If you’ve been following along with our YouTube videos, blog articles, and especially if you use one of the MosaLingua apps, you’ll know that one of the most important ways to keep progressing in your target language is to incorporate plenty of different, interesting exercises. Not only will you have more fun learning and stay better motivated, but having lots of different ways of practicing will also help you learn faster, and better remember what you’ve learned. In this article and fun video, we take a look at some of the best English tongue twisters for improving your English pronunciation.
If you’d rather go hands-free, we also have a podcast version of this article available at the MosaLingua Language Lab:
Fun English Tongue Twisters for Pronunciation Practice
What’s a tongue twister and how can it help my English?
If you’re not familiar with the term, a tongue twister is a short sentence that uses combinations of letters, words, and sounds that are difficult to say in succession. As you’ll see below, certain combinations are more difficult than others. As the name implies, these sentences are meant to twist up your tongue.
How does that help your English? Well, first of all, know that tongue twisters can be useful for learning pronunciation in any language, not just English. Tongue twisters force you to slow down, to pay more attention to how your lips, tongue, and jaw are moving, and to take notice of how similar sounds or words differ in subtle ways. They’re also great for learning new sounds that may not exist in your native language.
In fact, tongue twisters are so effective at getting people to pay close attention to their pronunciation that even native speakers use tongue twister to warm up before a public speech or before performing on stage or in front of a camera. Here’s one that actors often use to make sure their mouths are warmed up:
Red leather, yellow leather, red leather, yellow leather.
And another one:
A proper cup of coffee from a copper coffee pot.
As you can see, tongue twisters use different techniques to “trip up” the speaker, like alliteration (when two words start with the same letter, like “copper coffee”), rhyming (like proper and copper), and plenty of words with similar sounds (proper, coffee, pot).
The right tongue twister for the job
We recommend choosing your tongue twisters strategically. Pick them based on your native language, and the letters, words, and sounds that you have most difficulty with. Each of the tongue twisters below is designed to help with a different combination of sounds that English learners may have trouble with, depending upon where they come from and what sounds are new to them. You can hear how our own MosaLingua language teachers did on these tricky tongue twisters in Abbe’s video below, and try them out for yourself.
/h/ and silent h
This is a useful one for Portuguese, French, Spanish, and Italian speakers, who have trouble with the English H sound, since it’s not usually pronounced in these languages. In English, it’s sometimes silent, but usually pronounced with an exhaled puff of air. Try out this one:
The hotel heirs were honored to help host happy hour
Here’s a hint: heirs, honored and hour have silent h’s, while all the other h’s are pronounced.
/v/ and /b/
Our Spanish teacher Mirari took on this challenge. In Spanish, the letter V is pronounced more like a B, so native speakers often do the same when they speak English. To train your mouth to make the difference, try this tongue twister:
A very violet berry blew violently off the verdant berry bush
If you can say that 5 times fast without any mistakes, you’re well on your way!
/i/ and /ɪ/
French and Italian speakers, among others, can have trouble hearing and pronouncing the difference between English /i/ and /ɪ/ sounds, as in “hit” and “heat.” Here’s a tongue twister Abbe came up with for our Italian teacher Mara. Is it tough for you, too?
Snip some sheep for neat knitting, slip into the creek for feet dipping
In English, I can be pronounced /i/, as in hit, or /ɪ/, as in pizza or casino, which complicates things a little bit. Keep practicing with this tongue-twister and you’ll soon be a pro.
/ð/ and /θ/ (th sounds)
Spaniards will have no problem with these, but almost any other European or Asian language-speakers will need some practice. That’s because the th sound, as in that or those, is not very common. We gave this one to Magda, our German teacher. Are you a pro at th sounds yet?
They threw three thick thighs into the broth
Don’t worry if you’re not quite there yet, this one takes a lot of practice for English learners. In fact, we wrote a whole article on how to pronounce the th sound, with a helpful video.
/l/ and /r/
Speakers of some East Asian languages will have trouble with this last one: the difference between R and L sounds. This is because, in some Asian languages, Ls and Rs only appear at particular spots in a word (think about how English-speakers have no trouble saying hanger, but trip over ngapi), or one or both may not exist at all. We gave this tongue twister to our new Mandarin teacher, Yi:
A little critter bit a bigger critter, and made the bigger critter bleed red blood
Keep practicing if you didn’t get it right, and soon you’ll find it carrying over into your everyday English!
PS — That’s right! MosaLingua’s new Mandarin app is launching soon!
Difficult English Tongue Twisters
To keep practicing, improve your English, or impress your English-speaking friends, give these well-known tongue twisters a try:
She sells seashells by the seashore
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? (And the answer: A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood. Phew!)
Which wristwatches are Swiss wristwatches?
Lesser leather never weathered wetter weather better
That’s a workout for your tongue! Try a few of these each day. Or better yet, focus on the sounds you have trouble with and try writing your own tongue-twisters! We’d love to try them, so feel free to leave your own tongue-twister in a comment below.
Video: Abbe Challenges the MosaLingua Team to Her Toughest Tongue Twisters!
In this video, MosaLingua’s English teacher Abbe challenges some of her colleagues to the most difficult tongue twisters she could think of for English learners. Find out if they’re up to the task! Watch it right here or on our YouTube channel. The video is in English, but you can turn on subtitles and slow the speed if you need to. Just click the Settings icon ⚙️ in the bottom right corner of the video.
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If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy this short podcast featuring some infamously complicated English words:
It’s a comprehensive 10-module course designed to help you improve every aspect of your spoken English – fluency, confidence, pronunciation, and more – step by step, and enjoy doing it.