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10 English Tongue Twisters to Improve English Pronunciation

Updated on June 30, 2018
Diana Grant profile image

I'm fascinated by words, nuances of meanings & ideas. I have always enjoyed reading, language, and writing, from poetry to very long letters

What is a Tongue Twister?

A tongue twister is a combination of words designed to be hard to pronounce

The individual words themselves are usually quite commonplace, and easy to pronounce, but, combined as a set of words, they are surprisingly difficult to say. With quite a bit of practice, they become easier, and the idea is to say the phrases out loud, repeating them several times until you get it right.

It's quite fun to try them out in a group of people, competing to see who can get to the end without stumbling or hesitating. This is a useful and enjoyable exercise for both children and adults, who might be native English speakers or using English as a second language.

I don't know whether there are languages other than English which also have tongue twisters - if you know of any, do add your voice to the comment section at the end of this article.

Do You Like This Tongue Twister With a Twist?

The Twisted Tongue of a Tongue Twister
The Twisted Tongue of a Tongue Twister | Source

What is the Purpose of Tongue Twisters? You Can Use Them to Help You to Improve Your Speech

Speaking Agility Exercises - Tongue Twisters:

Public speakers use tongue twisters for pronunciation, as they are very helpful in increasing verbal agility and improving diction. I remember reciting tongue twisters as a child, in elocution lessons, and they are used in speech training in public speaking for adults, such as actors, barristers and anyone who has to give company presentations.

Funny tongue twisters are a source of great amusement for children and adults alike. Usually one person puts out a challenge to say the tongue twister as quickly as possible and repeat it several times. Each person does this in turn, usually until at least one of them can get it right. The results are often very funny. Number 9 in the list below always causes a smirk or giggle, because, if you get it wrong, which most people do if they are not careful, it has unintended sexual implications.

Tongue twisters are very useful for people learning English as a second language (ESL students), as it helps them to get their tongues round familiar and unfamiliar words and to be more careful with their pronunciation.

The First Three are Tongue Twisters With the Purpose of Distinguishing Different “S” Sounds:

The tongue finds it quite difficult to move quickly between the sounds “s”, “sh” and “th”. The first tongue twister is in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s most difficult tongue twister:

1. The sixth sheik's sixth sheep's sick

These ones are slightly easier:

2. She sells sea shells on the seashore

and

3. Does this shop stock shot silk socks with spots?

Juggling With Words Outside a Sock Shop - A View of Covent Garden, London W1

Juggler outside a Sock Shop
Juggler outside a Sock Shop | Source

A Tongue Twister Which Helps With the Pronunciation of “R”:

The English “R” is a difficult letter to pronounce – even English people find it difficult, and some English people never do master it. Instead of saying “Rabbit”, they will pronounce it “Vabbit” or “Wabbit”. The Scots never even try – they pronounce “R” gutturally, like most continental languages, whereas the English “R” is actually pronounced at the front of the mouth, not in the throat. Some English people pronounce “R” by rolling their tongues slightly, but usually it is pronounced by using the lips rather than the tongue.

4. Round the rugged rocks the ragged rascals ran the rural races

Rugged Rocks on the Welsh Coast

Rugged Volcanic Rocks on the Welsh Coast at Llanelly
Rugged Volcanic Rocks on the Welsh Coast at Llanelly | Source

A Tongue Twister to Help With the Pronunciation of “ai”:

Take the word “pain” – there are various regional differences in the way people pronounce it, from “pen” to “pine” and various intermediate sounds, but if you wish to speak English without a regional accent, you would pronounce it as in “pay” – “payn”.

5. The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain

You may recall that this phrase was adopted into a song of that title in the musical and film “My Fair Lady”, but, as a tongue twister, it was in use long before that.

Here are Three Tongue Twisters to Help With General Verbal Agility:

6. Red leather, yellow leather, red leather yellow leather


7. The leith police dismisseth us


8. 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?

Be Careful With the Following Tongue Twister or You May be Called a Rudie:

You'd better say this one very slowly and carefully indeed, and not in front of anyone with a delicate sensibility:

9. I'm not the pheasant plucker,

I'm the pheasant plucker's mate

I'm only plucking pheasants

'Cause the pheasant plucker's late.

And, Finally, Here’s a Tongue Twister I Made up Myself:

10. A preponderance of protrusions on a prehistoric man

A protrusion is something which sticks out - it could be nail heads, or, as in the case of the monster below, pointed scales.

Are you frightened????

(I designed the Aztec Monster Picture below to go on T-shirts and mugs)

Prolific Protrusions on a Monster

An Aztec with many protruding spikes
An Aztec with many protruding spikes | Source

Take this poll about EnglishTongue Twisters

Have Tongue Twisters Helped You to Achieve Better Verbal Agility?

See results

© 2011 Diana Grant

Do Leave a Comment or Question - Nice to Know Who has Visited!

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    • GiftsByDiana profile image

      Diana Burrell-Shipton 

      10 months ago from Hubbard, Ohio, USA

      How fun and helpful too !

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 

      10 months ago from Northern Ireland

      Very funny. I especially liked the pheasant plucker. I wouldn't dare try saying that one too quickly!

