The Twisted Tongue

This post is also available in: Русский (Russian) Español (Spanish)

English is well-known for the strange idioms and phrases that make it challenging for native and non-native speakers. Like most languages, there is a subtle logic once you make sense of the strangeness of the grammar. Reading and writing is all well and good, but speaking is the real challenge. Growing up in the United States, we had to learn how to speak our native language. Although it was a fun exercise in grade school, it wasn’t until a university speech class that I came to appreciate tongue twisters. By “appreciate” I mean “dread”. It has nothing to do with spinning your tongue, and everything to do with making your tongue create a series of words that are difficult for most people to say – even native speakers. Don’t believe me? Try to say the next sentence five times as quickly as possible:

  • “Rubber baby buggy bumpers.”  

Yeah, it’s like that. For an A in one part of my university class, we had to say that sentence CLEARLY five times in seven seconds. The first time I tried it, I got it done in five and a half seconds. It didn’t sound like English. My professor complimented me on how well I could speak Swahili or whatever language I was speaking. Apparently, “Rubba bubba bugga bubba” is not close enough to “Rubber baby buggy bumpers” for an A.

Tongue twisters can be a fun way to improve your English pronunciation while challenging yourself to speak more clearly and effectively. If you are a native English speaker, it will help you with your elocution. If you are a non-native, it will help you discover areas where you need help to improve your skills.

Here are a few of my favorite tongue twisters. Give them a try.

Consonant Blends

  • She sells seashells down by the seashore. 
  • I saw a kitten eating chicken in the kitchen. 
  • He threw three free throws. 

L and R

  • Truly rural.
  • I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. 
  • Rolling red wagons. 

Vowels

  • Annie ate eight Arctic apples. 
  • Ooey gooey gopher guts. 
  • Printed papers under pressure make pens prickle. 

Do you think you are ready for a tough one? Brace yourself.

  • 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 is the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked? 

Just between us, I never liked pickled peppers, and I really hated them after I had to learn that tongue twister for the final exam in my speech class.

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