the details about the payment terms and conditions, etcetera.

Come again? So you’re basically saying you want me to do a two-page translation of a book, without even telling me when the deadline is or what the payment terms and conditions are going to be? Sei matto? (Are you mad?)

Evidently so...

For a conscientious professional, a book translated by multiple translators is enough to keep the author, translators, proofreader and publishers awake at night - for life. 
But this sly customer doesn’t care, because he’s hedged his bets on getting his job done super quick – and practically for FREE! Capisici?

So, I wrote back, politely telling him that as a busy professional, I am not prepared to do a two-page translation test; a shorter test would be enough to understand the quality of my work. And, that I would like to know the payment terms and conditions before I even consider his offer.

Guess what? I haven’t heard a peep from him since…

So, after all my rambling, what you probably want to know is when should you agree to do a test translation? Well, it really depends on the case, but here’s a few tips that should help guide you in making a decision.

Forewarned is forearmed
If you’ve vetted a company as much as you can (by Googling, checking the translator forums, etc.,) and you agree to do a test, make sure the text is short. It’s also important to check – you can usually tell just by reading it – whether it’s actually a snippet from a full text or a finished piece. If it looks like a finished piece and your instincts are telling you to run for the hills, run for the hills!

Size matters

Today, the only people I do tests for are usually reputable companies or translation agencies who ask me for a ‘reasonable’ test, i.e. not a ridiculously long one. This shows they understand the job and also appreciate the time and effort that goes into a translation.

It ain’t necessarily so

In any case, bear in mind that even serious translation agencies won’t necessarily ask you for a test. They will usually try you out on a [paid] short job to see how you work first, then, if they like what you do, they’ll use you again.

Terms and conditions

Always get them to provide you with the date of the deadline and the payment terms and conditions before agreeing to do any test. If they won’t give you this information they’re probably up to something and should be avoided.

The personal touch

If possible, have a telephone or Skype call with the potential client first. Even better, if they’re in your area and the deadline allows, arrange to meet in person. That way you’ll have a better idea of who and what you’re dealing with. Usually, most serious clients will be more than happy to Skype, talk on the phone or meet face to face.

Set firm boundaries
Where reasonable, impose your own limitations on the interested party politely, stating that you usually only do tests of approximately 750 characters, which will be more than sufficient to evaluate the style and accuracy of your work. You will soon get an idea of their true intentions.

Obviously, there’s always the risk of making a mistake and even when you’re really cautious you can still be conned. But, if you stay within the less than 1500 character rule, you’ll probably feel a lot better about it than if you slogged over a couple of pages work for nothing.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Magnino Fine Furniture Holds Debut Exhibition at TENT London

Hello again, folks. It's been a busy, yet exciting week at Bastian Contrarian

In fact, I've been working on some 'Top Secret' projects: 

The translation of two screenplays (one a black comedy and the other a dark, dystopian tale, based in an obscure but not too distant future, about the downfall of some powerful, wealthy people); writing a promotional e-mail for the launch of a new, Italian fine jewellery company; translating a press release and website for a Milanese law firm, and, finally, translating some recipes for a tomato salsa producer. How varied is that?

Then another project came up, which I can actually shout about! 

On Monday morning, Magnino Fine Furniture contacted me asking for some help with a press release for their debut exhibition at TENT LondonCreated by Armando Magnino, the designer furniture is flawlessly crafted and amazingly beautiful - and I'm not just saying that, it's true.

So, I wrote this short release for his The London Design Festival press pack:

Magnino Fine Furniture Launches a New 
Furniture Collection at Tent London

Waltham Cabinet, designed and created for the Everyday
Encounters exhibition at the William Morris Gallery.

From the 24th until the 27th of September 2015, Magnino Fine Furniture will be presenting an exclusive range of designer furniture at Tent London.

Born near Turin, in Italy, Armando Magnino is an award-winning designer, who currently lives and works in Warwick, Warwickshire.

After leaving his homeland and working as a youth worker, outdoor educator and personal development trainer in the United States and the UK, in 1997, Armando began his formal training in furniture making at Warwickshire College, where he acquired a City and Guilds with distinction (Medal of Excellence). Successively, in 2009, he took a BA Honours in Furniture Design at the Rycotewood Furniture Centre and he also joined the Society of Designer Craftsman, receiving the SDC Trustees TSB Award for the most promising new Licentiate.

