How Do You Pronounce Qatar? Most likely Incorrectly.


In the end the second will arrive for everybody, or not less than everybody who doesn’t converse Arabic however hopes to debate this yr’s World Cup with out sounding like a complete fool.

What occurs when conversational circumstance forces us to utter the phrase “Qatar” in public?

Is it Kuh-TAR, like guitar? Or Kuh-TAH, just like the British pronunciation of catarrh, a phlegmy sore throat? What concerning the enterprise executives who bang on about how you’re 100% unsuitable and must be saying KUH-ter, like cutter (or gutter), or one thing that extra approximates KAT-ar?

Why does everybody on TV appear to have a distinct reply? Can we belief random educational YouTube movies? Is there a option to say it with out including “or nevertheless you pronounce it”? Why hasn’t FIFA issued a proper directive? It has been 12 years, in any case, since soccer’s governing physique began all this by awarding the game’s greatest championship to a tiny Gulf nation.

Sepp Blatter, the previous FIFA president, saying in 2010 that “Ka-TAR” would host the 2022 World Cup.

Karim Jaafar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Photos

However whereas a four-page phonetic information created for journalists touring to Qatar does provide a level of linguistic reduction — providing step-by-step pronunciations of useful phrases like “Assist!” and “I used to be robbed” — it’s silent on the identify of the place the place you may have to say them.

Allow us to stipulate right here that the issue isn’t willful ignorance or cultural conceitedness, however that the Arabic pronunciation of “Qatar” — قطر in Arabic script — could be very completely different from the English one:

Taoufik Ben-Amor, senior lecturer in Arabic research at Columbia College


When you’re an English speaker, you’re most likely saying it incorrectly, however solely within the sense that your pronunciation of “Paris” or “Chile” can be thought of unsuitable from the standpoint of a Parisian or a Chilean.

Which signifies that the actual query is: What kind of unsuitable is true?

“There’s no actual steering,” mentioned Neil Buethe, the chief communications officer for the US Soccer Federation, whose workforce has slowly trickled in to the nation with the identify the gamers want they might pronounce. “It’s undoubtedly been a debate.”

Sure, it has. On-line, a Qatari generally known as Mr. Q has posted a collection of movies for guests, together with one which begins, “I’ve gone forward and seen that plenty of foreigners are educating foreigners tips on how to pronounce Qatar.” He then reveals just a few clips of individuals saying “Qatar” in numerous painful methods on American TV and provides: “I respect you, you respect me, we’re all respecting one another proper now — however no.”

Hassan Al Thawadi leads Qatar’s organizing committee.

Ramon Van Flymen/EPA, by way of Shutterstock

Hassan Al Thawadi, the pinnacle of the Supreme Committee directing the World Cup preparations, mentioned in an interview that pronunciations of “Qatar” differ even contained in the host nation.

Hassan Al Thawadi, secretary common of Qatar’s World Cup group


This has not helped alleviate the final confusion amongst guests.

“Individuals had been saying ‘KUH-ter’ once we acquired there for the primary time final December,” Buethe mentioned of his journeys to the nation upfront of the World Cup. “However we had many conversations with people and with folks within the federation, and so they advised us it wasn’t right: Don’t say, ‘KUH-ter.’”

Jenny Taft, a sideline reporter for Fox Sports activities, which can broadcast the World Cup in the US, mentioned the community had made a command resolution.

Jenny Taft is reporting for Fox Sports activities from Qatar.

Bebeto Matthews/Related Press

“I don’t know who made the decision, however we’re going with Ka-TAR,” she mentioned in an interview. “I’m unsure why, however that was the choice made. And it’s distinctive, proper? Like, I most likely was saying KUH-ter main as much as this. However Ka-TAR is, I suppose, most likely the extra recognizable means the nation is pronounced.”

Jenny Taft, Fox Sports activities sideline reporter


Walker Zimmerman, a defender for the U.S. workforce, mentioned that was what he deliberate to do, too. “I say Ka-TAR,” Zimmerman mentioned in an interview within the fall. “I do know it’s most likely not the proper means — KUH-ter is for many who most likely know what they’re speaking about somewhat bit extra — however I’m going with Ka-TAR.”

Walker Zimmerman of the US nationwide workforce is aware of he doesn’t say Qatar appropriately.

Christof Koepsel/Getty Photos

The German tv community ZDF has taken a distinct strategy: Its workers had been knowledgeable by way of e mail that they had been to go together with KAT-ar. Martin Tyler, the legendary Sky Sports activities broadcaster who’s working his twelfth World Cup this yr, mentioned he would do the identical.

Martin Tyler, announcer for Sky Sports activities and SBS Australia


None of those idiosyncratic choices resolves the principle questions, nevertheless: What’s the precise pronunciation of the phrase? And what’s our drawback?

This sign up Doha offers no steering on pronunciation.

Abir Sultan/EPA, by way of Shutterstock

To start with, mentioned Sarab Al Ani, who teaches Arabic at Yale College, the primary consonant within the phrase Qatar doesn’t actually translate right into a Okay or a Q sound. It’s truly a glottal sound, that means it emanates from the glottis, at the back of the throat — a muscle English audio system don’t get to train a lot.

“What’s occurring is that the very again of your tongue is frivolously and shortly touching the roof of your mouth, creating the preliminary sound,” Al Ani mentioned.

She steered flattening your tongue and tilting your head barely ahead, to shorten the gap between tongue and throat. “It makes the gap as shut as attainable,” she defined. “It’s a must to push your tongue again somewhat bit to create the contact with the roof of your mouth — only a mild contact, one second — after which make the sound.”

The phrase Qatar has its emphasis on the primary syllable, she mentioned. Following that, the T is fast and explosive — “a darkish T,” she known as it, barely hole. To make the proper sound, it helps to un-flatten your tongue by curving it down barely. The A is pronounced quickly, and the R, Al Ani mentioned, is “nearer in pronunciation to a Spanish R.”

Sarab Al Ani, senior lector in Arabic at Yale College


She proceeded to exhibit a few occasions, after which mentioned, encouragingly, that English audio system, even World Cup reporters, may want plenty of apply earlier than getting it proper.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, form of, what are we meant to do with our newly engaged glottis, and our newfound information?

The writer Mary Norris, an knowledgeable in correct utilization who’s a former copy editor at The New Yorker, mentioned that overseas place names might be tiny little pronunciation minefields. Use the American pronunciation and also you might sound intentionally ignorant; use the native one and also you threat sounding aggressively pretentious.

She talked about the Kabul conundrum — Ka-BOOL? Or COB-ble? — and admitted that she has no impartial details about the pronunciation of “Qatar.” “I’m positive that in American English we’re not anticipated to give you an Arabic pronunciation,” Norris mentioned.

She did say she had as soon as heard her physician confer with a rustic he known as “cotter” on the telephone. “I feel he was saying ‘cutter,’” she mentioned, “however in a Brooklyn accent.”

If all of that is simply including to your anxious confusion, please take coronary heart from the soothing message imparted by an official on the Consulate Common of the State of Qatar in New York. The official, who requested that her identify not be used as a result of she isn’t supposed to talk to the information media, mentioned that daily she has to hearken to English audio system mangling the nation’s identify in quite a lot of baroquely inaccurate methods.

However if you happen to’re going with Ka-TAR, you’re high-quality, she mentioned. (“Cutter” is much less high-quality.) “It’s not your fault,” she went on. “Some letters in Arabic you don’t have in English, so you can not pronounce it the identical means we do. We all know you’re doing the very best you may.”

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