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 

      10 months ago from Savannah, Georgia

      Diana, these are tricky to say, except for the ones we are most familiar with. Fun group of tongue Twisters. Love your last comment "Nudge-Nudge" -- shades of Monty Python - a family favorite. :)

    • profile image

      Misto Babaoglu 

      10 months ago

      Hello Diana and all you others,

      I have just find you page. So, i am a new user here. I have got a qouistion for you:

      Is that someone HomePage you reccomend me for Learn english? I am in the biggining of learning english.

    • Diana Grant profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      13 months ago from London

      Hope it wasn't the naughty ones, nudge-nudge!

    • profile image

      Scott Andersen 

      13 months ago

      Really fun!! Some of these really tripped me up!

    • Diana Grant profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      17 months ago from London

      Thanks Mykola, I hope to see some of your articles soon

    • Mykola profile image

      Mykola 

      17 months ago from Ukraine

      Your explanation of colours is very bright and meaningful, unity of sound, word and pictures help to realize the influence of colours in our life. My deepest thanks. Nick

    • profile image

      Nabila from Algeria 

      19 months ago

      I am a big fan of tongue twisters ....

      I know some nice ones :

      ..... How much wood would a woodchuck chuck

      if a woodchuck would chuck wood ?

      ..... How many cans can a canner can

      if a canner can can cans?

      ..... She sells shells by the sea shore.

      Thanks for sharing ,,, looking for more from you !

    • Diana Grant profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      19 months ago from London

      Yes, I remember that one too - I've just looked it up and it appears to be an anonymous traditional English rhyme.

    • David Paul Wagner profile image

      David Paul Wagner 

      19 months ago from Sydney, Australia

      I was taught this tongue twister of a poem when I was a child (it is fun to try and say it quickly!):

      Whether the weather be fine

      Or whether the weather be not,

      Whether the weather be cold

      Or whether the weather be hot,

      We'll weather the weather

      Whatever the weather,

      Whether we like it or not!

    • profile image

      po 

      2 years ago

      cool page

    • Gina Welds-Hulse profile image

      Gina Welds Hulse 

      2 years ago from Rockledge, Florida

      Here's a development on one you already know, Diana.

      Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.....but Perspicacious Polly Perkins purchased Peter's product to produce a pretty profit.

      Thanks for sharing this Hub. I really enjoyed this, and a few others. Fun!

    • Diana Grant profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      3 years ago from London

      Wish I'd been there!

    • profile image

      Mellie 

      3 years ago

      A few years ago I'd have to pay someone for this inotrmafion.

    • Diana Grant profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      4 years ago from London

      I had fun doing it!

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 

      4 years ago from Canada

      Great page about tongue twisters & what an ah, interesting initial photograph! Love it!

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 

      4 years ago from Midwest

      I love tongue twisters, they are fun and very useful. There are some in your hub I had never heard before. My little guy is in first grade and still struggles with the R sound. I may teach him some tongue twisters to see if it helps him.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      5 years ago from Germany

      I used to practised " Peter Piper" tongue twister when I was in college and I can still recite it even it was very long time ago. It was fun and I learned a lot. English is my third language and it´s sometimes getting weird speaking the 3 languages in one day besides my own dialect. Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed reading it;-)

    • Dina Blaszczak profile image

      Dina Blaszczak 

      6 years ago from Poland

      Nice hub! English is a foreign language for me and I found information in this hub interesting and funny.

      Voted up, useful and funny.

    • SimeyC profile image

      Simon Cook 

      6 years ago from NJ, USA

      What a fun hub - but also very educational! Didn't realize why tongue twisters were designed!

    • profile image

      calculus-geometry 

      6 years ago

      pheasant plucker, lol! that's a good one I never heard before.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      Hi, I love tongue twisters, my son and I used to spend hours in hysterical laughter trying to read some of them out of his books, I did just try your 'sheik' one, and it has completely defeated me!

    • Sonia Perozzi profile image

      Sonia Perozzi 

      6 years ago from California

      Fun article,tongue twisters are great for improving speech and are often part of the warm up process for actors and vocalists.

    • trecords0 profile image

      trecords0 

      7 years ago from DeLand, Florida

      Hey Diana,

      What a neat hub. I had an idea a long time ago to write an album where the lyrics were tongue twisting riddles. This reminded me about it. Thanks for the compliments and the follow.

      Tim.

    • TMMason profile image

      TMMason 

      7 years ago from FL.

      Very nice.

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Fun topic. Thanks for sending it to me.

    • Diana Grant profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      7 years ago from London

      Thanks, I'll take a look at your stuff

    • VioletSun profile image

      VioletSun 

      7 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      Intriguing article! Didn't know that tongue twisters can improve speech. Will try it and have fun at the same time.

      Welcome to Hubpages! Hope you enjoy the community of friendly hubbers.

    • Ms Chievous profile image

      Tina 

      7 years ago from Wv

      Very fun topic! Look forward to more!

    • Diana Grant profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      7 years ago from London

      I have a Stumble toolbar with a "Share" icon, and that comes up with.....wait for it....a photo of you (your Avatar) and your name. Just ticked the box and that was it - first time I've ever used it. Useful for other people to know - Get that StumbleUpon toolbar folks!

    • profile image

      Rhonda (Pukeko) 

      7 years ago

      This is really fun. By the way, how did you send it to me through Stumble Upon. It appeared in my tool bar.

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