What is a tongue twister?
Tongue twisters have been around for centuries. During the 19th century, they gained popularity as a fun and entertaining pronunciation activity for both native English speakers and second language learners of English. A tongue twister is a collection of words, phrases, or sentences that are difficult to say correctly, even for native English speakers. They are even harder to say quickly because of the alliteration, where the same letters or sounds are repeated amidst a combination of similar words. Sometimes tongue twisters rhyme and sometimes they don’t make any sense at all. Often, tongue twisters lead to humorous mistakes and friendly competition within a group of people.
Tongue twisters can be used to improve speech and pronunciation. They can also be used as an icebreaker or fun activity. The common goal of tongue twisters is to practice specific sounds, which are repeated continuously. They are often used as a warm-up activity or pronunciation exercise for second and foreign language learners. They are also used by phoneticians and speech therapists to help someone with articulation, if they have a lisp for example. Tongue twisters are not only used by new English learners but by actors, politicians, and public speakers who want to sound clear when they speak. I wrote a guide to public speaking in this article.
What do tongue twisters do?
Tongue twisters are purposefully challenging and can easily cause mistakes. However, they make for a great literacy workout. They are a great tool for language learners to practice their speech, pronunciation and listening skills. Tongue twisters are filled with great English sounds, provide an interesting vocabulary lesson and are a fun way to work on one or two sounds at the same time.
Tongue twisters can also help fluency and improve accents by using alliteration, which is the repetition of one sound. Practicing tongue twisters can also help new language learners identify the sounds that are difficult for them, helping them focus on sounds that they need to practice and prioritize.
Benefits of Tongue Twisters
- Tongue twisters help with pronunciation.
- Tongue twisters stretch and strengthen the muscles that we use to speak
- Tongue twisters help identify words and sounds that are difficult or troublesome to pronounce
- Tongue twisters help focus on and tackle sounds that are problems, which leads to quick improvements
- Tongue twisters are a great warm-up activity or exercise
- Tongue twisters help build new muscle memory.
- Tongue twisters improve listening skills.
- Tongue twisters allow for language practice without fear of making a mistake since everyone makes mistakes with tongue twisters, including native English speakers.
How do tongue twisters help speech?
Tongue twisters are a speech exercise that can help with diction. Practicing tongue twisters out loud, repetitively, will help refine various sounds and perfect pronunciation. It is a good idea to practice a few times a day, slowly at first with each time increasing the speed at which you repeat the tongue twister. Building speed and repeating the sounds over and over can drastically improve pronunciation.
One of the main ways that tongue twisters help speech is through engaging the mind, which allows the brain to focus on the clarity of pronunciation and related sounds. The repeated and fun nature of tongue twisters can also help build confidence. As such, tongue twisters make for a great mental and vocal exercise for new language learners and native English speakers.
Tongue twisters also strengthen and stretch the muscles involved in speech. Practicing tongue twisters is a muscle exercise that leads to clearer pronunciation, clearer speech patterns, and helps rectify some of the hardest sounds and combinations of sounds. This motor exercise and stimulation help the mouth and tongue to move in a certain way, leading to correct pronunciation in the long run. Enough of the theory. Here are 21 tough tongue twisters for you to challenge your pronunciation skills.
1. A big black bug snoozed on a big black rug
2. A big bug bit a bold bald bear and the bold bald bear blood badly
3. A loyal warrior will rarely worry why we rule
4. Betty bought a bar of butter, but the butter Betty bought was bitter, so Betty beat a bit of butter to make the bitter butter better.
5. Can you can a canned can into an un-canned can like a canner can can a canned can into an un-canned can?
6. Four furious friends fought for the phone
7. Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear. Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair. Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t very fuzzy, was he?
8. How many cookies could a good cook cook If a good cook could cook cookies? A good cook could cook as much cookies as a good cook who could cook cookies.
9. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? He would chuck, he would, as much as he could, and chuck as much wood as a woodchuck would if a woodchuck could chuck wood
10. I saw a kitten eating chicken in the kitchen
11. I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream
12. I see a sea down by the seashore. But which sea do you see down by the seashore?
13. I slit a sheet, a sheet, I slit. Upon a slitted sheet, I sit.
14. I wish to wish the wish you wish to wish, but if you wish to wish the witch wishes, I won’t wish the wish you wish to wish.
15. If coloured caterpillars could change their colours constantly could they keep their colour coat coloured properly?
16. If two witches were watching two watches, which witch would watch which watch?
17. No need to light a night-light on a light night like tonight.
18. Peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. How many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?
19. Printed papers under pressure make pens prickle.
20. She sells seashells by the seashore. The shells she sells are surely seashells. So if she sells shells on the seashore, I’m sure she sells seashore shells.
21. The thirty-three thieves thought that they thrilled the throne throughout Thursday.
These are just a few examples of fun tongue twisters that you can try. There are so many more to discover. According to a team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the world’s most difficult tongue twister is “pad kid poured curd pulled cod” because of the likelihood of double sound mistakes (such as “c” and “t”). Tongue twisters are a cost-effective tool to improve your pronunciation, vocabulary, and speech in a fun and entertaining way. If you liked this article, why don’t you try these other pronunciation exercises?
When you are done, try out these fun tongue twisters to further exercise your tongue.
- Ʊ / OO Tongue twisters
- B / P Tongue twisters
- R / L Tongue twisters
- R / W Tongue twisters
- S Tongue twisters
- ‘Th’ Tongue twisters
- V / W Tongue twisters
- Voiced / Voiceless Tongue twisters