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Can You Wrap Your Words Around These Tongue-Twisters?

Can you say quickly and successfully: "She sells sea shells by the sea shore?" It is hard even for native speakers to say perfectly.

Do you have an idea what this Japanese sentence means?

"Sumomo mo momo momo mo momo, Sumomo mo momo mo momono uchi."

You might think this is about Sumo, the national sport in Japan. Sumo is a kind of martial art. Two sumo wrestlers fight in a ring. Do you want to know the answer? Continue reading, or play the video.

Saying a tongue-twister is a kind of word game.

People try to say a sentence with many words that sound the same. The goal is saying the sentence quickly with no mistakes.

People play this game to improve their language skills. It seems complicated, but with practice, you can say a tongue-twister well. Of course, it is very fun, too.

The Japanese Conversation Club is a community of American University students with an interest in learning or sharing the Japanese language. On October 8, some students from this club struggled with tongue-twisters.

International students who learn Japanese are eager to know about Japanese conversation style, Japanese culture and Japanese people. Students from Japan teach Japanese and communicate in everyday language.

The club's English speakers do the same thing. Through this experience, they realize how their familiar language is charming and difficult to explain.

The English speakers tried Japanese tongue-twisters. They also guess the meaning of the tongue-twisters they tried. The Japanese speakers tried English tongue-twisters.

Nami Irikuchi, an exchange student from Japan, said two English tongue-twisters very well. Every English speaker was surprised because it was also difficult for them.

A tongue-twisters she tried was "Two tiny tigers take two taxis to town." She could say these repeatedly three times in a row.

Erin Taylor, an English speaker, studied in Japan for a semester when she was a high school student. She tried one of the most complicated tongue-twisters. It is "Tokyo tokkyo kyokakyoku kyokutyo kyukyo tokkyo kyoka kyakka." She did a good job. Even a Japanese student could not say it.

The funny sound tongue-twister means that the president of Tokyo patent office hurriedly rejects the permission.

An exchange student, Yuki Nishimura, said he should have practiced before he participated in this activity when he made mistakes.

He challenged "Ted fed Fred bread, and Fred fed Ted bread."

Finally, do you remember this tongue-twister "sumomo mo momo momo mo momo, sumomomo momomo momo no uchi?"

Daniel Rodriguez, an English speaker, tried it. He did well but he did not know the meaning. It means that a Japanese plum is a kind of peach, a peach is also a peach; both Japanese plum and peach are kinds of peaches. It is not about sumo wrestlers!

This is list of English tongue-twisters.

  • Ted fed Fred bread, and Fred fed Ted bread.
  • He threw three free throws.
  • A big black bug bit a big black bear and made the big black bear bleed blood.
  • If a noisy noise annoys an onion, an annoying noisy noise annoys an onion more!
  • She sells sea shells by the sea shore.
  • Two tiny tigers take two taxis to town.

There are many tongue-twisters. Find your favorite one.

I'm Jill Robbins. And I'm Haruka Takeuchi.

Play the video and practice tongue-twisters in English! Please tell us how you did it in the Comments section or on our Facebook page.

Haruka Takeuchi wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.


Words in This Story

tongue-twister -n.­ a word, name, phrase, or sentence that is hard to say

wrestlern. someone who competes in the sport of wrestling

­patent – n. an official document that gives a person or company the right to be the only one that makes or sells a product for a certain period of time

hurriedly­ - n. happening or done very quickly or too quickly

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