Try These English Tongue Twisters Out in Your ESL Class

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English pronunciation is a challenge for foreign students, especially if you’re teaching English abroad in places like China,  Japan, or South Korea, where the phonetic system is completely different from English.

The student’s first language typically sets the tone for their English pronunciation. For example, in Spanish, “b” and “v” sound the same; however, both letters exist in the language. Similarly, students from China tend to have difficulty with “l” and “r.” Therefore, teachers should not overlook any pronunciation issues and devote some time at each lesson to exercise it. It is also important to have a basic understanding of your studentsnative language in order to find out which areas to work on and which English tongue twisters could help.

In this article, we have gathered some of the best tongue twisters that will help your students improve their English pronunciation.

But first, we would like to share with you some tips on how to effectively implement those fun tongue twisters in your classroom as an ESL learning activity.

Here are examples of fun ESL learning activities.

Practice on your own

english tongue twister

Try to practice the ESL tongue twisters on your own before introducing them to the class.

Start with sounds

Encourage your students first to pronounce just the sound that you are going to practice. For example, if you are going to introduce some r tongue twisters, first explain how to pronounce the “r” sound, and then practice this sound. After that, you can add the tongue twister sentences.

Write down the tongue twister

Sometimes it is not enough just to speak out any English tongue twister, because many students perceive the information visually. Writing them down on a board or handing out worksheets with the printed tongue twisters and underlined sounds would be a much better experience for your students.

Use a mirror

This will allow the students to shape their mouths correctly and to see if their tongue is in the right position. You can also draw the correct positions on the board.

Encourage competition

Your students can compete either individually or in groups. Each of them should speak out a tongue twister without stumbling. Those who stumble are out, and those who say the twister correctly continue the game. You can level up the game by adding more complicated twisters.

And now, as promised, we will show you our list of tongue twisters.

R Tongue Twisters vs. L Tongue Twisters

esl tongue twisters

As we have already mentioned, students from China and Korea have difficulties with the “r” and “l” sounds. These tongue twisters will help students from those countries to distinguish between these two sounds.

  • Red lorry, yellow lorry.
  • Truly rural.
  • I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.
  • Jerry’s jelly berries taste really rare.
  • Rolling red wagons.
  • Really leery, rarely Larry.
  • Real rock wall.
  • Robert Rolley rolled around roll around. A round roll Robert Rolley rolled around. Where’s the round roll Robert Rolley rolled around?

Th Tongue Twisters

“Th” is one of the hardest sounds in English, no matter the students’ native language. Here’s how you can practice is:

  • I thought I thought of thinking of thanking you.
  • He threw three free throws.
  • Three thin thieves thought a thousand thoughts.
  • Is this the thing? – Yes, this is the thing.
  • “I can think of six thin things. And you?” “Yes, I can think of six thin things and six thick things, too.”

B Tongue Twisters vs. V Tongue Twisters

  • Blue blurry vines blind.
  • Blue berry is very tasty.
  • Betty loves the velvet vest best.
  • Barber baby bubbles and a bumblebee.
  • My brother bought a bit of baking powder and baked a batch of biscuits.

V Tongue Twisters vs. W Tongue Twisters

best tongue twisters
  • Wendy had vicious wishes that the worst would happen to the versed men; these vicious wishes made the versed men very wary that the worst could happen.
  • We went to Wally’s volleyball event under the village’s wilted willow, with victory in mind.

Vowel Tongue Twisters

Some English vowels may be as difficult as consonants, especially those in minimal pairs like ship and sheep, so here are some tongue twisters to practice vowels:

  • Annie ate eight apples.
  • Joe told a joke.
  • Betty Botter bought some butter, but she said “This butter’s bitter.”
  • The sheep on a ship slipped on the sheet of sleet.
  • Quite nice white mice.
  • A black cat sat on a mat and ate a fat rat.
  • All four daughters of Mrs. Crawl are tall.
  • It is easy to breathe when there is a breeze.

Have You Ever Used Tongue Twisters in Class?

These are the tongue twisters in English that you can practice with your ESL class to make them feel more confident with their pronunciation. Have you ever used tongue twisters to teach English pronunciation? If you so, we want to hear about it. How did it go? What did you do? 

Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

17 COMMENTS

  1. I have not tried one on purpose, just one came up one time. But now, I believe I will use them to challenge my older students. I will create graphics to go with the words to make it easier to comprehend

  2. I have used some traditional ones before like Peter piper…..and I love these suggestions and will definitely try them.

  3. I might have to share a rhyme that I created for our son to quote during our imaginary conversations with our stuffed panda bear “Polly panda picked perfectly pink and purple pansies.”

  4. When I taught ESL classes F2F, I often used tongue twisters because it introduced an element of fun into practicing pronunciation. All my students loved them!

  5. I love tongue twisters. Here is an upper level tongue twister: You know New York, you need New York, you know you need unique New York.

  6. OMG I know! It is sooo difficult to make them understand and especially teach them the mechanics of phonetics…unless they have been around it😎

  7. I’ve done this with my own children. I have t had the chance with my young vip kids. But would assume this is helpful with the older ones. Just like any repetition of sounds or words would be helpful to “drive the message home”

  8. When teaching the word “unique” in the “Abroad” unit, I remembered the old tongue twister “Unique New York”. It helped the student work on pronunciation of both a vocab word and a place discussed in that lesson.

  9. I love the idea of using tongue twisters even with my level 1 students. They love the chants and going faster and faster. Is this the thing? Yes, it is the thing would work with introducing nouns.

  10. This is awesome! My daughter needed speech therapy and she is native Chinese soooo I am going to incorporate some of those tongue twisters too!

  11. I have taught with tongue twisters in my brick and mortar classroom. The students loved it. I am sure the VIPKids would love it too.

  12. Tongue twisters are so much fun, like Moses supposed his toeses are roses. But..I don’t know about ones with incorrect spelling but it’s a fun one.

  13. That’s a great way to teach students English by giving them tongue twisters and having them compete either as groups or individuals to see who can say it without stumbling. This would encourage kids to say the words they learn without being embarrassed since they would be focusing on trying to do well and win. When kids have fun learning new phrases they’ll most likely use them more and also focus on how to say them correctly, which is good for those in ESL classes.

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