Let’s play a game.
Say the following sentence out loud.
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
Did you have trouble?
It definitely isn’t easy!
Tongue twisters like the one above are a lot of fun to try and say, but they’re also one of the best ways to practice English pronunciation.
Many tongue twisters don’t make a whole lot of sense—some don’t even use complete sentences. However, they’re filled with great English sounds for you to master, as well as some interesting vocabulary lessons.
Below, I’ll show you how to improve your English pronunciation with tongue twisters and get you started with 15 of my favorites.
How to Practice English Pronunciation with Tongue Twisters
- Repeat, repeat, repeat. When it comes to tongue twisters, repetition is key (very important). You can’t expect a tongue twister to bolster (improve) your English skills if you only say it once.
These fun little phrases can be specifically used for improving your pronunciation, so it’s doubtful that you’ll pronounce everything correctly the first time. Plus, the more you say the sounds in these tongue twisters out loud, the easier it’ll be for you to remember them.
- Focus on articulation. Many people treat tongue twisters as a game of speed. In other words, people want to see how fast they can say them over and over again. This is great if you’re just having fun, but if you’re trying to learn the English sounds, you need to forget speed and focus on articulation.
That means paying special attention to how your mouth is moving and making sure that you pronounce every single sound in each word, even if you have to go slow at first.
- Study mouth positioning. Before you start trying to say English sounds, it can be very helpful to study how your mouth should be positioned.
All languages are different, and chances are there are certain English sounds you’ll struggle with because your mouth has never had to make those positions before.
One of my favorite tools is Rose Medical Speech Therapy Software and Instrumentation’s website. They have videos for each sound that show you both the mouth positioning and where to place your tongue—which is extremely important.
Pronuncian.com is another great site where you can listen to the sounds being said while reading the explanations of the corresponding mouth positions.
Lastly, if you prefer reading to listening or watching, Nativlang.com has a lot of information about English phonetics (sounds) and mouth positioning.
- Use tongue twisters as a warm-up. Tongue twisters have traditionally been used by actors, news anchors and even politicians before they give a speech.
This is because tongue twisters prepare your mouth for speaking clearly and correctly. Practicing key sounds warms up both your mouth muscles and your vocal cords. I recommend using this same method before you’re about to give an English presentation or participate in a practice conversation.
- Identify your weaknesses. Any tongue twister you use is going to be great pronunciation practice. However, you can get the most out of your time by focusing on which English sounds are the most difficult for you personally.
Write them down, then look for the tongue twisters in the list below that specifically have lots of those sounds.
Where to Find English Tongue Twisters
There are tons of great websites out there with English tongue twisters, but here are some of my favorites.
- Repeat After Us has 105 tongue twisters, some of which are accompanied by audio recordings, which is a huge asset (useful thing) for learners.
- If you’re looking for a specific type of tongue twister, I suggest Fun With Words, a site that separates their options into categories like popular, funny, poetic and those with adult content.
- FluentU has some fun English tongue twisters, including this one from the classic American movie “The Court Jester.” The cool thing about FluentU is that you get tons of other learning opportunities while you watch real English videos.
For example, click any word in the interactive subtitles and FluentU will give you an instant definition, grammar info and native pronunciation. There are also flashcards and fun quizzes to help you remember everything you learned while watching. The full video library has videos for every level from beginner to advanced.
- Beat by Beat Press has 40 different tongue twisters.
- Tongue-twister.net has a variety of long and short options totaling 593 different tongue twisters.
- PunME has 150 tongue twisters and other fun and useful English resources such as jokes, riddles and puns.
15 Tricky Tongue Twisters to Improve Your English Pronunciation
Dull Dark Dock
To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock
in a pestilential prison with a life-long lock,
awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock
from a cheap and chippy chopper with a big, black block.
This tongue twister is absolutely filled with repeated sounds, including the consonant sounds d, l, s and b.
There are also a number of more complicated sounds that you’ll get to practice, such as the sh in “short, sharp shock” and the ch in “cheap and chippy chopper.” These two sounds are often incorrectly pronounced the same way by English learners.
As for vocabulary, pay attention to the following words:
Dull — not bright or interesting
Pestilential — causing infections or diseases
Sensation — feeling
If a Woodchuck Could Chuck Wood
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.
Here, you get to practice the w sound, as well as that tricky ch sound again in “woodchuck could chuck.”
You also get to practice the vowel sound in “could,” “wood” and “would.” As you can see, this sound can be made by different spelling combinations in English.
Some vocabulary words you might not be familiar with include:
Woodchuck — a groundhog (a type of rodent)
Chuck — to throw
I Slit a Sheet
I slit a sheet, a sheet, I slit.
Upon a slitted sheet, I sit.
This tongue twister teaches you the sl consonant cluster and the previously mentioned difficult sh sound, like in “sheet.” You also get to practice the difference in the vowels that sound like ee as in “sheet” and i as in “sit” and “slit.”
I only see one vocabulary word that could be tricky:
Slit — to make a thin, straight cut in something
The word slitted is simply the adjective form of the word. It describes something that has been slit.
