“Puoi parlare più lentamente per favore?”
“Can you speak more slowly please?”
When you’re talking to an Italian speaker, the first thing you’ll notice is that they talk so fast.
Do you dream of the day when you’ll sound like that, too?
It’s the marker of a truly fluent Italian speaker who blends in with the locals.
And we’ve got a little trick to help you put the pedal to the floor when you speak in Italian: tongue twisters!
They’re fun, they’re silly, but they’re also a terrific tool to speed up your speech.
How Can Tongue Twisters Help Italian Learners?
Learning the basics of Italian is the first step to reaching fluency, and pronunciation is a very important building block. But it’s not easy to master, since there are plenty of Italian pronunciations that are easy to mix up. Getting a handle on pronouncing sounds like “glio” and “glia” (more on those later) can be difficult for anyone. This is where tongue twisters can help.
Since the point of a tongue twister is to group similar sounds, they’re a perfect way to master difficult pronunciations. Through repetition, you’ll gain confidence with both individual sounds and constructing sentences. And with confidence, you’ll gain the speed you need to sound like a real Italian.
How to Approach Tongue Twisters as a Learning Tool
Begin by breaking the tongue twister into manageable segments. Start working on each segment slowly and deliberately so you can really get a handle on pronouncing the words.
Once you start to feel comfortable with the segments, work on the full tongue twister. As it gets easier for you to say, speed it up bit by bit. Record yourself speaking with your phone or a free online recorder, and work on cutting down your recording time. Eventually, you’ll be able to keep up with even the fastest Italian speaker!
If you enjoy this type of fun but practical language practice, FluentU is a great tool to round out your skills. FluentU provides real-world Italian videos—like movie trailers, music videos, inspiring talks and more—that’ve been transformed into language learning experiences.
Each video comes with interactive captions that make it easy to segment your learning just like with tongue twisters. You can click any word for an instant definition, native pronunciation and visual learning aid. It’s totally flexible and based on your own learning gaps—everyone has a personalized experience, even from the same videos!
FluentU also provides tailor-made flashcards and quizzes for each video, so you remember what you’ve learned when you’re done watching. There are videos for beginners to advanced learners—you can check out the full video library for free with a FluentU trial.
10 Italian Tongue Twisters to Slay Speedy Speech
Below, we’ve chosen 10 of the best ones for Italian practice, due to the variety and usefulness of the sounds they use.
Let’s get started!
Trentatré trentini entrarono a Trento tutti e trentatré trotterellando.
English version: Thirty-three people from Trentino came into Trent, all thirty-three trotting and toddling.
This Italian tongue twister is one of the most popular ones you’ll find. It’s a great phrase to work on your “t” words. Particularly, it emphasizes the “tr” sound that comes up eight times.
This also makes it great for learning to roll your “r,” a challenge for most Italian learners. Before you start working on this one, spend a short amount of time practicing your trill.
Quanti rami di rovere roderebbe un roditore se un roditore potesse rodere rami di rovere?
English version: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
This one may seem familiar to you, as it’s a very popular tongue twister in English. The Italian version is helpful in establishing your “i” and “e” sounds. For example, quanti (how much) rami (wood; literally a tree branch) and di (of) all end with an “ea” sound, like the English word “sea.”
This sentence also has both long “e” vowels and short “e” vowels. The long “e,” like the “re,” “be” and “se” in rovere (wood; literally a type of tree), roderebbe (would gnaw) and potesse (could) are similar to the “ai” sound in the word “pair.” The short “e,” however, such as the “de” in roderebbe, sounds more like “eh,” similar to the vowel sound in “ten.”
Guglielmo coglie ghiaia dagli scogli scagliandola oltre gli scogli tra mille gorgogli.
English version: Guglielmo grabs gravel from the rocks, hurling it over the rocks in a thousand gurgles.
This tongue twister conquers a major stumbling block for Italian learners: “gli.” This pronunciation shows up eight times in this sentence, in almost every word!
“Gli” in Italian uses a “lyee” type sound. Think of how you say the second half of the word “million.”
Those three little letters can be quite a tangle, but if you warm up by saying “million” slowly, or exaggerate saying “lyee,” you’ll conquer this challenge in no time.
Sul tagliere l’aglio taglia. Non tagliare la tovaglia. La tovaglia non è aglio. Se la tagli fai uno sbaglio.
