The Translation of ASTM Standards to Arabic
by Khaled Awad
The use of certain ASTM standards is critical to attaining certification
as an American Concrete Institute Field Testing Technician. But field personnel testing concrete
in the Middle East came up against a language barrier in trying
to use the English-language ASTM standards. Khaled Awad, president
of ACTS in Beirut, Lebanon, describes his organizations successful
effort to translate several ASTM standards into Arabica development
that benefits Arab engineers and technicians and improves the
safety of Middle Eastern construction personnel and citizens through
quality construction practices.
Compilation of ASTM standards for concrete translated into Arabic
for Middle Eastern users.
The ACI Certified Field Testing Technicians program requires that
personnel testing concrete in the field be certified. These programs
are all English-based examinations that refer to English-based
standards from ASTM. For instance, ACI Field Testing Technician
Grade I is based on seven ASTM standards.
In most Arab countries, the English language is the second language
and is neither mastered nor commonly used by a number of engineers,
inspectors, and certainly technicians working in concrete construction.
This has been a continuing concern whenever local project specifications
refer to English documents, namely ACI codes and ASTM standards,
the most widely-accepted references for concrete construction
in several Arab countries.
Therefore, limiting the certification programs to English in the
Arab countries would ultimately impede the growing acceptance
and integration of ACI Certification in the local specifications
and practices. This would have also implied non-compliance with
the requirements of ASTM C 94 (see page 27 for title), the standard
that is referenced in the specifications of nearly every concrete
construction project in the Middle East.
ACTS (Advanced Construction Technology Services) is a Lebanese
material testing and consulting organization based in Beirut and
operating in several countries in the Middle East. Since 1996,
ACI International has approved ACTS to be the Local Sponsoring
Group for ACI Certification Programs in the Middle East. Since
then, ACTS has been successfully conducting ACI programs in English
in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait,
Jordan, and Oman, particularly ACI Field Testing Technician Grade
I Certification. The program is due to start soon in Bahrain,
Qatar, and Turkey during 2001.
We soon realized at ACTS that the ASTM standards referenced in
the ACI Certification Programs should be available in the mother
tongue, Arabic, in order to increase the local acceptance of the
ACI programs and to render ACI Certification accessible to all
individuals working in the concrete industry, irrespective of
their understanding of English. We also saw that this could be
an opportunity to facilitate the use and interpretation of ASTM
standards commonly used in concrete construction.
Creating the Solution
ACTS approached the Housing and Building Research Center (HBRC)
in Egypt, which issues the Egyptian Concrete Code, to translate
all ASTM standards referenced in ACI Certification Programs. In
addition to publishing and updating the concrete code as well
as several other national engineering references, HBRC is a governmental
body, part of the Egyptian Ministry of Housing and New Urban Communities,
specializes in applied research, training, quality control, and
structural assessment investigation.
The Arab Ministers of Housing had adopted the Egyptian Concrete
Code as the official Arabic Concrete Code and therefore the persons
working on the code enjoyed high credibility on the national and
regional level in addition to their familiarity with the various
dialects in the Arabic language.
ACTS also approached U.S. AID (Agency for International Development)
in Egypt to fund the translation work commissioned to HBRC. U.S.
AID responded positively as they valued the importance of having
these standards available in Arabic, especially since most of
these documents would be made integral parts of U.S. AID-funded
local construction projects.
When the pieces of the project came together, ACTS approached
ASTM Headquarters to obtain ASTM permission for the translation
and publication of the standards to Arabic. ACTS and ASTM concluded
a copyright license agreement whereby ACTS would ensure the suitability
of the translation with the original official standards and obtain
the right to publish and distribute the standards in the Arab
countries, including appropriate royalties to ASTM.
In order to ensure complete integrity and conformance with the
English material of ASTM, ACTS invited a group of Arab-American
professionals headed by Dr. Sami Rizkallah to review the translation
and coordinate with the Egyptian team and ACTS all the necessary
technical and editorial details that made the translation most
accurate to the original official version of the standards.
After a thorough process of translation, review, correction, and
concurrent update of recently revised standards, ACTS finally
compiled the standards in one book of 150 pages. The book included
the 29 ASTM standards representing the latest versions issued
by ASTM as of February 2000 and referenced in ACI Certification
Promoting the Solution
ACTS and ASTM organized a tour in Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia,
and the United Arab Emirates to launch the book and address the
technical communities in these countries with the importance of
standards to the quality of construction and the role and mission
of ASTM in this respect. Four seminars on Consensus Standards
and Quality Construction were organized in May in Beirut, Cairo,
Riyadh, and Dubai. Jim Pierce, past-chairman of ASTM and past-president
of ACI, and Khaled Awad, president of ACTS, addressed local audiences
of engineers and concrete practitioners about the role of standards
in quality construction and the positive impact expected from
adequate interpretation and implementation of standards. Jim also
covered the consensus scheme of ASTM committees and the balloting
process that lead to wide market-acceptance and better conformance
with the standards.
Finally, the seminar pointed to the importance of the Arabic translated
standards to the Arab construction community and the work done
by ACTS through two years of assiduous coordination among Egypt,
Lebanon, and the United States.
The seminars were very well-attended in all countries and sponsored
by the Ministers of Housing and Public Works in each of these
Opening the Way
The translation project opens the way for a wide acceptance of
ASTM standards related to concrete construction in the Arab countries.
It will also permit thousands of technicians, inspectors, and
engineers to be ACI-certified irrespective of their knowledge
of English. It also paved the way for a potential collaboration
between ASTM and local technical bodies to make available to the
engineering and construction community standards referenced in
local building codes but not available in Arabic. There is now
a comprehensive translation process and mechanism that could be
used as the basis for similar work in the future. A task group
of HBRC and ACTS representatives is currently evaluating the need
for translating several ASTM standards related to fire resistance.
ACTS is currently forging alliances with technical societies and
marketing institutions to distribute the book in several Arab
countries. In the United Arab Emirates, the Engineering Society
will be distributing books before the end of the year. In Egypt,
ACTS will be working jointly with HBRC and several engineering
marketing bodies to distribute books in the next three years.
ACTS is continuing to partner in every Arab country with the local
engineering bodies in order to maximize reach and distribution
of the translated standards.
The translations are the only available Arabic reference about
standards and specifications in concrete construction; it is expected
that there will be widespread acceptance and use of the book.
In addition to the recognition the book will receive through promotional
efforts, the goal of the translation project has been achieved:
No Arab technician, inspector, concrete practitioner, or engineer
will be deprived of being ACI-certified on the basis of language.
The challenge previously existing about the difficulty in certifying
Arab personnel according to ACI Programs has been entirely removed.
Copyright 2000, ASTM