Tongue Twisters in English! Have you ever heard someone say a funny phrase like “If a dog chews shoes, whose shoes does he choose?,” and wondered, what are they saying? This is a popular example of a tongue twister. Tongue twisters are fun and nonsensical, intended to confuse both the speaker and the listener. They have been used since early English literature and folklore to both entertain and teach. The humor of tongue twisters is apparent when they are spoken rather than read silently.
In addition to being a fun game, tongue twisters are also very useful for practicing pronunciation and public speaking. Kids are often taught tongue twisters to improve their reading and speaking or to work through speech impediments and difficult sounds. Students learning to speak English for the first time can also benefit from the challenging activity of pronouncing tongue twisters. Actors and public speakers like politicians and news anchors commonly use tongue twisters to warm up their vocal cords and improve their fluency. Tongue twisters are fun, and can be very useful. Here’s more information about tongue twisters and how you can use them to improve your speech.
What Are Tongue Twisters?
Tongue twisters are a phrase or series of phrases that are purposefully hard to pronounce and often cause humorous mistakes. Tongue twisters exist in many different languages and sometimes seem to sound like short poems or songs. They can rhyme or include alliteration, where the same letters or sounds are repeated. Often times the content of the phrases are fanciful or don’t make any sense.
There are also some tongue twisters that are based off of real people like Peter Piper and Mary Anning, who inspired a tongue twister about selling seashells. Regardless of meaning, the common characteristic of tongue twisters is that they are intended to be difficult to say and even cause mistakes. The goal is to pronounce the phrase correctly, and people can challenge themselves further by saying the tongue twister quickly or in repetition.
Most people think of longer series of complicated phrases when they think of tongue twisters, but they can also just be a few words like “unique New York” or “truly rural.” These shorter tongue twisters are used to help practice speaking with clarity.
Why Learn Tongue Twisters?
Tongue twisters are fun word games, and they are also useful in improving speech and pronunciation. You may have heard an actor warming up their vocal cords before a big performance. They often use tongue twisters to engage their minds and focus on the clarity of their pronunciation. Politicians and public speakers like news anchors also use tongue twisters for the same purpose. Although it might sound funny to hear, it’s actually a great mental and vocal exercise that helps to improve the speaker or actor’s performance.
Tongue twisters also encourage confidence and remind the speaker to pace themselves and give proper attention to each word and syllable. Practicing tongue twisters is just like practicing any physical activity. The more you practice, the more your muscles learn and remember to properly pronounce the words. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find tongue twisters taught in public speaking and acting classes. Some people even believe that tongue twisters can help to cure hiccups, as the speaker has to focus and speak slowly and carefully, thus controlling their breath and pacing.
Tongue Twisters for Kids
While adults can improve their pronunciation and fluency with tongue twisters, kids can benefit from learning them as well. For generations, tongue twisters have been taught in school and at home as fun games for kids. They are humorous and entertaining, engaging kids and allowing them to learn and have fun at the same time. Tongue twisters are also very helpful in language development to teach a child proper pronunciation and improve their vocabulary. Some teachers encourage kids to writer their own tongue twisters to encourage creativity and practice writing.
Tongue twisters are also commonly used as tools to teach kids how to speak English. This helps introduce more fun activities into the classroom, and varies the students’ lessons. For kids learning English, tongue twisters are particularly helpful to improve pronunciation and work through difficult sounds. This can also identify sounds that are different in their native language, which helps the teacher better focus on the individual student’s needs.
Working with tongue twisters is also very useful with children who have speech impediments. Lots of kids have trouble with certain sounds. Words containing sounds like “s”, “th”, “r”, and “l” are particularly difficult. The emphasis on fluency and clarity with tongue twisters teaches kids to read and speak carefully. Even the shorter, two word tongue twisters can help target difficult letters. For example, “Greek grapes” helps practice the letter “r”, while “selfish shellfish” targets the letter “s”. Using tongue twisters to focus on difficult sounds can help all kids improve their speech and confidence levels.
Examples of Tongue Twisters
There are many fun tongue twisters out there that vary in difficulty. Some tongue twisters have even become popularized as songs like “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.” Here are a few popular ones you may have heard of. Try these quickly and in repetition and see if you can do them, but remember pronunciation is key!
1. How can a clam cram in a clean cream can?
2. If two witches were watching two watches,
which witch would watch which watch?
3. If a dog chews shoes, whose shoes does he choose?
4. 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.
5. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
6. She sells seashells on the seashore.
The shells she sells are seashells, I’m sure.
And if she sells seashells on the seashore,
Then I’m sure she sells seashore shells.
7. Betty Botter bought some butter
But she said the butter’s bitter
If I put it in my batter, it will make my batter bitter
But a bit of better butter will make my batter better
So twas better Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter.
8. Rubber baby buggy bumpers.
9. Silly Sally swiftly shooed seven silly sheep.
The seven silly sheep Silly Sally shooed Shilly-shallied south.
These sheep shouldn’t sleep in a shack;
Sheep should sleep in a shed.
10. I saw Susie sitting in a shoe shine shop.
Where she sits she shines, and where she shines she sits.
11. Amidst the mists and coldest frosts,
With stoutest wrists and loudest boasts,
He thrusts his fists against the posts,
And still insists he sees the ghosts.
12. Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear. Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair. Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy, was he?
13. If a noisy noise annoys an onion, an annoying noisy noise annoys an onion more!
14. A tutor who tooted the flute tried to tutor two tooters to toot.
Said the two to the tutor, is it harder to toot or to tutor two tooters to toot?
15. Any noise annoys an oyster, but a noisy noise annoys an oyster most.
16. She saw Sharif’s shoes on the sofa. But was she so sure those were Sharif’s shoes she saw?
17. Six sick hicks nick six slick bricks with picks and sticks.
18. The sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick.
19. When she shifts, she sips her Schlitz.
20. A big black bear bit a big black bug, and the big black bug bled black blood.
21. Freshly fried flying fish.
22. Mary, an anemone, sees an enemy anemone.
23. Which wristwatches are Swiss wristwatches?
24. Theophilus Thistle the Thistle Sifter
Sifted a sieve of unsifted thistles.
If Theophilus Thistle the Thistle Sifter
Sifted a sieve of unsifted thistles,
Where is the sieve of un-sifted thistles
Theophilus Thistle the Thistle Sifter sifted?
These are just a few examples of tongue twisters. There are many more fun and difficult ones to discover. The best part is finding the ones that are most challenging for you, as well as the ones you can say with ease. Practicing frequently helps to improve your vocal abilities and makes the more difficult tongue twisters easier with time. You can even try to write a few of your own or challenge your kids to make some as well. Either way, you’ll have a great time improving your pronunciation, vocabulary, and speech.
Tongue Twisters Infographic