English version: On the cutting board, the garlic is cut. Don’t cut the tablecloth. The tablecloth is not the garlic. If you cut it, you make a mistake.
If you’re looking to build your kitchen vocabulary, this is the perfect tongue twister for you!
In this sentence, we see the return of “gli” and how it fits with other vowels. “Glie,” “glio” and “glia” all make an appearance here. After mastering the last tongue twister, this one will roll right off your tongue.
You can warm up for this sentence by saying “lyee-o,” “lyee-ah” repeatedly. Treat it like you would the tongue twister itself: start slowly and try to gain speed. Not only will it loosen you up, but it’ll also make saying the full sentence much easier.
Un limone, mezzo limone, due limoni, tre limoni.
English version: A lemon, half a lemon, two lemons, three lemons.
This short tongue twister is a little more simple and fun to say! It helps you practice singular and plural pronunciations, switching from limone (singular) to limoni (plural) halfway through. The “eh” sound of the singular “e” changes to “ee” with the plural vowel “i.”
It also helps you practice quantity vocabulary. It’s important to know how to use the singular form or say “half,” “two” and “three,” particularly if you’re ordering food or in a store.
Buonasera signorina, che bea sera che l’è stasera, se doman de sera l’è na bea sera come stasera che bea sera che l’è doman de sera.
English version: Good evening miss, what a beautiful evening this evening is, if tomorrow evening is a beautiful evening like this one, what a beautiful evening tomorrow evening will be.
This tongue twister is a mouthful, but very fun to say once you get the hang of it! It’s also a unique one because it’s nonstandard Italian—it’s in the Venetian Italian dialect.
The focus of this sentence is the long “e” vowel and the “a” sound, which is pronounced like “ah.”
There’s a rhythm to this sentence, so the best way to learn it is to take it a couple of words at a time and find that rhythm. You could even tap your toes to keep yourself in time.
Mi si dise, so dise, che lu dise, va la dise. Ma no lu sa che mi dise che lu dise va la dise.
English version: I say and I know that he says, go there he says. But he doesn’t know that I know that he says, go there he says.
The focus of this tongue twister is clearly the word dise (say/says), but there are lots of pronunciations at play here. This is another one in Venetian Italian!
The words so (know) and no (don’t) you already know how to say. They’re pronounced the same in Italian and English.
Mi (me) and si (it) both end with the pronunciation “ee.” Va (go), la (there) and sa (know) all use the “ah” sound. The word lu (he) ends with an “ooh.”
The challenge word here is che (that). In this case, the “ch” actually uses a “k” sound, so the word is pronounced as “kay.”
O postino che porti la posta, dimmi postino che posta portasti.
English version: Oh postman who brings the mail, tell me postman what mail you brought.
The main vowel you get to work on with this tongue twister is an “o.” The challenge is that it’s pronounced two ways.
“O,” “por” and “no” use a closed “o” sound. This means that your mouth is narrowed when you pronounce it, like “oh” in English.
On the other hand, the “po” in postino (postman) and posta (mail) use an open “o.” With this pronunciation your mouth is open, and the sound is similar to the word “spot.” You can warm up for this tongue twister by saying “o” repeatedly while changing the position of your lips.
In un piatto poco cupo, poco pepe cape.
English version: In a dish not deep enough, not much pepper fits.
This fun tongue twister helps you practice pronouncing your “p” properly. There’s a small difference between the English and Italian pronunciation of the letter “p.” In English, you often aspirate, but in Italian, there’s no aspiration.
Mastering this sentence helps you learn to pair the shortened “p” sound with several of the vowels we’ve worked on.
Plus, there’s more kitchen vocabulary to learn!
Sotto le frasche del capanno, quattro gatti grossi stanno; sotto quattro grossi sassi, quattro gatti grossi e grassi.
English version: Under the boughs of the shack, four big cats stand; under four big stones, four big fat cats.
This tongue twister is the perfect practice for double consonants. Almost every word has double consonants in it, which helps you work on your emphasis.
The double “n” and double “s” are held slightly longer than you’d pronounce a single letter. Think of it as an extra beat in the word. For the double “t,” the stop is more pronounced than usual, with the finish being slightly more emphatic than normal. It sounds complicated, but it’s very easy to get the hang of!
If you want to become fully fluent in Italian, you need to master not only the language itself but the speed of speech as well. One fun and easy way to work on speaking quickly is by practicing tongue twisters. Soon, you’ll have people asking you to slow down!
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