How Do You Pronounce Qatar? In all probability Incorrectly.

In the end the second will arrive for everybody, or not 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 in regards to the enterprise executives who bang on about how you’re one hundred pc unsuitable 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 unique 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 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 Photos

However whereas a four-page phonetic information created for journalists touring to Qatar does supply a level of linguistic aid — 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 would possibly must 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 totally different from the English one:

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


If you happen to’re an English speaker, you’re in all probability saying it incorrectly, however solely within the sense that your pronunciation of “Paris” or “Chile” can be thought-about unsuitable from the standpoint of a Parisian or a Chilean.

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

“There’s no actual steerage,” mentioned Neil Buethe, the chief communications officer for the US Soccer Federation, whose crew 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 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 lots of foreigners are educating foreigners learn 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, through 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 normal of Qatar’s World Cup group


This has not helped alleviate the overall confusion amongst guests.

“Individuals have been saying ‘KUH-ter’ after we obtained 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 informed us it wasn’t right: Don’t say, ‘KUH-ter.’”

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

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 in all probability was saying KUH-ter main as much as this. However Ka-TAR is, I suppose, in all probability the extra recognizable method the nation is pronounced.”

Jenny Taft, Fox Sports activities sideline reporter


Walker Zimmerman, a defender for the U.S. crew, 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 in all probability not the proper method — KUH-ter is for individuals who in all probability know what they’re speaking about a little bit bit extra — however I’m going with Ka-TAR.”

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

Christof Koepsel/Getty Photos

The German tv community ZDF has taken a unique strategy: Its workers have been knowledgeable through e mail that they have 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 primary questions, nonetheless: What’s the precise pronunciation of the phrase? And what’s our downside?

This register Doha offers 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, which 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 evenly and shortly touching the roof of your mouth, creating the preliminary sound,” Al Ani mentioned.

She recommended 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. “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 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 show a few instances, after which mentioned, encouragingly, that English audio system, even World Cup reporters, would possibly want lots of observe 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 data?

The writer Mary Norris, an professional in correct utilization who’s a former copy editor at The New Yorker, mentioned that international place names may be tiny little pronunciation minefields. Use the American pronunciation and also you may appear 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 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 discuss with a rustic he known as “cotter” on the cellphone. “I believe 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 just isn’t supposed to talk to the information media, mentioned that every single day she has to hearken to English audio system mangling the nation’s identify in quite a lot of baroquely inaccurate methods.

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

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