Say the following sentence as fast as you can: Six sick hicks nick six slick bricks with picks and sticks.
Now, do it six times in a row and as fast as you can!
Did that feel like falling down a long flight of stairs with little, pointy toys scattered everywhere, or what?
Tongue twisters are hard!
They are no child’s play—even native speakers find themselves tripping over them.
Tongue twisters like the one above are often punctuated with hearty laughs from red-faced participants and tickled-pink observers.
But when you think about it, tongue twisters have purposes beyond exposing epic fails. There is more to them than meets the eye.
In this post, you will learn exactly why tongue twisters are perfect for Korean language learners like you. You will also learn how to milk them for all they are worth.
And before we wrap it all up, I’ll teach you 11 Korean tongue twisters that will give your tongue a high-intensity workout.
So, let’s start stretching those tongues!
Why Korean Tongue Twisters Are Perfect for Language Practice
Korean tongue twisters are used by native speakers to get a laugh out of each other. They engage in these playful wordy marathons and make fun of the slowpokes in the group. Tongue twisters can demonstrate the effects of alcohol on a Friday night, or even help make time go by a little bit faster.
But tongue twisters are not just for native speakers with nothing else to do. They are actually perfect for language learners, and here is why.
Tongue twisters, by their very nature, serve as excellent pronunciation drills for students of Korean. Language is a very specific set of sounds, which is another way of saying that it is a very specific way of moving your tongue, mouth and palate.
Looked at it this way, language boils down to specific mechanical acts. For example, Spanish sounds different from English because Spanish speakers move their tongues in different ways. (Rolling Spanish R’s, anyone?)
By engaging in tongue twisters, you are actually training your tongue for specific sound sets of your target language. You are training your tongue to move in specific ways.
Your mouth definitely gets a workout because repetition is built into the whole exercise. You do not just deliver a line and expect people to bow down to you. Nope! You are going to have to say it over and over and over again.
By making a game out of it, you are also logging in Korean pronunciation practice.
To make the most out of your pronunciation drills, make sure that you start slow. Do not approach tongue twisters like native speakers. Unlike them, your challenge is not to get through the statements as fast as possible. You have more level-headed goals.
Your main goal, at least in the beginning, is to pronounce each word clearly and correctly. That is it. Speed will come naturally with practice. You need to acquaint yourself—more specifically your tongue—with the sounds of Korean.
When you become more confident, slowly add the speed. But again, this is not your main priority right off the bat.
In addition to honing in your pronunciation skills, tongue twisters are at the same time helping you to sharpen your ears to the sound of Korean. While you are speaking, you are also listening to yourself—evaluating your delivery and making adjustments where necessary.
Tongue twisters are especially good as listening practice because they involve words that sound very similar to each other.
Their sounds may only have minor differences and the challenge, as we shall later see, is to hear the difference between words like 간장 gan–jang (soy sauce) and 공장 gong–jang (factory).
This will really get your ears acclimated to the rise and fall of Korean intonation, as well as the rhythm and rhyme of Korean speech.
And speaking of listening practice, FluentU offers an all-in-one online language immersion platform where you will have the opportunity to hear native Korean speakers authentically conversing from the comfort of your computer or phone. Don’t worry, interactive subtitles are a part of every FluentU video.
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This exposure will definitely help take your Korean skills to the next level and beyond!
How to Make the Most out of Tongue Twister Practice
Grab Some Vocabulary Along the Way
One of the bonuses that you will get from learning tongue twisters is that you will get to pick up some new vocabulary words along the way. And there is a good chance that you will not forget the ones you learn via tongue twisters!
The repetition involved in tongue twisters has the added benefit of making vocabulary stick.
In addition, you will not only remember them because of repetition, but you will also remember new vocabulary because tongue twisters naturally provide an interesting context to the words. Sometimes they are weird, and sometimes they are funny.
But it is this weird/funny context that makes words so memorable.
So, the next time you meet a Korean tongue twister, do not treat it just as pronunciation practice. Be on the lookout for new words that you can add to your treasure chest of vocabulary.
