In the twelve years since FIFA president Sepp Blatter dramatically opened the scandal envelope and introduced Qatar to the world, millions of Westerners have learned a lot about the controversial 2022 World Cup host. They learned about the scorching temperatures and the exploitation of the migrant worker. I learned how oil transformed a peninsular desert into an international hub. They learned that Qatari law criminalizes homosexuality and prohibits alcohol. They learned how the small amount of Connecticut flash plans to play the planet’s biggest event to the stage.
They learned about all the basics, except the basics of everything: How to pronounce “Qatar.”
They pronounced it “kuh-TAR” and “KA-tar” and “dromon”. The British sometimes pronounce it “kuh-TAAH.” Some Americans did their homework and somehow sat on the “cut-bitumen.” For a while now, a few online dictionaries have been spitting out “cottage” lightly.
They’re all wrong, but the slander got so out of hand that the Qatari government essentially released the authentic ones and accepted a few of them.
“The pronunciation in English is different because it uses the sound of two letters that only exist in Arabic,” Ali Al-Ansari, the Qatari government’s media attaché, told Yahoo Sports via email. The received pronouncement “sounds like saying: Kuh-tar.
That’s what you hear when you ask “what does Qatar say” is beautiful.
“Another way that works too is” Kuh-TerAl-Ansari added, but sometimes what sounds like ‘drops’ is what we prefer Kuh-Tar.
Other Arabic speakers have explained that the English word closest to the native pronunciation may actually be “guitar”. In the Gulf dialects, the first consonant in “Qatar” is more of a “g” than a hard “c.”
But the proper pronunciation – that which will carry the local languages throughout the World Cup – cannot be extracted from the Latin alphabet. If you want to learn, your best bet is YouTube:
Why is pronouncing ‘Qatar’ so difficult for English speakers?
The problem arises from the “emphatic sounds that English does not have,” says Amal El Haimeur, a professor of linguistics and Arabic at the University of Kansas. The Arabic name of Qatar is three letters, two of which are very foreign to the West, and therefore without the use of diabolical pronunciation.
“It’s like having sleeping muscles,” says Mohammed Aldawood, Arabic professor at the American University in Washington DC, “we have to wake them up to pronounce them correctly.”
The first letter is either a deep guttural “k” or a hard “g” for dialect, and then a vowel like “ā”.“
Second guttural t. In linguistics, they call consonants true or grapes, that is, the speaker presses the back of his tongue against the roof of his mouth. “It becomes a blocking issue [through the] mouth,” says El Maimeur.
And the last sound is “ar” rolled with r.
Accepted English pronunciation does not allow for all three of these nuances to be incorporated. But this, experts say, is the comparative nature of language.
“In any language – as I speak with English – if I don’t have a sound” [first language], I will restore the closest sound of my tongue,” says El Maimeur. Faced with an “emphatic” Arabic sound, non-native speakers, along with their students, “replace it with a non-emphatic part”.
“Qatar” is not unique in this sense. Aldawood notes that other common proper names — including “Saudi” and his first name “Mohammed” — have been adapted by English speakers, and are technically disapproved.
“Any language, any word,” Aldawood says. “During the time of change, people begin to say it easier.”
So even when Gianni Infantino, Blatter’s successor, inaugurates the World Cup in Qatar, he and his FIFA colleagues, some of whom have been visiting the Gulf for a decade, will have different receptions in the name of the host country.
Infantino, a Swiss polyglot, took several steps toward authenticity. But his relations with the Scottish media director are still for “KA-tar.” And the Irish chief executive of the World Cup, Colin Smith, will call kuh-TAR.