Want to stump your friends?
We all remember challenging ourselves with crazy tongue twisters growing up.
Aside from being a fun camp activity, tongue twisters can also be a great way to learn a foreign language.
You’ve heard native speakers talk a kilometer a minute on your favorite radio programs and French language learning podcasts.
Now it’s your turn to speak lightening fast French like the natives!
As you’ll see through some of the examples below, tongue twisters won’t exactly be teaching you useful vocabulary or even phrases that you can use in conversation.
Most of them are built out of simple words you already learned as a beginner. What tongue twisters can do for you as a French learner is help you to perfect your accent.
How to Achieve a Perfect French Accent with Tongue Twisters
The very idea of a tongue twister is to create a phrase that’s difficult to say…even for a native speaker. So, it’s no surprise that tongue twisters can help language learners master the unfamiliar sounds of French. Tongue twisters force you to repeat unfamiliar sounds, and because they’re within a sentence instead of isolated in words, you’ll get a better idea of what it’s like to speak in full sentences. That is the goal of your French learning, right?
Here are some ways you can get the most out of these tongue twisters:
- Ask a native French speaker to say the words properly. Ideally, you can record the native speaker and then mimic them. This is a great job for a language exchange partner.
- Start off slowly. When you try a new tongue twister, be sure to go through carefully and accurately pronounce each word, even if it takes you a while.
- Break it all down. You are bound to have trouble with some words or phrases in these tongue twisters – even native speakers do! When you find yourself stumbling, isolate the tricky part and repeat it until you’ve gotten it down perfectly. Then, move on and tie everything together. You can also search for those hard-to-pronounce words on FluentU, since it helps to listen for those terms in different albeit realistic contexts in order to nail down those sounds.
- Speed things up. After you’ve gotten used to what you are meant to say, try saying the sentences more and more quickly. Soon, you’ll be rattling them off rapid-fire!
10 French Tongue Twisters to Perfect Your French Accent
French Tongue Twisters Using Homophones
There are many categories of tongue twisters, but one of the most common is that which uses homophones. French has a great deal of homophones, which can make comprehension tricky at times. These tongue twisters take advantage of homophones to trip up your tongue as much as possible.
1. Si mon tonton tond ton tonton, ton tonton sera tondu.
If my uncle shaves your uncle, your uncle will be shaven.
This tongue twister capitalizes on the similarities between ton (your) tonton (uncle) and tond (to shave). These three words are pronounced exactly the same in French, so the sentence calls for 9 repetitions of the same sound at once. This is hard enough, but you really need to understand what words you are saying to make sure that you get the right number of tons in there before arriving at sera. And, of course, you have to make sure that you finish with tondu and not another plain tond !
2. Je suis ce que je suis, et si je suis ce que je suis, qu’est-ce que je suis ?
I am what I am, and if I am what I am, what am I ?
This tongue twister operates with a slightly different logic. Instead of having several words containing the same sound, this sentence repeats several words in different orders. Je (I), suis (am), ce (that), que (which), qu’est-ce (what), si (if). These terms are used in different orders to evoke meaning. A language learner must first be sure of the meanings if he or she ever hopes to say the sentence properly. The second difficulty is in the pairing of suis and si, which sound similar and can be easy to mix up, especially since suis appears five times and si only once.
3. As-tu vu le vert ver allant vers le verre en verre vert ?
Did you see the green worm going towards the green glass glass ?
This tongue twister operates on the same principle as the first; vert (green), ver (worm) and vers (towards) are all pronounced the same way. But an additional difficulty is added with the beginning: As-tu vu le vert requires a raised rounded vowel sound, unfamiliar in English (the u at the end of tu and vu), directly followed by the stream of ver sounds. The combination makes this one a bit tougher to master!
French Tongue Twisters Using Alliteration
4. Les chaussettes de l’archiduchesse, sont-elles sèches ? Archi-sèches.
The archduchesses socks: are they dry? Very dry.
Those familiar with American tongue twisters may be accustomed to those that use alliteration, like this very common one about the archduchess’s socks. What makes this sentence tough to say is the mixing of the sh and ss sounds, which occur naturally nearly side-by-side in chausette, archiduchesse and sèche. Practice saying this sentence quickly will help your natural French sentences grow more fluid.
5. Cinq chiens chassent six chats.
Five dogs hunt six cats.
This sentence offers the same sh/ss pairing as the one above, though an additional difficulty for non-native speakers is introduced with the variety of nasal sounds. French has four nasal sounds, and this sentence introduces two of them with cinq and chiens.
6. Ces cerises sont si sûres qu’on ne sait pas si c’en sont.
These cherries are so sour, we’re not sure if they are (cherries).
The ss sound appears yet again, though this time it isn’t paired with the sh sound but rather with a variety of vowels. Of particular interest for non-native speakers is the “c’en sont” at the end of the sentence, which is a false homophone pair for some languages. In French, c’en and sont are pronounced with different nasal vowel sounds and, because this pairing appears at the end of the sentence, French learners will have to concentrate particularly hard to make sure they don’t mix them up!
7. Cinq gros rats grillent dans la grosse graisse grasse.
Five fat rats grill in the big, fatty fat.
Even in English this one is hard to say! We’ve abandoned the ss sound for one of the French sounds that’s hardest for Anglophone learners to produce: r. In this case, it’s often paired with g for a gr sound that repeats with several different vowel sounds. Practice this one, and your merci will sound native before too long!
Advanced French Tongue Twisters
Once you’ve gotten the hang of the easier ones, it’s time for a new challenge!
8. Je veux et j’exige du jasmin et des jonquilles.
I want and I insist upon jasmine and jonquils.
This one has a lot going for it in terms of difficulty. From the very beginning, a liaison is required between je veux and j’exige, so that the sentence sneaks another z sound into the end of veux. Because z and j are pronounced very close to one another in the mouth, it can be hard to shift from one to the other. Add to that the false rhyme between exige and jonquilles, the latter of which requires a bit of a y sound where the double ls are, and the repetition of the non-English sound j (as opposed to our hard dj in English) and you’ve got yourself a bit of a mouthful here!
9. Ces six saucissons-secs-ci sont si secs qu’on ne sait si s’en sont.
These six dried sausages are so dry that we don’t know if they are (dried sausages).
If you practiced the cherry one up top, this tongue twister should seem familiar. More instances of the ss sound have been added to the same basic structure, just to trip your tongue up a bit more!
10. Un chasseur sachant chasser chasse sans son chien.
A hunter who knows how to hunt hunts without his dog.
Much like the previous one, this tongue twister is a more advanced version of one we’ve seen earlier – the one with dogs hunting cats. If you’ve perfected the earlier version, it’s time to move on to bigger and better things!
Perfecting tongue twisters can be a fun way to practice your accent. Once you’ve mastered a few of these, you’ll find more sensical sentences far more easily spoken!
And one more thing...
If you like learning French on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.
FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native French videos with reach. With interactive captions, you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:
Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with learn mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning, and play the mini-games found in our dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."
All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally personalized experience. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
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