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Tongue Twisters and Elocution Lessons for Accent Reduction

Updated on October 30, 2015

Part of being an accent-free speaker of any language is being able to master pronunciation of the words. Elocution lessons for accent reduction are part of formal studies to help a language learner have a more thorough grasp and understanding of the language they are learning. Some of the basic principles of elocution include:

  • Articulation – Articulation is the act itself of uttering words which represent the ideas that a person wants to communicate to the listener or receiver. It covers enunciation or how a person pronounces words properly or improperly in relevance to the native qualities of the language being learned or spoken.

  • Tone of voice – The tone of voice may affect the implied mood of a statement. It communicates more than just what the word means, but the attitude as well as other implied messages that a person wishes to communicate. In English for example, “yes” may be said in several different tones which may be suggestive of different moods such as positivity, sarcasm, indifference, questioning, uncertainty—all depending on how a person decides to use the tone of his voice.

  • Stressing – Stressing is concerned with where the high point in a word is placed. It can mean the difference between a word’s being a noun or a verb such as in the case of “table of contents” and “He is content with what he has.” It is important for second language learners to adapt the proper stressing that the new language calls for.

  • Accent – Similar to stressing, accents differ from one culture to another, and may pass onto the second language being learned which is why practicing with some tongue twisters to help improve the sound of a second language learner can be beneficial for accent reduction purposes.

Common Activities Given for Accent Reduction Students

Some activities given to those having elocution lessons for accent reduction include:

  • Reading paragraphs of text – Reading out loud helps a student evaluate his progress as well as spot mistakes which can be corrected. Although it may seem elementary to some, it is actually the best form of practice—the act of reading aloud to help build familiarity with the sounds of the second language.

  • Sentence intonations – Sentences marked with up and down lines may help learners familiarize themselves with how different sentences used in daily conversations can be used. It may also be done through the use of “/” for a short pause and “//” for final pauses signified by commas and periods respectively, along with other punctuation marks.

  • Word syllabication and pronunciation – Familiarizing oneself with the breakdown of syllables and how to pronounce particularly difficult words also help accent reduction students to become familiar with the syllable stress patterns of the new language being learned.

  • Tongue twisters – Entertaining and good practice for both adults and younger learners, tongue twisters pose the challenge of having to rapidly pronounce similar-sounding words to practice pronunciations skills covering stress, intonation, and enunciation all at the same time. Tongue twisters are great ice breakers which can make the learning process more enjoyable too.

Properties of Tongue Twisters

Tongue twisters are a group of words which may or may not make a whole lot of sense but are used to exercise pronunciation of sounds which are alliterative in nature. Alliteration or alliterative words mean a group of words which have the same sound or letter, usually at the beginning of the words. Tongue twisters are meant to “twist” the tongue because they are supposed to be pronounced quickly, and repetitively. They are different from rhymes because rhymes are usually observed at the final syllable of the words being pronounced.

Tongue twisters are usually short phrases that speak of fun situations. Often found in children’s books or sometimes even poetry books, tongue twisters have a usually comic nature which is what makes them fun learning tools. Here are some examples of tongue twisters which can be used for accent reduction exercises:

  • She sells seashells on the seashore.
  • How can a clam cram in a clean cream can?
  • Can you can a can as a canner can can a can?
  • Roberta rang rings around the Roman ruins.
  • Seventy-seven benevolent elephants.

These groups of words usually present comic situations and make use of words which aren’t otherwise used in normal conversation or sentence construction. They can be used as daily exercises and can be pronounced usually 5 or more times in rapid succession.

To make things even more challenging, teachers may resort to making their students memorize the tongue twister before having them recite it quickly and for as many times as they can. Learners may also continue practicing tongue twisters outside the classroom setup and with minimal supervision since it is a kind of repetitive drill which is focused on improving their pronunciation skills.

Tongue Twisters for Elocution Lessons for Accent Reduction

Saying tongue twisters out loud may sound funny, especially to adults who are taking accent reduction classes. They may seem like very elementary things to do, but they actually have a lot of benefits in being able to improve one’s accent. Here are some of the reasons why tongue twisters are beneficial learning tools for accent reduction:

  • These can exercise the speaker’s ability to pronounce similar-sounding words. Although the practice occurs through repetition, being able to properly pronounce it after loosening up to the set of words can help a great deal in pronouncing similarly-spelled words outside of tongue twister phrases. When a speaker has difficulty with certain sounds or phonemes, tongue twisters are great exercises which can counter these phoneme pronunciation difficulties for the learner.

  • These can help speakers practice sentence intonation as well. Tongue twisters are sometimes phrased as questions or as long, run-on sentences. Some even have several lines which should have varying intonation. Getting a grasp of how a group of words should be pronounced can be achieved through practicing with tongue twisters. Since sentence intonation is highly important in being able to sound like a native speaker of the language, being able to practice with tongue twisters can make them feel more at ease with it.

  • These can make the learner understand the usual word stress patterns of the language. By constant pronunciation of the same set of words, similarly-spelled words with the same phonetic characteristics may be more easily pronounced later on despite not having seen or pronounced them before because of exposure to tongue twisters.

Conclusion

Despite seeming like a mundane thing to do, eager language learners should be exposed even to these quirky and fun activities. By familiarizing themselves with the sounds of the new language being learned, they are exposing themselves to the potential challenge of having to deal with strange words they may encounter in the future. Whether these tongue twisters are used as exercises or for other purposes, learners and teachers alike will benefit from the fun of participating in such language activities every once in a while.

Another activity that may result from exposure to tongue twisters is making their own versions. This may help catch the interest of learners and also enhances their vocabulary skills while being able to practice grammar at the same time. Taking the time to practice the English language by using tongue twisters can help a learner have fun while reducing his or her accent! Finding a list of fun tongue twisters to pronounce may help make the classroom a more interesting environment.

Were you fond of tongue twisters while learning English as a kid?

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