Doo-Baii or Doo-BAY? Survey names Dubai as one of most mispronounced places on the planet

Emirate in top 10 list using Google search data compiled by language-learning platform Preply

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It is one of the most talked about destinations in the world but just how do you say 'Dubai'?

According to a recent survey, it is not as clear-cut as you might think.

The emirate is ranked in the top 10 of a new league table of the most mispronounced places on the planet compiled by Preply, a language-learning app developed in Brookline, Massachusetts (that’s Mass-a-choosits).

Google search data was used to reveal a list of the most mispronounced holiday destinations worldwide.

But how accurate is the survey itself? It claims the classic Arabic version of Dubai has emphasis on both syllables — so doo-BAY rather than the anglicised name doo-BYE popularised by the majority of expatriates living in the emirate.

But Arabic speakers living in Dubai believe the correct way to pronounce the city is in fact Doo-baii, with emphasis added to the second syllable.

Other cities that people often pronounce mistakenly are the Scottish capital city of Edinburgh, Montreal in Canada - though neither crack the top-10 - and the island paradise of Phuket in Thailand.

Here is the top-10 list of mispronounced places and how they should be uttered, phonetically, according to the analysis.

1: Cannes, France

Correct: KAN or KAN-uh

Incorrect: CON or CONZ or CON-es

Home to the world-famous film festival usually held each May in the picturesque coastal city in the French Riviera, many mistakenly enunciate the “s” at the end of the word.

Cannes should sound like "kan", not like "con" as in air-con, the Preply app says.

2: River Thames, England

Correct: TEMZ

Incorrect: THAYMZ

At 296 kilometres, the Thames is the longest river walk in Europe but many struggle to pronounce it correctly. A common assumption is to pronounce the “th” like other English words but it should be articulated as a "t". The preference is said to date back to the time of King George I in the 17th century. As he was unable to make the “th” sound in words such as theatre or three, his preference was to have a hard “t” instead, with few prepared to correct royalty.

3: Yosemite National Park, USA

Correct: yoh-SEH-muh-dee or yoh-SEH-muh-tee

Incorrect: yoh-SEH-mi-nee or YOH-se-might

One of America’s most famous national parks is commonly mistakenly pronounced by the thousands of visitors every year.

To correctly pronounce the park, it is broken down into four syllables, starting with “yo” with an emphasis on the “seh”, followed by “muh” as in “mother” and then “tee” from “teeth.”

4: Louvre Museum, Paris, France

Correct: LOO-vruh

Incorrect: LOOV or LOO-vray or LOO-vraa or LOO-ver

Few English language word have “vre” in them, making the Louvre a minefield for corrective pedantry.

Locals may be used to hearing the world-famous art museum pronounced incorrectly but the home of the Mona Lisa should be said with emphasis on the “Loo” and a second syllable of “vruh”.

5: Versailles, France

Correct: vair-SIGH

Incorrect: ver-SALES or ver-SAY-les

Another famous French hotspot that can become a tongue-twister for some. Like the pronunciation of Cannes, French speakers drop the “es” at the end, and also the double “L”s.

Shortened to only two syllables, “ver” becomes “vair” and “sai” sounds like “sigh”.

6: Seychelles, East Africa

Correct: SAY-shellz

Incorrect: say-CHE-les

These 155 beautiful islands nestled in a corner of the Indian Ocean off the East African coastline can be tricky to pronounce.

The word may be difficult to spell, but it is actually easier to pronounce correctly.

Split into two syllables, to say the name correctly simply add the “SAY” to the “shells” and you’ll be sounding like a local in no time.

7: Ibiza, Spain

Correct: ee-BEE-tha

Incorrect: ih-BEE-za or eye-BEE-tha or ee-BEE-za

This party island in the Spanish Balearics is often mispronounced by the hordes of tourists that visit each summer.

The international attraction from tourists from all over the world leaves a variety of errors in the way the island is pronounced. Germans commonly refer to the island as “ee-BEET-sa,” whereas British visitors often call it “eye-BEE-tha”.

Americans on the other hand call the island “ih-BEE-za,” when to properly pronounce the so-called White Island is to use the Spanish dialect where “Z”s become a “tha” - so “ee-BEE-tha".

8: Phuket, Thailand

Correct: poo-KET

Incorrect: FUE-ket or fue-KET or FUH-ket

A common mistake with this Asian paradise is to use the English use of words beginning with ph. However, rather than an “f” sound, Phuket should be pronounced “poo-KET”, with a hard “p” and emphasis on the second syllable.

9: Antigua

Correct: an-TEE-guh

Incorrect: an-TEE-gwah

Another island destination that is often incorrectly pronounced is Antigua.

Many call this Caribbean island “an-TEE-gwah,” but like other words in the English language with a “ue” such as tongue or guest, the U is silent.

It will probably be the last thing you’ll be thinking of if you’re lucky enough to visit the white sandy beaches of this holiday hotspot, but to keep in with the islanders pronounce “an-TEE-guh" like the “U” was never there and you can’t go wrong.

10: Dubai, UAE

Correct: doo-BAY

Incorrect: doo-BYE

English speakers commonly embrace the “doo-BYE” pronunciation of the city, but that is not entirely accurate.

Whether you choose “doo-BYE”, “doo-BAY” or “Doo-baii”, a short, quick “O” sound for “doo” is preferred to a lengthy phonetic to keep in line with a more correct Arabic pronunciation.

Updated: July 06, 2022, 10:03 AM