How Do You Pronounce Qatar? Probably Incorrectly.


Sooner or later the second will arrive for everybody, or no less than everybody who doesn’t communicate Arabic however hopes to debate this year’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% flawed and needs to 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 unique reply? Can we belief random educational YouTube movies? Is there a solution to say it with out including “or nonetheless you pronounce it”? Why hasn’t FIFA issued a proper directive? It has been 12 years, in spite of everything, since soccer’s governing physique began all this by awarding the game’s largest 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 Images

But whereas a four-page phonetic information created for journalists touring to Qatar does provide a level of linguistic aid — providing step-by-step pronunciations of helpful phrases like “Help!” and “I used to be robbed” — it’s silent on the title of the place the place you would possibly have to say them.

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

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


If you’re an English speaker, you’re most likely saying it incorrectly, however solely within the sense that your pronunciation of “Paris” or “Chile” could be thought-about flawed from the perspective of a Parisian or a Chilean.

Which signifies that the true query is: What form of flawed is true?

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

Yes, it has. Online, a Qatari generally known as Mr. Q has posted a collection of movies for guests, together with one that begins, “I’ve gone forward and seen that a number of foreigners are educating foreigners the best way to pronounce Qatar.” He then reveals a number of 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.

“People had been saying ‘KUH-ter’ after we received there for the primary time final December,” Buethe mentioned of his journeys to the nation prematurely of the World Cup. “But we had many conversations with people and with individuals within the federation, they usually informed us it wasn’t right: Don’t say, ‘KUH-ter.’”

Jenny Taft, a sideline reporter for Fox Sports, which will broadcast the World Cup within the United States, mentioned the community had made a command resolution.

Jenny Taft is reporting for Fox Sports from Qatar.

Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press

“I don’t know who made the decision, however we’re going with Ka-TAR,” she mentioned in an interview. “I’m undecided 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. But Ka-TAR is, I suppose, most likely the extra recognizable means the nation is pronounced.”

Jenny Taft, Fox Sports 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 individuals who most likely know what they’re speaking about a little bit bit extra — however I’m going with Ka-TAR.”

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

Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

The German tv community ZDF has taken a unique strategy: Its workers had been knowledgeable by way of e mail that they had been to go along with KAT-ar. Martin Tyler, the legendary Sky Sports broadcaster who’s working his twelfth World Cup this 12 months, mentioned he would do the identical.

Martin Tyler, announcer for Sky Sports and SBS Australia


None of those idiosyncratic choices resolves the primary questions, nonetheless: What is the precise pronunciation of the phrase? And what’s our downside?

This check in Doha supplies no steering on pronunciation.

Abir Sultan/EPA, by way of Shutterstock

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

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

She instructed flattening your tongue and tilting your head barely ahead, to shorten the gap between tongue and throat. “It makes the gap as shut as doable,” she defined. “You need to push your tongue again a little bit 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 referred to 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 University


She proceeded to show a few instances, after which mentioned, encouragingly, that English audio system, even World Cup reporters, would possibly want a number of follow 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 creator Mary Norris, an professional 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 danger sounding aggressively pretentious.

She talked about the Kabul conundrum — Ka-BOOL? Or COB-ble? — and admitted that she has no unbiased 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 seek advice from a rustic he referred to 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 General of the State of Qatar in New York. The official, who requested that her title not be used as a result of she will not be supposed to talk to the information media, mentioned that on daily basis she has to take heed to English audio system mangling the nation’s title in a wide range of baroquely inaccurate methods.

But when you’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 know you’re doing the very best you possibly can.”



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