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Working as a Translator at Gengo

Updated on August 14, 2017
Virginia Matteo profile image

Virginia loves learning languages and travelling, and is interested in a range of social issues.

Whether you are a new, confused Gengo translator or considering working for the company, I can help. I joined Gengo in 2015 as an English-Polish and Polish-English translator at standard level. I have earned $5,323.52 and translated 21,247 collections so far (as of July 2017). This gives me a valuable insight into the workings of the company, which I can share with you.

Gengo is a crowdsourcing platform. Everyone with the right qualifications can claim translation jobs for a specific language pair. Gengo works on a first-come-first-serve basis, so you need to claim jobs quickly. Translators are notified about new jobs via email or RSS reader.

Tests, Levels, and Pay

You don’t need formal qualifications to join Gengo but you do need to qualify on the website. There are various tests which give you different qualifications: the pre-test, standard, pro and proofread test. The first two allow you to work at standard level, the third at pro level, and the fourth gives you the qualifications to proofread your fellow translators’ work.


Note that it is easier to translate into your mother tongue. That said, Gengo doesn’t prohibit translating into other languages – take advantage of it if you feel strong enough in your second language.


Also note that Gengo has style guides, which contain some formatting and punctuation rules you have to conform to. Click here for the American English version. Taking tests without familiarising yourself with the style guide first is a waste of time.


Pre-tests are designed to filter out people who don’t have a sufficient command of their second language. It consists of 5 multiple-choice questions and you need to score at least 4 points – which isn’t difficult if you know your second language well. You are given the results immediately after completion. The test isn’t timed.


Once you’ve passed the pre-test, you need to take the standard one. You will have to translate a text into your target language. This test isn’t timed either, so there is no excuse not to proofread your translation at least twice.


To pass the standard test, you can’t make any major mistake but you’re allowed to make up to 3 minor mistakes. Click here for an overview of what is a minor and major mistake.


You should receive the results within 7 days. You can take a test up to 3 times. You’ll be given feedback if you fail to improve your performance the next time.


Passing the standard test gives you access to collections at standard level (the pay is $0.03 per word).


Once you’ve mastered the standard level, you may attempt the pro test. It is more challenging - you can have no more than one minor mistake. But the perks are worth it – the pay is $0.08 per word.


The proofread test is the gate to the highest rank within the community. In addition to having access to standard and pro collections, you also will be able to proofread the work of your fellow translators.


This system has one major downside. Tests in many language pairs are closed because Gengo has a sufficient number of translators for the current demand. This means that you may have to wait months before getting your chance to qualify.

Quality Standards

Gengo performs regular quality checks on translators. A weighted average of 10 most recent quality check makes up you overall score, which you can see on your dashboard. If the score falls too low, you could potentially lose your qualifications. But this doesn’t happen often, as Gengo prefers to give their translators a chance to improve.


To succeed at Gengo, you need to do your best all the time and especially at the beginning when you are rated most often. I recommend that you read all translation resources available on the website.


You should proofread all your translations. As deadlines at Gengo are pretty tight (sometimes it’s only an hour), you may at first struggle to meet them. Which is why it is advisable to choose only easy collections until you get used to tight deadlines.


Gengo has recently overhauled its feedback system to make it clearer. The mistakes in your translation are highlighted and have a senior translator’s comments. The feedback system can be used as a crash course on translation to boost your skills.


If your score is consistently good, the quality checks become less frequent. You are rated maybe once a month.


Gengo customers have a 5-day period to request changes to translations if something isn’t up to standard. In justified cases, he or she may even reject your translation altogether and you don’t get rewarded. But customers rarely do it – it has happened maybe twice during my entire stint at Gengo that someone requested changes.

Types of Text and Volume

The texts I translate at Gengo are relatively easy. They may be strings of commands, emails, customers’ reviews or business power point presentations. Sometimes more specialized terminology is required but you always decline a half-translated collection without any negative consequences for your quality score. It then becomes available to other translators.


Unfortunately, the volume of jobs is rarely high. There is a big demand in some language pairs, such as Japanese-English and English-Japanese, but in the majority of language pairs, you may have to wait days for a collection.


Sometimes Gengo manages to fish a big client and then you’ll have an increased workload for a couple of months. In general though, Gengo can’t be considered a reliable source of income.

Pros and Cons of Working at Gengo

Pros
Cons
You don’t need any formal qualifications
The testing systems seem unfair, as senior translators may deliberately block you from passing the pro test to reduce competition
You can work from any place in the world
The pay isn’t great
You can work only on the projects that interest you
Low volume of jobs most of the time
A source of part-time income
An unreliable source of income
You can improve your translation skills
The first-come-first-served system means that you will lose opportunities if others are faster than you
You have access to free resources for translators
Test results are final, even if you feel you’ve been judged unfairly
Relatively easy jobs
Sometimes repetitive and boring jobs

The Final Verdict

On the whole, Gengo has been good to me over the last two years. As Gengo managed to attract a big client at one point, I’ve had a couple of busy months.

However, in the majority of cases, Gengo can’t be a source of full-time income. The workflow is unreliable and you can lose opportunities because you don’t have Internet access at a particular time.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve got any questions.

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