Tangled up in words? 20 tricky international tongue-twisters
It’s sometimes easy to get caught up in your own words. You say something just a bit too quickly and a jumble of sounds come out incoherently. That’s a tongue-twister – a sequence of ordinary words that become impossible to pronounce when put in succession.
Children love to play with this elocutionary challenge, especially when they pit words against each other in a duel where the first person with a slip up of the tongue loses. But beyond the childish games, tongue-twisters can be a secret addition to your linguistic tool kit, as they can help you build up your pronunciation in either your own language, since most tongue-twisters are difficult to master even for native speakers, or the foreign language you’re currently learning.
Why are tongue twisters such a challenge?
Tongue-twisters are sentences solely chosen for how they sound. There is very little meaning, at least where everyday context is concerned, in these knotted sentences. Most of the words in a tongue-twister are similar in pronunciation, focussing on a certain sound or rhythm which is why they are difficult to say quickly. It takes a lot of concentration to say the words correctly without tripping over the similar sounding syllables and alliterations.
Tongue twisters for your pronunciation tool kit
There’s a reason so many actors and speech coaches use tongue-twisters. Mastering this mouthful of words can help strengthen the muscles necessary for proper speech and articulation, helping you to develop the correct placement of your teeth, tongues, and lips while speaking. You can think of them as a workout in pronunciation – where the more you practice them, the easier it will be to enunciate certain sounds.
However, if you choose to work with tongue-twisters, it’s important to begin slowly, articulate them as clear as possible and then speed up once you start to feel comfortable. You can do it in front of the mirror to see how the shape of your mouth changes on certain sounds. Just take one tongue-twister at a time, but once you’ve mastered one, it’s time to move onto other challenges.
Tongue twisters in foreign languages
Tongue-twisters don’t just exist in the English language, but languages around the world have them, too. So from French to Georgian, here are a few trabalenguas, virelangues, and Zungenbrecher to challenge yourself with if you want to take your tongue twisting skills beyond the English language by trying to enunciate a few of Europe’s most challenging phrases.
Les chaussettes de l’archiduchesse sont-elles sèches ou archi-sèches?
Are the archduchess’ socks dry or very dry?
Un chasseur sachant chasser doit savoir chasser sans son chien
A hunter who knows how to hunt must know how to hunt without his hound
Si six scies scient six cyprès, six-cent-six scieront six-cent-six cyprès
If six saws saw six cypresses, six hundred six saws will saw six hundred six cypresses
Zwischen zwei Zwetschgenzweigen zwitschern zwei geschwätzige Schwalben.
Two talkative swallows are tweeting in between two twigs of a plum tree
Fischers Fritz fischt frische Fische, frische Fische fischt Fischers Fritz
Fisherman Fritz is fishing for fresh fish
Comí chirimoyas, me enchirimoyé,
ahora para desenchirimoyarme,
cómo me desenchirimoyaré
I ate chirimoyas (a fruit), I stuffed myself on chirimoyas,
now I can’t give up chirimoyas,
How can I give up chirimoyas
Poquito a poquito Paquito empaca poquitas copitas en pocos paquetes
Little by little Paquito is packing some wine glasses in a few boxes.
El perro de San Roque no tiene rabo, porque Ramón Ramírez se lo ha cortado
The dog of San Roque has no tail, because Ramón Ramírez cut it off
Trentatre tigri contro trentatre tigri
Thirty-three tigers versus thirty-three tigers
Orrore, orrore, un ramarro verde su un muro marrone
Horror, horror, a green lizard on a brown wall
Sopra la panca la capra canta. Sotto la panca la capra crepa
On the bench the goat lives, under the bench the goat dies
Strč prst skrz krk
Stick your finger through your neck
Петър плет плете, по три пръта преплита, през три плета преплита. Плети Петре плета, подпри Петре плета, падна Петре плета!
[Petr plet plete, po tri pleta preplita, prez tri pleta preplita. Pleti Petre pleta, podri Petre pleta, padna Petre pleta!]
Peter makes a hedge, he makes it with three wands and uses them every third time. Peter, make the hedge! Peter,shore the hedge up! Peter, the hedge has fallen!
Mit sütsz kis szűcs? Tán sós húst sütsz, kis szűcs?
What are you frying, little furrier? Are you frying salty meat, little furrier?
Sárga bögre görbe bögre
Yellow mug, bent mug
Ipafai papnak fapipája van, mert az ipafai papi pipa papi fapipa
The priest from Ipafa has a wooden pipe, because in Ipafa, the priestly pipe is a priestly wooden pipe
Kralj i kraljica Klara su svirali klavir
King and queen Klara were playing the piano
ბაყაყი ცყალში ყიყინებს
[bakaki tskalshi kikinebs]
The frog jumps into the water
Achtentachtig prachtige grachten
Eighty-eight beautiful canals
Шла Саша по шоссе и сосала сушку
Sasha was walking along the highway and was sucking a cracknel