How Do You Pronounce Qatar? Probably Incorrectly.


In the end the second will arrive for everybody, or at the very least everybody who doesn’t converse Arabic however hopes to debate this 12 months’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 might be one hundred pc fallacious and ought 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 distinct reply? Can we belief random tutorial YouTube movies? Is there a option 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 any case, 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, asserting 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 helpful 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 vanity, however that the Arabic pronunciation of “Qatar” — قطر in Arabic script — may be very totally different from the English one:

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


In case 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 fallacious from the viewpoint of a Parisian or a Chilean.

Which implies that the actual query is: What kind of fallacious is true?

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

Sure, it has. On-line, a Qatari often called Mr. Q has posted a sequence of movies for guests, together with one which begins, “I’ve gone forward and seen that loads of foreigners are instructing foreigners the best way to pronounce Qatar.” He then exhibits a couple 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.”

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Hassan Al Thawadi leads Qatar’s organizing committee.

Ramon Van Flymen/EPA, through Shutterstock

Hassan Al Thawadi, the top 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 normal of Qatar’s World Cup group


This has not helped alleviate the final confusion amongst guests.

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

Jenny Taft, a sideline reporter for Fox Sports activities, which is able to broadcast the World Cup in the USA, mentioned the community had made a command determination.

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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 assume, most likely the extra recognizable approach the nation is pronounced.”

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 right approach — KUH-ter is for individuals who most likely know what they’re speaking about just a little bit extra — however I’m going with Ka-TAR.”

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

Christof Koepsel/Getty Photos

The German tv community ZDF has taken a distinct method: Its staff had been knowledgeable through electronic 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 12 months, mentioned he would do the identical.

Martin Tyler, announcer for Sky Sports activities and SBS Australia


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

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This check in Doha supplies no steerage on pronunciation.

Abir Sultan/EPA, through 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 flippantly and shortly touching the roof of your mouth, creating the preliminary sound,” Al Ani mentioned.

She urged flattening your tongue and tilting your head barely ahead, to shorten the space between tongue and throat. “It makes the space as shut as potential,” she defined. “You must push your tongue again just a little bit to create the contact with the roof of your mouth — only a light 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 right 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.”

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Sarab Al Ani, senior lector in Arabic at Yale College


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

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

The creator Mary Norris, an skilled in correct utilization who’s a former copy editor at The New Yorker, mentioned that international place names could 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 certain 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 consult with 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 Common of the State of Qatar in New York. The official, who requested that her identify not be used as a result of she shouldn’t be supposed to talk to the information media, mentioned that daily she has to take heed to English audio system mangling the nation’s identify in a wide range of baroquely inaccurate methods.

However should you’re going with Ka-TAR, you’re advantageous, she mentioned. (“Cutter” is much less advantageous.) “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 approach we do. We all know you’re doing one of the best you may.”

Jean Nicholas

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