We haven’t had a lesson focus on English pronunciation for quite some time, so today we launch into what most people find hard to pronounce clearly and correctly. Even native English speakers will make mistakes doing these English pronunciation practice pieces.
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Twisters Twister Woodchuck Lolly Wristwatches
Hi and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. We are here to help you with your English language learning. Let’s do that today by practising some tongue twisters!
So, do you know what tongue twisters are? Let’s deal with the vocabulary there first. Your tongue, T-O-N-G-U-E? It’s that pink thing inside your mouth. If you buy an ice cream or an ice lolly on a hot, sunny day, then your tongue is the bit that you use to lick your lolly or your ice cream. And of course, your tongue is also what you use to speak. So in English, we might talk about your native language, or your ‘first language’ as your ‘mother tongue’. Notice the silent U in that word.
So a ‘tongue twister’ – what does ‘twister’ mean? Well, if you looked that up, you would probably find that a ‘twister’ is a slang name for a tornado. But this isn’t really the meaning here, though it’s related. The verb ‘to twist’ means ‘to form into a bent, curling, or distorted shape’. So often ‘to twist’ means to form the kind of shape we call a spiral – think of pasta like fusilli or rotini. That’s pasta that’s in a twist, in a spiral.
So a ‘tongue twister’ means something which causes your tongue to be in a twist – and we use this expression to mean rhymes or sayings which are difficult to say, difficult to pronounce, so that they get your ‘tongue into a twist’. Let’s give you some examples – and I’ll try to say these tongue twisters correctly.
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
‘To chuck’, C-H-U-C-K is slang for ‘to throw’ and a woodchuck is an animal, a bit like a groundhog, if you’ve ever seen Groundhog Day, the film? It’s an animal a bit like a fat squirrel. Sorry – no offence to groundhogs there. So this is never a saying that you’ll actually use, but it’s good exercise for your mouth in a way that’s good for English pronunciation. So again? Try to say it with me:-
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
Just pausing there for a minute to remind you here of our course, the 500 Most Common Words. This course is intended to help consolidate your vocabulary. That means a) give you practice on the most common words in English b) strengthen your understanding of the most common words – many of them are used in very different ways. And c) to make sure there are no gaps in your vocabulary.
The course ensures that you know all of the 500 most common words in English. Bear this in mind. Recent research amongst language learners indicates that if you learn only the 800 most frequently used words in English, you’ll be able to understand 75% of normal conversation. So you’ll find that if you know the Most Common 500 Words, you’ll be well on your way to fluency. So go to our courses page at adeptenglish.com and have a look at this course today.
Some more tongue twisters? This is a well-known one:-
She sells seashells by the seashore. Again? Try and copy me.
She sells seashells by the seashore.
Sometimes tongue twisters help you focus on pronouncing particular letters. So a simple, but quite difficult one is
Red lorries, yellow lorries, red lorries, yellow lorries.
And a lorry, L-O-R-R-Y is a big truck. The kind that you see on motorways, carrying food or televisions. A lorry. Let’s go again and you try to say it with me?
Red lorries, yellow lorries, red lorries, yellow lorries, red lorries, yellow lorries .
And what about this one? This one is hard for me and is another complete nonesense sentence.
The chic Sikh's sixty-sixth sheep is sick.
Chic, C-H-I-C means fashionable, of course. A nd a Sikh, S-I-K-H is someone who follows the Sikh religion or Sikhism. And a sheep, S-H-E-E-P is the animal that gives us wool – and usually lives in a field. And the sixty sixth sheep, just means if there are sixty six sheep, the sixty sixth sheep is the last one. Shall we do it again? Try and copy me.
The chic Sikh's sixty-sixth sheep is sick
A photograph of rather chic sheep, to help with out sixty-sixth sheep tongue twister English pronunciation practice.
This next one is new for me.
Which witch switched the Swiss wristwatches? Mmmm. Again? Maybe look at the transcript while we’re doing this. It’ll perhaps make it easier!
Which witch switched the Swiss wristwatches?
And finally, an old favourite, which everyone in the UK knows. This one is hard and longer but worth practising.
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, where is the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
Again it’s nonesense, but let’s do the vocabulary anyway! Peter Piper is just a name – but those names...both those names, first name ‘Peter’ and second name ‘Piper’ are very common in the UK. A ‘peck’ just means ‘a little bit’, that’s P-E-C-K. And ‘to pickle’, P-I-C-K-L-E means ‘to preserve in vinegar’ – so ‘pickled pepper’ just means ‘pepper that’s been pickled’. And it’s not clear in the tongue twister whether it’s pepper as a vegetable (you get red or green peppers – actually it’s a fruit, but never mind!). Or whether it means the condiment – like salt and pepper which you might have on your table.
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Anyway, it probably doesn’t matter, but I think it’s a little bit helpful to know the vocabulary. Let’s go again – and you try and say it with me.
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, where is the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
So that’s enough for me. I’m off for a lie-down. I suggest you replay this podcast and have a practice. What might seem to be impossible now may become much easier once you’ve practised a few more times. And while you’re doing that, you’re growing those neurons, those neural pathways in your brain, in your head – which are needed to improve your English language pronunciation.
When it’s difficult to say these tongue twisters, that’s because the network in your brain is in the process of forming. That’s why it’s hard work. And when you can say these tongue twisters – well done – you’ve formed some new neural networks, (that’s a bit of a tongue twister), which ‘will come in handy’, as they say. All for your English pronunciation.
Anyway enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.