Get a Dose of Grammar and Sentence Structure Practice
Korean tongue twisters, although weird and funny, most follow the grammar and sentence structure rules of the language.
Tongue twisters are a good way to use plug-and-play. You can replace nouns with different nouns or verbs with different verbs, all while maintaining the same sentence structure. This is a good way to practice proper grammar and sentence construction.
Take this English tongue twister, for example.
Sheila sells seashells by the seashore.
An English language learner might replace a few words and form this new grammatically correct sentence.
Sheila buys hats by the road.
Sure, you lose the alliteration and wit, but you will gain a more structural feel for the language as a result.
That said, let’s look at 11 Korean tongue twisters to get your tongue revved up.
11 Korean Tongue Twisters That Will Give Your Mouth and Mind a Workout
Romanization: Gan-jang gong-jang gong-jang-jang-eun jang gong-jang-jang-i-go doen-jang gong-jang gong-jang-jang-eun gang gong-jang-jang-i-da.
Translation: The factory manager of the soy sauce factory is factory manager Jang, and the factory manager of the bean paste factory is factory manager Kang.
장 (jang) — manager
간장 (gan–jang) — soy sauce
공장 (gong–jang) — factory
된장 (doen–jang) — soy bean paste
Romanization: Gyeong-chal-cheong cheol-chang-sa-reun noe-cheol-chang-sa-ri-go geom-chal-cheong cheol-chang-sa-reun ssang-cheol-chang-sa-ri-da.
Translation: The police headquarters’ iron bar windows are single-layer iron bars, and the prosecutor’s office’s iron bar windows are double-layer iron bars.
경찰청 (gyeong–chal–cheong) — police headquarters
철창살 (cheol–chang–sal) — iron bar windows
검찰청 (geom–chal–cheong) — prosecutor’s office
3. 네가 그린 기린 그림은 못 그린 기린 그림이고 내가 그린 기린 그림은 잘 그린 기린 그림이다.
Romanization: Ne-ga geu-rin gi-rin geu-ri-meun mot geu-rin gi-rin geu-ri-mi-go nae-ga geu-rin gi-rin geu-ri-meun jal geu-rin gi-rin geu-ri-mi-da.
Translation: The drawing of a giraffe that you drew is a poorly drawn drawing of a giraffe, and the drawing of a giraffe that I drew is a well-drawn drawing of a giraffe.
그림 (geu-rim) — drawing, painting
기린 (gi-rin) — giraffe
4. 고려고 교복은 고급 교복이고 고려고 교복은 고급 원단을 사용했다.
Romanization: Gohryeogoh gyo-pog-eun go-geub gyo-pog-i-go gohryeogoh gyo-pog-eun go-geub won-dan-eur sa-yong-haess-da.
Translation: Gohryeogoh uniforms are high-quality uniforms and Gohryeogoh uniforms are high-quality materials.
교복 (gyo–pog) — uniform
고급 (go-geub) — high-quality
5. 체다치즈를 최고 많이 먹은 최다은이 체다치즈 먹기 대회 최다 우승자이다.
Romanization: Chedachijeureul choego mani meogeun choedaeuni chedachijeu meokgi daehoe choeda useungjaida
Translation: Choi-Da-Eun who has eaten most of the cheddar cheese is the winner of the cheddar cheese eating competition.
치즈 (chijeu) — cheese
최고 (choego) — best
Romanization: Jeobun-eun baeg beobhagbagsaigo ibun-eun bag beobhagbagsaida.
Translation: That is Mr. Baek, a doctor of law, and this is Mr. Park, also a doctor of law.
법학 박사 (beobhag-bagsa) — doctor of law
Romanization: Seo-ul-teuk-byeol-si teu-keo-heo-ga-gwa heo-ga-gwa-jang heo-gwa-jang.
Translation: Seoul Metropolitan City’s patent granting section permission section chief, Chief Heo.
특허 (teuk–ho) — patent
허가 (heo–ga) — permission
과장 (gwa–jang) — department
8. 육통 통장 적금 통장은 황색 적금 통장이고 팔통 통장 적금 통장은 녹색 적금 통장이다.
