How to pronounce qatar | CNN Travel
For Arabic speakers and speakers of similar languages, the name of this year’s World Cup host is a no-brainer. However, for English speakers, it is literally one tricky letter after another. This is because even the word Qatar is a romanized version of the original Arabic قطر , which means that each letter is not exactly as it seems. Let’s do our best to figure it out.
How to say ‘Qatar’ like a native speaker
American English speakers will usually say « kuh-TAR », with the stress on the second syllable, which sounds like the word « tar ».
British English speakers add an « a » sound more equivalent to « cat » and give both syllables more equal weight.
However, the English pronunciations are only approximations of the Arabic pronunciation, which uses a fuller sound for the « q », a more frank « t », and a roll on the final « r ».
« The Arabic word for ‘Qatar’ actually only has three letters: qāf, ṭā and rā, » she explains. These are romanized to q, t and r respectively. And, unfortunately, none of them have a close English equivalent.
- qāf (ق): « It’s one of the hardest sounds for English speakers to produce, » says Abdulhamid. « To learn this sound, we recommend that students put water in their mouth and use the back of their throat to not swallow it. That’s how you get this guttural sound. » The resulting sound is somewhere between an English « g » and « k ».
- ṭā (ط): Abulhamid describes this sound as an English « t » with a fuller tongue. When you pronounce an English « t », you will notice that your tongue strikes behind your front teeth. « A ta sound is made farther back, and your tongue hits the roof of your mouth, » she says.
- ra (ر): This one is a little easier. « Unlike the English letter ‘r’, ‘ra’ does not have a strong vowel, » says Abdulhamid. In English, consonants like ‘r’, ‘m’ and ‘b’ are called voiced consonants because you have to use the vocal cords to make their sound. (Try it now. No one is listening!) Consonants like « t » and « p » aren’t pronounced, which means you can just use your mouth and a bit of air to say them. The Arabic « ra » is technically voiced, but it is much shorter than an English « r » and closer to a short trill, as in the Spanish word « perro. » other words, don’t stretch that sound and use your tongue.
Where are the vowels? “There are no long vowels in the Arabic word for Qatar,” says Abdulhamid. « Instead of letters, our short vowels are represented by accents. » In an Arabic pronunciation from Qatar, the a’s are formed further down the throat, much like an American would pronounce « alone. »
Where’s the stress? Although, of course, the Arabic language employs both stressed and unstressed consonants, Abdulhamid says that this particular word is also stressed. « It looks like there’s stress on the first syllable, » she says, « but that’s because ‘qāf’ is a strong starting sound. »
In the translation « Pardon me, I only have a keyboard with letters of the Roman alphabet and no idea what IPA is », the pronunciation would be something like: ghu-terh.
How to say it like a non-Arabic speaker doing their best
It’s important to learn one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, but coming out with a perfectly pronounced « Qatar » can sometimes feel a bit out of place. In the same way English speakers tend to bond with other non-English words like « croissant », there’s a happy medium that shows you’ve at least given it some thought.
« If you can get the ra sound, that’s a good start, » says Abdulhamid. « And keep in mind that the first letter is not a hard ‘k’. »
Also, don’t get too discouraged. All second language speakers have difficult sounds to master. Abdulhamid says Arabic speakers learning English trip over « p » sounds, which often come out as a « b. »
“Second-generation Arabic speakers love teasing their parents about it,” says Abdulhamid.
Now, once you’ve mastered an enlightened pronunciation of Qatar, you can move on to the next most important World Cup event: trying to figure out why Americans call it « soccer. »