How to pronounce Qatar, the World Cup host whose name everybody says wrong

In the 12 years since FIFA president Sepp Blatter opened the scandalous envelope and introduced the world to Qatar, millions of people in the West have learned a lot about the controversial host of the 2022 World Cup. sweltering heat and exploitation of foreign workers. They learned how oil turned a desert desert into a bustling international hub. They learned that Qatari law criminalizes homosexuality and prohibits alcohol. They learned how a small emirate the size of Connecticut plans to organize the biggest sporting event in the world.

They learned about all the basics, except the most basic of all: How to pronounce “Qatar”.

They called it “kuh-TAR” and “KA-tar” and “cutter.” Brits sometimes want “kuh-TAAH.” Some Americans have done their homework and are still living in “cut-tar”. For a while, a few online dictionaries spat out “cotter” in a strange way.

All wrong, but the wrong words got so out of control that the Qatari state gave up its authenticity and accepted a few of them.

“The English pronunciation is different because the word uses only two letters that exist in Arabic,” Ali Al-Ansari, the Qatari government’s press secretary, told Yahoo Sports in an email. Acceptable nouns “can be heard as: Ho-TAR.”

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In other words, what you hear when you search for “how to pronounce Qatar” is correct.

“Another way that works is Kuh-Ter,” Al-Ansari added, “but sometimes that sounds like ‘liquid’ so we choose Kuh-Tar.”

Some Arabic speakers have explained that the English word closest to the local pronunciation would actually be “guitar.” In Gulf languages, the first consonant of “Qatar” is a “g” rather than a hard “c”.

But the correct pronunciation – which will be introduced in local languages ​​throughout the World Cup – cannot be written in the Latin alphabet. If you want to learn, your best bet is YouTube:

Football Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Preview - Doha, Qatar - October 26, 2022 An overview of the signs in Doha ahead of the World Cup REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

Workers are busy preparing Qatar to host this month’s World Cup. (REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed)

Why is pronouncing ‘Qatar’ so difficult for English speakers

This problem is caused by “strong sounds that English does not have,” says Amal El Haimeur, a linguist and professor of Arabic at the University of Kansas. The Arabic name for Qatar, دولة قطر, is three letters, two of which are completely unfamiliar to most Westerners, so it’s the devil to say it out of habit.

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Mohammed Aldawood, a professor of Arabic at the American University in Washington DC says: “It’s like we have sleeping muscles, we have to wake them up to pronounce those words correctly.

The first letter sounds like a deep “k” or a hard-ish “g”, depending on the dialect, and then becomes a stressed vowel similar to “ā.

The second is “t”. In dialects, they are called “veralized” or “uvular” consonants, which means they require the speaker to press the back of their tongue against the roof of their mouth. It is produced by obstructing the wind [through the] mouth,” El Maimeur says.

And the last sound is “ar” with “r”.

Accepted English names fail to include all three elements. But experts say that this is a natural feature of knowing the language.

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“In any language – like me when I speak English – if I don’t have my voice [first language], I will replace it with the closest sound of my language,” El Maimeur says. When faced with a “difficult” Arabic sound, non-native speakers, including his students, “will replace it with a neutral word.”

“Qatar,” in this sense, is not unique. Aldawood points out that some common names — including “Saudi,” and his first name, “Mohammed” — have been changed by English speakers, and are technically not mispronounced.

“Any language, any word,” says Aldawood. Over time, people began to change it to make it easier to say.

So even as Gianni Infantino, Blatter’s successor, kicks off the World Cup in Qatar, he and his FIFA colleagues, some of whom have been visiting the Gulf for more than a decade, will have different options for the name of their host country.

Infantino, a Swiss polyglot, stepped forward in the cause of authenticity. But his Scottish media relations manager is still looking for “KA-tar.” And Ireland’s chief operating officer of the World Cup, Colin Smith, will call it “kuh-TAR.”


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