How Do You Pronounce Qatar? Probably Incorrectly.How Do You Pronounce Qatar? Probably Incorrectly.Giphy GIFGiphy GIF

How Do You Pronounce Qatar? Probably Incorrectly.

Sarah Lyall’s last name is pronounced LYE-yull. Let us stipulate here that the problem isn’t willful ignorance or cultural ...
...arrogance, but that the Arabic pronunciation of “Qatar” — قطر in Arabic script — is very different from the English one.
Taoufik Ben-Amor, senior lecturer in Arabic studies at Columbia University.
“It’s definitely been a debate.” Hassan Al Thawadi, secretary general of Qatar’s World Cup organization.
“People were saying ‘KUH-ter’ when we got there for the first time last December,” Buethe said of his trips to the country in advance of the World Cup.
“But we had many conversations with individuals and with people in the federation, and they told us it wasn’t correct: Don’t say, ‘KUH-ter.’”
“I don’t know who made the call, but we’re going with Ka-TAR,” she said in an interview.
“I’m not sure why, but that was the decision made. And it is unique, right? Like, I probably was saying KUH-ter leading up to this. But Ka-TAR is, I guess, probably the more recognizable way the country is pronounced.”
“I know it’s probably not the correct way — KUH-ter is for those who probably know what they’re talking about a little bit more — but I’m going with Ka-TAR.”
The German television network ZDF has taken a different approach: Its employees were informed via email that they were to go with KAT-ar.
To begin with, said Sarab Al Ani, who teaches Arabic at Yale University, the first consonant in the word Qatar doesn’t really translate into a K or a Q sound.
“What’s happening is that the very back of your tongue is lightly and quickly touching the roof of your mouth, creating the initial sound,” Al Ani said.
“It makes the distance as close as possible,” she explained.
“You have to push your tongue back a little bit to create the contact with the roof of your mouth — just a gentle touch, one second — and then make the sound.”
The A is pronounced rapidly, and the R, Al Ani said, is “closer in pronunciation to a Spanish R.” Now that we’ve ...
...cleared that up, sort of, what are we meant to do with our newly engaged glottis, and our newfound knowledge?
Use the American pronunciation and you might seem deliberately ignorant; use the native one and you risk sounding aggressively pretentious. She mentioned the Kabul conundrum — Ka-BOOL?
— and admitted that she has no independent information about the pronunciation of “Qatar.” “I’m sure that in American English we’re not expected to come up with an Arabic pronunciation,” Norris said.
“I think he was saying ‘cutter,’” she said, “but in a Brooklyn accent.”
The official, who asked that her name not be used because she is not supposed to speak to the news media, said that every ... she has to listen to English speakers mangling the country’s name in a variety of baroquely inaccurate ways.
“Some letters in Arabic you don’t have in English, so you cannot pronounce it the same way we do. We know you’re doing the best you can.”