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Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

Tongue Twisters

I think all languages have invented tongue twisters to play with people’s minds and … tongues. Language is fun and why not use the alliteration, the consonants, the onomotopaeic qualities to play games with the most dynamic and maleable thing in anyone’s life?

My favorites are:

1. “How much wood can a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

2. “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.”

3. “Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers”

I use dictation exercises to teach English; they’re a good tool to test (and so hone) both listening and writing. I choose sentences from textbooks that I use, as well as invented sentences. Often, especially with intermediate and advanced students, I want to play havoc with their hearing by throwing out sentences such as this: “Where are we when we’re wearing white wooly windbreakers?” The sadist in me writes sentences like this because, let’s face it, it’s fun to laugh at what students write from what they hear.

So I let Jana turn the table on me. Here’s a classic Czech tongue twister. The basic translation has something to do with counting silver in multiples of three (click on the sentence to hear how it sounds in Czech):

Tři tisíce třista třicet tři stříbrných stříkaček stříkalo přes tři tisíce třista třicet tři stříbrných střech

(3333 silver fire-engines squirt over 3333 silver roofs.)

And for untold minutes of fun, find worldwide TTs here.

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