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Opening Doors

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 organization’s successful effort to translate several ASTM standards into Arabic—a 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 Problem

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 Programs.

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 countries.

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

Khaled Awad is president of ACTS (Advanced Construction Technology Services), Beirut, Lebanon and is a member of ACI, ASTM, ASCE and the Institute of Concrete Technology in the UK.

ASTM Standards in Arabic Translation

C 29/C29M, Test Method for Bulk Density (“Unit Weight”) and Voids in Aggregate

C 31/C31M, Practice for Making and Curing Concrete Test Specimens in the Field

C 39/C39M, Test Method for Compressive Strength of Cylindrical Concrete Specimens

C 40, Test Method for Organic Impurities in Fine Aggregates for Concrete

C42/C42M, Test Method for Obtaining and Testing Drilled Cores and Sawed Beams of Concrete

C 78, Test Method for Flexural Strength of Concrete (Using Simple Beam with Third-Point Loading)

C 88, Test Method for Soundness of Aggregates by Use of Sodium Sulfate or Magnesium Sulfate

C94/C94M, Standard Specification for Ready-Mixed Concrete

C 117, Test Method for Materials Finer than 75-µm (No. 200) Sieve in Mineral Aggregates by Washing

C 123, Test Method for Lightweight Particles in Aggregate

C 127, Test Method for Specific Gravity and Absorption of Coarse Aggregate

C 128, Test Method for Specific Gravity and Absorption of Fine Aggregate

C 131, Test Method for Resistance to Degradation of Small-Size Coarse Aggregate by Abrasion and Impact in the Los Angeles Machine

C 136, Test Method for Sieve Analysis of Fine and Coarse Aggregates

C 138, Test Method for Unit Weight, Yield, and Air Content (Gravimetric) of Concrete

C 142, Test Method for Clay Lumps and Friable Particles in Aggregates

C 143, Test Method for Slump of Hydraulic Cement Concrete

C 172, Practice for Sampling Freshly Mixed Concrete

C 173, Test Method for Air Content of Freshly Mixed Concrete by the Volumetric Method

C 192, Practice for Making and Curing Concrete Test Specimens in the Laboratory

C 231, Test Method for Air Content of Freshly Mixed Concrete by the Pressure Method

C 470, Specification for Molds for Forming Concrete Test Cylinders Vertically

C 496, Test Method for Splitting Tensile Strength of Cylindrical Concrete Specimens

C 535, Test Method for Resistance to Degradation of Large-Size Coarse Aggregate by Abrasion and Impact in the Los Angeles Machine

C 566, Test Method for Total Evaporable Moisture Content of Aggregate by Drying

C 617, Practice for Capping Cylindrical Concrete Specimens

C 702, Practice for Reducing Samples of Aggregate to Testing Size

C1064/C1064M-99, Standard Test Method for Temperature of Freshly Mixed Portland Cement Concrete

D 75, Practice for Sampling Aggregates