Even if you know how English should sound, it can still be difficult to pronounce words properly.
When you’re learning a new language, you have to learn to move your mouth in a completely different way.
But how do you do that?
Try tongue twisters!
What Is a Tongue Twister?
A tongue twister is a phrase that’s difficult to say because it contains words that have similar sounds. Here’s an example:
She sells seashells by the seashore.
This phrase has a combination of /s/ and /ʃ/ (“sh”) sounds. It’s very challenging to say—and the faster you go, the more challenging it is!
Benefits of Using Tongue Twisters for Pronunciation Practice
Tongue twisters are a good way to add some challenging fun to your language learning. When you’re having fun, you’re more likely to make your language practice a habit. But besides being enjoyable, tongue twisters are also a useful learning tool.
Focus on problem sounds
Because tongue twisters usually focus on one or two sounds, it’s easy to identify which ones are hard for you. Once you’ve figured out which sounds are the most difficult, choose tongue twisters that focus on those sounds.
Exercise your mouth
Speaking involves a lot of muscles, including those in your tongue, lips, cheeks, and jaw. Repeating the same sounds over and over is a workout for your mouth—it will stretch and strengthen those muscles. You might even find that your mouth is sore after practicing a new sound for a while. It’s just like a workout at the gym—for your speech muscles!
Train your brain
Similar sounds can be tricky. To clearly pronounce them so they don’t sound exactly alike, you need to make very small changes in your mouth. Tongue twisters can help by making you repeat similar sounds one after the other. This will train your brain to remember which small mouth changes are necessary to move from one sound to a similar (but different) sound. With enough practice, it will eventually feel more natural and comfortable.
Do them alone
Speaking with a partner is an important part of language learning, but it’s not always possible. The great thing about tongue twisters is that you don’t need a partner. Just choose the sounds you want to practice, and go for it!
Tongue Twisters to Get You Started
There are a lot of fun tongue twisters available online, but here are a few you can start with. To begin, go slowly, then gradually try to increase your speed.
/l/ and /r/
Rory’s rolling red lorry led Larry to the quarry.
/θ/ (voiceless “th”)
Thirty thousand thirsty snakes thirstily drank three thousand lakes.
/ð/ (voiced “th”)
Their mother gathered rather weathered feathers.
/ɪ/ (short “i”) and /i:/ (long “e”)
Steve fixes six big leaks with sticky leaves.
/ʊ/ and /u:/
Rude moods should improve with good food.
Five furious friends found Frank’s fifty fish.
/v/ and /b/
Violent Vanessa banned the very big band’s van.
Next time you’re feeling like you could use some extra pronunciation practice, have fun with tongue twisters!