Have you ever heard of a tongue twister before? Perhaps you have heard some of the common English tongue twisters out there like the classic “Peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers”? Well, while they may seem like a silly, and some may think of them as a tongue twisters for kids’ word game, they are, in fact, extremely beneficial when learning English pronunciation.
What’s a tongue twister?
In general, a tongue twister is a funny, or sometimes awkward, phrase that is designed to be extremely difficult to articulate or pronounce correctly. In fact, the Cambridge Dictionary defines a tongue twister as “a sentence or phrase that is intended to be difficult to say, especially when repeated quickly and often.”
Most tongue twisters do not have any meaning and do not make any sense whatsoever. Tongue twisters have been known to be used as a type of spoken word game, but they can also be used in daily English exercises to improve fluency and pronunciation. Typically, hard tongue twisters are used for these games and exercises due to the tongue twister’s similar consonantal sounds, articulation becomes very challenging, thus putting your mind and mouth in a new realm of difficulty. For example, one well-known tongue twister is “Sally sold seashells by the seashore,” a funny tongue twister there, isn’t it? Like I said, they could make sense, but most of them do not. Here, all of the “s” sounds in this phrase, when pronounced back to back repeatedly, can drastically improve your pronunciation.
Why are tongue twisters hard?
Psychologically speaking, tongue twisters are so hard to say because the sound translations in the brain overlap each other. To elaborate, the sounds ‘Shh’ and ‘Sss’ both come from the front of the tongue, and both require the same vocal tract movements. Therefore, it is more likely for the brain to confuse these two sounds, rather than other sounds that come from different parts of the tongue with different vocal tract movements.
Interestingly enough, the best tongue twisters have actually proven to be a great exercise, as part of physical therapy, for speech patients. Scientists and doctors alike are working tirelessly to research how the brain coordinates these vocal tract movements, and turns them into, well, speech, but to little to no avail. Surprisingly enough, there is still, very little research about this topic. However, neurologist Gregory Hickok, from the University of California, Irvine, states that “If we can crack the neural code for speech motor control, it could open the door to neural prostheses. There are already neural implants that allow individuals with spinal cord injuries to control a robotic arm. Maybe we could do something similar for speech?”
What beneficial effects do tongue twisters have?
- Tongue twisters are a great way to improve pronunciation. In fact, due to the repetition in sound, tongue twisters have also been known to improve accents as well. This technique is called alliteration.
Strengthens speech muscles
- Tongue twisters, even short tongue twisters, really focus on your articulation and the correct placement of your tongue, lips, and teeth. One wrong move, and the entire word is incorrect. Since your mouth is not familiar with this, these tongue twisters can definitely improve your speech muscles, which is part of the reason why tongue twisters are used in speech therapy.
Builds reading skills
- Think of reading a book as resting, and reading a tongue twister as a hardcore workout. Tongue twisters really challenge us and our ability to enunciate without fail. Mastering the individual sounds of words is a very important skill for success, and tongue twisters can help with that.
Develops performance for public speaking
- It is well known that many public speakers and actors use tongue twisters as a warm up before performing or speaking in front of an audience, but why? Well, they can help you have clearer speech by extending your vocal range and warming up your mouth, lips, and of course, tongue. So, if you see someone on google searching “the hardest tongue twisters ever” before presenting, just know, they are doing some last minute practice for their lips and tongue.
What are some great, short tongue twisters?
While there are definitely hundreds, if not thousands, of short tongue twisters to choose from, keep in mind that the shorter tongue twisters are not always the easy way out. Some short tongue twisters prove to be even more difficult than the lengthy ones. Here are some of my top short tongue twisters:
- A snake sneaks to seek a snack.
- Willy’s real rear wheel.
- Pad kid poured curd pulled cod.
- Cooks cook cupcakes quickly.
- Which witch is which?
- Red lorry, yellow lorry.
- The blue bluebird blinks.
- Daddy draws doors.
- She sees cheese.
- Zebras zig and zebras zag.
What are some great tongue twisters for kids?
Kids absolutely love tongue twisters. At first, they think of it as an innocent, fun little game. Which yes, tongue twisters, as previously mentioned, can be used as a game, especially a young children’s game. However, turn up the speed on those tongue twisters, and then it becomes a challenge. Here are a few of my favorite tongue twisters for kids:
- Specific Pacific.
- Fresh fried fish.
- Three free throws.
- Six sticky skeletons.
- Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear, Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair. Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t very fuzzy, was he?
- If a dog chews shoes, whose shoes does he choose?
- Fred fed Ted bread and Ted fed Fred bread.
- Friendly fleas and fireflies.
- The big bug bit the little beetle.
- Rubber baby buggy bumpers.
What are some of the hardest tongue twisters?
Here’s where we separate the men from the boys. Figuratively speaking, of course. Tongue twisters, even just the before mentioned short and sweet ones, can prove to be pretty difficult. Remember, long tongue twisters do not always mean hard. There are plenty of short, yet hard, tongue twisters too, but if you’re up for a challenge, and you don’t mind sounding like a crazy person (especially if you’re practicing these in front of the mirror), then here are some of my favorite, but extremely hard, tongue twisters:
- Send toast to ten tense stout saints’ ten tall tents.
- Can you can a caned can into an un-canned can like a canner can can a canned can into an un-canned can?
- Brisk brave brigadiers brandished broad bright blades, blunderbusses, and bludgeons, balancing them badly.
- Six sick hicks nick six slick bricks with picks and sticks.
- Imagine an imaginary menagerie manager managing an imaginary menagerie.
- Rory the warrior and Roger the worrier were reared wrongly in a rural brewery.
- If you must cross a course cross cow across a crowded cow crossing, cross the cross coarse cow across the crowded cow crossing carefully.
- How can a clam cram in a clean cream can?
- I wish to wish the wish you wish to wish, but if you wish the wish the witch wishes, I won’t wish the wish you wish to wish.
- The 33 thieves thought that they thrilled the throne throughout Thursday.
So, whether it be long tongue twisters, funny tongue twisters, or even classic tongue twisters, that are very well known and simple, just know that tongue twisters have the power to transform your English speaking game. They improve your pronunciation, strengthen your speech muscles, build your reading skills, and can even act as a quick warm up before a speech or performance. So, knowing what you know now, what’s your tongue twister of choice?