In the 12 years since FIFA President Sepp Blatter opened a massively scandalous envelope and introduced the world to Qatar, millions of Westerners have learned a lot about the controversial 2022 World Cup host. They learned about scorching temperatures and the exploitation of migrant workers. They have learned how oil has turned a desert peninsula into a tumultuous international hub. They knew that Qatari law criminalizes homosexuality and forbids alcohol. They have learned how a small principality the size of Connecticut is planning to stage the largest sporting event on the planet.
They just learned all the basics, except for the absolutely basic: how to pronounce “Qatar”.
They pronounce it “kuh-tar”, “KA-tar” and “cutter”. Brits sometimes go “kuh-TAAH”. Some Americans have done their homework and are still somehow settled on “cutting the tar.” For a while, a few online dictionaries have been bafflingly spitting out the word “cotter.”
They are all wrong, but the mispronunciation has gotten so out of hand that the Qatari state has essentially given up on authenticity and accepted a few of it.
“The pronunciation in English is different because the word uses two letters that are only present in Arabic,” Ali Al-Ansari, media attache for the Qatari government, told Yahoo Sports via email. The accepted pronunciation” sounds like it says: Koh Tar. “
In other words, what you hear when searching for “how to pronounce Qatar” is good.
“Another method that also works is Koh TerAl-Ansari added: “But sometimes it feels like ‘rock bottom’ so we prefer Koh Tar. “
Other Arabic speakers have explained that the English word closest to the original pronunciation might actually be “guitar”. In Gulf dialects, the first consonant in “Qatar” is more “g” than “c” is difficult.
But the correct pronunciation – a pronunciation that will be spoken in local languages during the World Cup – cannot be spelled in a Latin alphabet. If you want to learn, your best bet is YouTube:
Why is ‘Qatar’ so hard to pronounce for English speakers
The difficulty stems from “the emphatic sounds that English does not have,” says Amal Al-Haymour, a professor of linguistics and Arabic at the University of Kansas. The Arabic name for the State of Qatar, the State of Qatar, is three letters, two of which are completely foreign to most Westerners, and therefore their pronunciation without practice is devilish.
“It’s as if our muscles are asleep, and we have to wake them up to pronounce them correctly,” says Muhammad Al-Daoud, professor of Arabic at American University in Washington, DC.
The first consonant calls either a strong-pitched “k” or “g”, depending on the accent, and then a non-stressed vowel similar to “”.“
The second is an annular “t”. In linguistics, they are referred to as “diffuse” or “superior” consonants, which means that they require the speaker to press the back of his tongue against the roof of his mouth. It is produced by obstructing the flow of air [through the] Mimour says.
And the last sound is “ar” with “r” wrapped.
Acceptable English pronunciation fails to integrate these three nuances. But experts say this is a normal feature of language acquisition.
“In what language – as for me when I speak English – if I don’t have a voice in my country [first language]I’ll replace it with the closest sound in my language,” says Al-Maimour. When faced with an “emphatic” Arabic sound, non-native speakers, including her students, “will replace it with its uncertain counterpart.”
“Qatar,” in this sense, is not unique. Aldaoud points out that other common proper names – including “Saudi” and his first name “Muhammad” – have been adapted by and for English speakers, and are technically misspelled.
“Any language, any word,” says Aldaoud. “Over time, people start changing it to make it easier to tell.”
So even when Blatter’s successor, Gianni Infantino, opens the World Cup in Qatar, he and his FIFA colleagues, some of whom have been to the Gulf for more than a decade, will have a variety of names on the host country’s name.
A Swiss polyglot, Infantino has made strides towards authenticity. But his Scottish media relations manager still uses “KA-tar”. And Ireland’s head of operations at the World Cup, Colin Smith, will call it ‘kuh-TAR’.