Be careful with this one! As you can hear below, it’s very easy to accidentally combine the “sh” and “it” sounds with this tongue twister, resulting in a rude English word!
Skunk on a Stump
A skunk sat on a stump and thunk the stump stunk,
but the stump thunk the skunk stunk.
This tongue twister is great for getting used to saying the consonant clusters st and sk.
This one also only has one potentially complicated word:
Stump — the part of a tree that’s left in the ground after you cut it down
Seventy-seven benevolent elephants.
For all of those having trouble with the v sound, this is the tongue twister for you.
Most of the vocabulary is self-explanatory (easy to figure out), but there’s one word that could confuse you:
Benevolent — kind, not selfish
Through three cheese trees three free fleas flew.
While these fleas flew, freezy breeze blew.
Freezy breeze made these three trees freeze.
Freezy trees made these trees’ cheese freeze.
That’s what made these three free fleas sneeze.
This one is particularly hard in my opinion, even for native speakers.
You obviously get to practice the consonant clusters fl and fr, as well as the z sound. You also get to tackle that difficult th sound in “these,” “three,” “that’s” and “through.”
Additionally, there are a lot of opportunities to try your ee sound in words like “fleas,” “freezy,” “cheese” and “these.”
Here’s a closer look at some vocabulary:
Breeze — a light wind
Freeze — when liquid is so cold that it turns into ice
Any noise annoys an oyster, but a noisy noise annoys an oyster most.
This sentence is a perfect one for students who need to practice the strange English oy sound like in “noise annoys an oyster.”
Pay special attention to the following vocabulary word, which is used frequently by native English speakers:
Annoy — to bother or irritate someone
Cooks cook cupcakes quickly.
This short tongue twister will help you with the hard k sound, like in “cook,” and the kw sound in “quickly.”
As for vocabulary, remember the following:
Quickly — fast
A Flea and a Fly
A flea and a fly flew up in a flue.
Said the flea, “Let us fly!”
Said the fly, “Let us flee!”
So they flew through a flaw in the flue.
One of the trickier consonant clusters is fl, making this tongue twister a great one for English learners.
As for vocabulary, there may be several words you don’t understand at first:
Flee — to run away
Flea — a tiny insect that drinks the blood of mammals
Flaw — an imperfection or weakness
Flue — the pipe or opening in a chimney
Pad Kid Poured
Pad kid poured curd pulled cod.
With this phrase, you can practice the p and k sounds, both of which are aspirated (followed by a puff of air) when placed at the beginning of words.
For extra practice, try placing your hand in front of your mouth while you say the tongue twister, and see if you can feel your breath when you make the p and k sounds. You should be able to feel it if you’re making the sounds correctly.
As for vocabulary, pay attention to the following words:
Curd — a dairy product that’s made from milk
Cod — a type of fish
Sixth sick Sheikh’s sixth sheep sick.
Even for a native English speaker, I find this tongue twister very tricky.
This one is very good for practicing the s sound, as well as the ks sound like in “sixth,” sh like in “sheep” and th like in “sixth.”
There’s probably only one word you may not be familiar with:
Sheikh — an elderly scholar or leader
In fact, Sheikh isn’t even originally an English word. It comes from Arabic.
Listen to how hard this one is, even for native speakers!
Two Tibble Twins
The two Tibble twins tied tiny twine
to twelve teachers’ tipping trek tents.
This tongue twister almost exclusively (only) uses the t and tw sounds, so it’s great for learners struggling with those. There are also several instances where the long i vowel sound comes up, like in “tied tiny twine.”
Here’s a look at some new vocabulary:
Twins — two siblings born at the same time
Twine — a type of strong thread
Trek tents — a specific brand of tents (portable shelter used for camping)
Betty Bought Some Butter
Betty bought some butter,
but the butter was bitter,
so Betty bought some better butter
to make the bitter butter better.
It’s not hard to see that this one is great for practicing the b sound, but it’s also perfect for those having trouble with the t and r sounds.
As for new vocabulary, there may only be one word you don’t know yet:
Bitter — a sharp taste that’s not sweet at all
If you’re ready for it, there’s an even longer version you can hear performed by a native English speaker here:
Green Grape Cakes
As he gobbled the cakes on his plate,
the greedy ape said as he ate,
the greener green grapes are,
the keener keen apes are
to gobble green grape cakes.
This tongue twister is good for saying the g, gr and n sounds, as well as the ee vowel sound, as in “greener green.”
There may be several words that are new to you:
Gobbled — ate quickly and noisily
Greedy — selfish (wanting everything for yourself)
Keen — eager (wanting something strongly)
Frivolously fanciful Franny fried fresh fish furiously.
This last one covers fr and l, two sounds that are commonly mispronounced by English learners.
There’s also a lot of great vocabulary in this one:
Frivolously — not seriously
Fanciful — unrealistic
Furiously — done in a very angry way
I hope you’ve had a lot of fun trying to master these tongue twisters. Keep practicing!
Camille Turner is an experienced freelance writer and ESL teacher.
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