Romanization: Yug-tong tong-chang cheog-geum-tong chang-uen hwang-saeg cheog-geum-tong-chang-i-gop’ar-tong tong-chang cheog-geum-tong chang-uen nog-saeg cheog-geum-tong-chang-i-da.
Translation: Six dong bank book savings book is the yellow bank savings book and eight dong bank book savings book is the green bank savings book.
육 (yuk) — six
팔 (pal) — eight
황 (hwang) — yellow
녹 (nog) — green
9. 목동 로얄 뉴로얄 레스토랑 뉴메뉴 미트소시지소스스파게티 크림소시지소스스테이크.
Romanization: Mokdong ro-yal nyu-ro-yar re-seu-t’o-rang nyu-me-nyu mi-teu-so-shi-chi-so-seu-seu-p’a-ge-t’i, k’eu-rim-so-shi-chi-so-seu-seu-t’e-i-keu.
Translation: Mokdong royal new royal restaurant new menu, meat sausage sauce spaghetti, cream sausage sauce steak.
레스토랑 (re-seu-t’o-rang) — restaurant
메뉴 (me-nyu) — menu
10. 박범복군은 밤벚꽃놀이를 가고 방범복양은 낮벚꽃놀이를 간다.
Romanization: Bakbeombokguneun bambeotkkonnorireul gago bangbeombogyangeun natbeotkkonnorireul ganda.
Translation: Park Beom-bok goes to the night cherry blossoms, and Bang Bum-bok goes to the day cherry blossoms.
벚꽃 (beot-kkon) — cherry blossoms
밤 (bam) — night
낮 (nat) — day
11. 안 촉촉한 초코칩 나라에 살던 안 촉촉한 초코칩이 촉촉한 초코칩 나라의 촉촉한 초코칩을 보고 촉촉한 초코칩이 되고 싶어서 촉촉한 초코칩 나라에 갔는데 촉촉한 초코칩 나라의 문지기가 “넌 촉촉한 초코칩이 아니고 안 촉촉한 초코칩이니까 안 촉촉한 초코칩 나라에서 살아”라고 해서 안 촉촉한 초코칩은 촉촉한 초코칩이 되는 것을 포기하고 안 촉촉한 초코칩 나라로 돌아갔다.
Romanization: An chok-chok-han cho-ko-chip na-ra-e sal-deon an chok-chok-han cho-ko-chip-i chok-chok-han cho-ko-chip na-ra-ui chok-chok-han cho-ko-chip-eul po-go chok-chok-han cho-ko-chip-i doe-go ship-eo-seo chok-chok-han cho-ko-chip na-ra-e ka-neun-de chok-chok-han cho-ko-chip na-ra-ui mun-ji-gi-ga “neon chok-chok-han cho-ko-chip-i a-ni-go an chok-chok-han cho-ko-chip-i-ni-kka an chok-chok-han cho-ko-chip na-ra-e-seo sal-a”ra-go-hae-seo an chok-chok-han cho-ko-chip-eun chok-chok-han cho-ko-chip-i doe-neun got-eul po-gi-ha-go an chok-chok-han cho-ko-chip na-ra-ro dol-a-gat-da.
Translation: A non-moist chocolate chip cookie that lived in non-moist chocolate chip cookie land saw a moist chocolate chip cookie from moist chocolate chip cookie land and wanted to become a moist chocolate chip cookie and so went to moist chocolate chip cookie land, but the gate-keeper of moist chocolate chip cookie land said, “You are not a moist chocolate chip cookie, but a non-moist chocolate chip cookie, so live in non-moist chocolate chip cookie land,” so the non-moist chocolate chip cookie gave up on becoming a moist chocolate chip cookie and went back to non-moist chocolate chip cookie land.
초코칩 (cho-ko-chip) — chocolate chip (cookie)
촉촉한 (chok-chok-han) — moist
You now have 11 tongue twisters to keep your tongue busy for hours on end!
They may initially look like child’s play, but in the mouth of an assiduous student, they are language learning gold!
Watch your step and keep at it!
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