During his career, he has worked for the likes of the Robin Furlong furniture company, where he worked on the Gullwing Cabinet, which was awarded the Guild Mark by the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers (2001). Other award-winning pieces that he has designed and created include: Slider, which came second in the 2009 New Forest Show – Fine Crafted Wood Competition, and the Waltham Cabinet, which was commissioned for the Everyday Encounters exhibition at the William Morris Gallery, in Walthamstow, and later exhibited at the Ashmolean Museum Broadway from 2013 until 2014.

This Thing of Darkness, mirror and shelf in English Oak.

To mark his debut exhibition at London Design Week, Magnino Furniture will be showcasing a unique range of designer furniture, including cabinets, shelving systems, coffee tables and home accessories, which are being exhibited as a collection for the first time.

Fascinated by unusual geometries, the designer’s work is inspired by his interest in literature, architecture, geometry and the forms he sees in his everyday life and nature. Fusing century-old furniture making techniques and modern technology, the designer skilfully combines premium quality wood, mirrors and glass to create pieces that are both beautiful and practical.

 “I’m really excited about this exhibition. Showing my work at Tent feels like a major step towards bringing my work out of the craft shows, where I have been lurking for some time, and getting my work in front of a wider, more design-savvy audience”, states Armando Magnino about taking part in the show.

Magnino Fine Furniture will be exhibiting on Stand M11 (Hall T3) at Tent London, Old Truman Brewery Hanbury Street, London, E1 6QR, UK.

Opening times: Thursday, 24th September, from 10am - 7pm; Friday 25 September, from 10am - 8pm; Saturday 26 September, from 10am - 8pm, and Sunday 27 September, from 11am - 6pm.


Wishing you all the best, Armando.  I'm sure your furniture will be a huge success!

So, if you would like further information on our press release writing services, just drop us a line. We're always happy to help!

That's me signing out for now. Take care and enjoy the rest of your week.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Parliamo!: A New Season of Italian Conversation Lessons in Solihull

The summer is over - "Summer? What summer?", some of you may ask - and the new season of Italian conversation lessons has begun at the Ramada Hotel bar, in Solihull.

Ciao a tutti!

Tonight's lesson was really good fun and we also welcomed two new students to the beginner's course, which was great!

The Italian lesson's are held every Wednesday, at the Ramada Hotel bar (known locally as The George). It's a very friendly and relaxed learning environment, where you can have a drink and meet up with like-minded people, who share the same passion for Italy and the Italian language as you.

In the first session (advanced), student's engage in guided conversation and reading, while in the second we work from the Contatti 1 Course Book, which provides a more structured learning programme for people just starting out. At times, we even throw in a few games like Monopoly and Uno as well.

Parking can be found at Morrisons or the Malvern Park Avenue car park.

If you would like to come along or require further information, simply send me an e-mail or give me a call on the number in the image above.

All levels are welcome, so don't be shy.

A presto!


New Website, Blood-curdling Tales and Violin Makers...

Yes, I know, it's been ages...

It's been a long time since I posted something on this blog and it's really been bugging me. But, alas, there's only one of me and they don't provide personal cloning services - well not just yet, anyway...

So, I just thought I'd give you all a brief update on what's been going down in Bastianlandia.

Over the last year, I've been very busy working with some interesting, new clients and we've also been updating our website, which is almost finished and ready to be translated into beautiful Italian. 

For those of you who are wondering what happened to Art in Rure: it was difficult to get things going as planned, but I still managed to organise a couple of art exhibitions in some great venues, including John Lewis Solihull and Specsavers

Although I'm still heavily interested in the arts, I've decided to put the project on the back burner for now. This doesn't mean it's gone forever, it just means that I've decided to focus on other areas of the business instead, like our PR, marketing, copywriting and translation services. 

That said, if any local shops or businesses are interested in holding an exhibition or event on their premises, please do get in touch. You will not only be supporting a varied and vibrant Solihull art community, but you'll also have an opportunity to get a lot of free publicity and potentially attract some new clients as well.

Earlier this year, we worked on a wonderful website and video translation project (see above) for Nicola Monzino, an Italian violin maker. The content has a really personal and humble tone and was a real pleasure to work on.

Spooky story coming soon!

I also had the fantastic news that the English version of Alberto Buchi's fantasy-horror book that I translated last year, is already at the final editing stage, so his macabre tale will soon be lying on bedside tables worldwide. I don't have a definite date yet - there's rumours that it will be on the 1st of November 2015 - but I'll be posting more updates when it comes out.

Well, the sand timer's run out for now, but I'll be back shortly with more news on what I've been up to during this lengthy blog silence...