In our last post, we talked about using Tongue Twisters to practice pronunciation. You have probably heard of Tongue Twisters, but do you know what they are? Most people don't, not even native English speakers.
Tongue Twisters are a type of rhyme that targets difficult sounds in the English language in order to practice and improve pronunciation. A Tongue Twister will take one difficult sound, sometimes two, and repeat them over and over. The target sound is mixed in with other, easier to produce sounds, and is repeated often. In fact, it's possible that a target sound in a Tongue Twister will be used in 50% to 80% of the words within the Tongue Twister.
This aspect of Tongue Twisters is widely known, but there is more to them than that. Tongue Twisters can also be referred to as “nonsense rhymes” and with good reason. When you read a Tongue Twister, you will notice that the words may form a meaning but if they do, it's an illogical meaning. For example, one of the more famous Tongue Twisters is “She sells sea shells by the seashore”. If you think about this, why would anyone pay for a seashell when you can walk another ten feet and pick up one, or several, for free? The phrase has meaning, but no logic.
The reason for this is that Tongue Twisters are designed to focus on the sound, not the meaning, of the words. When the reader speaks the words, there is a simple, easily understood meaning to them that doesn't require thinking. The emphasis is on the sounds. And Tongue Twisters focus on the difficult sounds, sometimes pairing them with sounds that require the mouth to form a much different shape in order to reproduce the sound. In the above example, the phrase pairs and contrasts the sounds “S” and “Sh”. These two sounds can often confuse English language learners, especially when the sounds are alternated every other word.
Now that you understand this, you can try and write some of your own; this is where it gets fun. Instead of just mindlessly repeating the words given to you, get creative. And, if at any point you think you have mastered your Tongue Twisters, trying speaking them just a little faster. If that's still easy, try saying them faster yet. Keep going faster and faster until you start to trip over your own tongue. Practice this with a friend. Don't be afraid to laugh when you make mistakes, because mistakes are where we learn, and making mistakes with phrases that don't matter is the easiest and most enjoyable way to learn to correct our mistakes.