ABU DHABI // A draft law would compel translators to obtain a licence from the Ministry of Justice and pass a certification test.
However, courtroom translators would be exempt.
The FNC's legal and legislative affairs committee this week amended the bill to ensure all translation and interpretation is performed by skilled, qualified individuals, officials said.
The bill also requires translation companies to obtain an operating permit from their emirate and to have insurance. The measures are to go into effect sometime in 2012, officials said.
"The insurance will protect the firm and the translators against things like lost documents and so on; this is a responsibility," said the committee chairman Ahmed Al Zaabi (Sharjah, appointed). "This was not a requirement previously."
The bill, consisting of 39 articles, would replace a patchwork of regulations that varied among emirates. Translators who are not registered within a year of the bill's passage would be barred from practising.
Mr Al Zaabi said there would be no exemption for translators who are already registered and licenced with the Ministry of Justice.
"We have just tightened the rules," he said. "And with the new law both parties will be protected."
The committee's secretary, Musbih Al Kitbi (Sharjah, elected), said "the profession is not well-ordered, but this law puts it all into shape".
Though he could not provide details, he said some areas of the law would be relaxed for Emiratis.
Courts would also be exempt, as they often have a shortage of translators. A judge would have the right to assign whomever he sees fit to translate.
Mr Al Zaabi said the courts were "a completely different case".
"There are over 200 nationalities in the country, so sometimes a translator for a certain language cannot be found," he said. "And there are some languages that are not written but only spoken."
Haitham from Aldiwan, a translation company in Dubai, said the law would be beneficial, but only if it were enforced.
"There are a lot of firms that operate that are not licensed; the ministry should check on these stores," he said. "The law is good, but it has to be followed up."
Dr Ahmed Ankit, associate translation professor at Ajman University of Science and Technology, said the profession needed regulation to keep out amateurs.
Just because you know two languages, he said, does not mean you can translate.
"They need formal training," Dr Ankit said. "There are amateurs that as they know two languages, just translate. You can tell by the quality of translation ... When you go on the streets and see shop signs that are badly translated, neither Arabic nor English, these even affect the image of the country," he said.
The bill's other requirements include taking an oath, undergoing a test at the ministry and having professional training. Details of the test, the training and the number of translators whom the law would cover were not available.
Translation companies would also need to be operated by a licensed translator.
The committee has amended the law to include simultaneous translation, legal translation, and sign-language translation, not just document translation, which was all that the earlier version covered.
Mr Al Zaabi said the changes would regulate the profession in a clearer way and help close down unauthorised firms. He said that with the regulations, competition would grow and the quality of translation would improve.
The bill is to be presented to the rest of the FNC at its next session, next week, before passing to the Cabinet for final approval.