Why do we love them so much? Or do we hate them? They can be fun and frustrating, but more than silly ways to pass the time, tongue twisters help people young and old, of all nationalities and personalities. Whether you’re a voice actor or a newscaster, a child learning to speak or a politician learning to be clearer. In fact, tongue twisters have been proven to clarify the pronunciation of words, your diction, or your articulation. They’ll help you quit mumbling or ‘swallowing’ parts of words.
- Quit mumbling or “swallowing” parts of words!
- Tongue twisters also aid in curing speech impediments. Doctors recommend them for treating hiccups too!
First, let’s get our definitions straight. According to Miriam-Webster:
- Pronunciation is the way the word sounds based on our region, upbringing, and cultural phenomena.
- Articulation is the physical act of using your tongue, jaw, teeth, lips, and palate (roof of your mouth), and breath to create the sounds.
- Enunciation is how clearly a person says the word and how clearly each sound is made.
But don’t feel bad if you can’t keep the difference straight— a brief online search will generate definitions of tongue twisters as hard to pronounce or articulate!
Tongue Twisters Help Because They:
- Are a sequence of words or sounds that are usually alliterative (meaning the first consonant is repeated) and are difficult to pronounce quickly and correctly.
- Can be a word, phrase, or sentence difficult to articulate due to a succession of similar consonantal sounds
Think about this! You can pronounce words without articulation or enunciation. However, you cannot articulate or enunciate without correct pronunciation.
There is something pleasing to the ear when you hear alliteration, and feel the rhythm of word clusters that make up a tongue twister. When you get it right there’s a deep sense of satisfaction that’s almost visceral. It’s about getting the mouth, tongue, eyes, and brain in synchrony. We stretch and strengthen the muscles we use to speak and the brain’s speech processes when we practice them. They can also help us identify certain words and sounds we might have difficulty pronouncing.
The first reference to the term tongue twister was in 1895 with “She sells seashells by the sea-shore. The shells she sells are sea shells, I’m sure.” One strategy to conquer the words is to focus on the first sound of each word, try it, it works for me!
How Tongue Twisters Help With Challenging Words
Now, because medical narration is my bread and butter, here’s a link to some particularly challenging words to say. For an even steeper challenge, try tongue twisters in another language! Try these foreign language tongue twisters on for size!
Zulu: Zaka zulu buka baju nampak bulu.
Yoruba: Opo lopo opolo lo ni opolo lopo lopo.
Rwanda or Kinyarwanda: Ta izo njyo uze urye izi nzuzi.
Friendly and Easy-to-Memorize Tongue Twisters Help Kids!
I thought a thought,
But the thought I thought wasn’t the thought I thought I thought.
If the thought I thought I thought had been the thought I thought,
I wouldn’t have thought so much.
I saw Susie sitting in a shoe shine shop,
Where she shines, she sits, and where she sits, she shines.
A big black bug bit a big black dog on his big black nose.
Six slippery snails slid slowly seaward.
Whether the weather is warm,
Whether the weather is hot,
We have to put up with the weather,
Whether we like it or not.
The bottom of the butter bucket is the buttered bucket bottom.
A sailor went to sea to see what he could see. And all he could see was sea, sea, sea.
If a dog chews shoes, whose shoes does he choose?
Five frantic frogs fled from fifty fierce fishes.
Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear,
Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair,
Wuzzy wasn’t very fuzzy, was he?
If practice makes perfect and perfect needs practice, I’m perfectly practiced and practically perfect.
Betty and Bob brought back blue balloons from the big bazaar.
I saw a saw that could saw out any other saw I ever saw.
Nine nice night nurses nursing nicely.
I slit the sheet, the sheet I slit, and on the slitted sheet I sit.
A skunk sat on a stump and thunk the stump stunk, but the stump thunk the skunk stunk.
Any noise annoys an oyster, but a noisy noise annoys an oyster more.
Four furious friends fought for the phone.
Chester Cheetah chews a chunk of cheap cheddar cheese.
Lesser leather never weathered wetter weather better.
We surely shall see the sun shine soon.
Wayne went to Wales to watch walruses.
Fred fed Ted bread, and Ted fed Fred bread.
Betty Botter bought some butter; “But,” said she, “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 bitter batter better.
So she bought some better butter, better than the bitter butter,
Put it in her bitter batter, made her bitter batter better.
Birdie birdie in the sky,
Laid a turdie in my eye.
If cows could fly,
I’d have a cow pie in my eye.
How much ground would a groundhog hog, if a groundhog could hog ground?
A groundhog would hog all the ground he could hog, if a groundhog could hog ground.
“Surely Sylvia swims!” shrieked Sammy, surprised.
“Someone should show Sylvia some strokes so she shall not sink.”
The thirty-three thieves thought that they thrilled the throne throughout Thursday.
Can you can a canned can into an uncanned can like a canner can can a canned can into an un-canned can?
Red lorry, yellow lorry, red lorry, yellow lorry, red lorry, yellow lorry.
Thin sticks, thick bricks, thin sticks, thick bricks, thin sticks, thick bricks.
Stupid superstition, stupid superstition, stupid superstition.
Two tried and true tridents, two tried and true tridents, two tried and true tridents.
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.
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?
When a doctor doctors a doctor, does the doctor doing the doctoring doctor as the doctor being doctored wants to be doctored, or does the doctor doing the doctoring doctor as he wants to doctor?
If two witches were watching two watches, which witch would watch which watch?
Something in a 30-acre thermal thicket of thorns and thistles thumped and thundered, threatening the 3D thoughts of Matthew — although, theatrically, it was the 13,000 thistles and thorns through the underneath of his thigh that the 30-year-old thought of that morning.
If you must cross a course cross cow across a crowded cow crossing, cross the cross coarse cow across the crowded cow crossing carefully.
To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock,
In a prickly pot with a lifelong lock,
Playing with bees that give you short, sharp shocks.
Six sleek swans swam swiftly southwards.
If you notice this notice, you will notice that this notice is not worth noticing.
Do Tongue Twisters Help You?
If you’ve had experience using tongue twisters to improve speech, or just to have fun, send me some of your favorites in the comments below!