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Tongue Twisters… Do we really need ‘em?

It was the first day in ‘Speech and Pronunciation’ class in Circle in the Square Theatre school. Around me were all American 18-year-old acting students, loving life and musicals. And then there was me, a foreign student, too tired from her late-night shift at the bar, trying to unsuccessfully match her energy to others.
In my hands there was the book ‘Speak with Distinction’ – the speech bible for actors – and at a first glance, I didn’t know 50% of the words.
Great start.

After a few minutes of warming up, jumping up and down, and doing other crazy sh*t, the teacher – who made me feel all sorts of feelings I’ve never felt before, and one of them was tantalizing fear – asked us to read the tongue twisting sentences in the book.
One by one.

That meant that I’d have to read it out loud. IN FRONT OF EVERYONE!!!!

My sweat started breaking, and I started looking for excuses to leave the class. After a quick review of the situation I figured that the teacher (who had already growled at someone who moved) would not appreciate my excuses, so I unwillingly decided to stay.

I counted the number of people ahead of me, trying to figure out which sentence I’d have to read. I marked it in yellow and pronounced the sentence in my head slowly, even though I had no idea what these words were. Even in my head it was HARD. I didn’t know what would happen once my turn came.

And it WAS coming. 3 more. 2 more…
My heart was beating so fast, I thought the people next to me were for sure able to hear it. And then it was finally my turn.

Okay, so – I’m going to let your imagination determine the end of the story. I can just tell you that I survived, and I’m here today, alive.

But what I WILL tell you is that the experience was not the IDEAL beginning of a healthy relationship with tongue twisters. You’d think I’d never ever want to look at tongue twisters ever again.

BUT! If you’ve known me for a bit – you know I LOVE tongue twisters!

Why is that? Why do I think they’re helpful?
And why do I also think that they’re NOT FOR EVERYONE?
All will be discussed in today’s episode.


Hey, welcome to the InFluency Podcast. I’m Hadar. And today we’re going to talk about something that I really like, but a lot of other people really don’t.

Hey everyone, what is up? With that intro you are probably really curious. Probably you’re not that curious because there is still the title of the podcast, which kind of tells what I’m going to be talking about today. So the whole like trying to get you curious about what I’m going to talk about is not really working. But still, I like to keep it somewhat interesting, even if it’s fake interesting.

So, you know that we’re going to talk about tongue twisters. And you probably know that I like tongue twisters. Because if you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know that I try to release a tongue twister a week. And that probably means that I don’t hate tongue twisters. But at the same time, I do know that some people simply do not like tongue twisters. And others find it really challenging.

So today I decided to open it up and to be really upfront about what I really think about tongue twisters. And the answer is not necessarily what you think. So, let’s tune in and listen to today’s podcast.

But before that, hold on. If you’re listening to this podcast on your favorite platform, I have a question for you. Have you subscribed to the podcast? If not, then why don’t you subscribe? Hey, you should subscribe! And if you have, then I would love it if you could rate and review the podcast. I know I kind of repeat that sometimes, and I’ve been getting these amazing reviews, so I really appreciate it.

But if you haven’t yet, it would be really amazing. Because ultimately, that’s what gets the podcast to be listened to more. And I think that people can benefit from these episodes. And, yeah… So it’s all up to you. It’s your responsibility, that’s it. This podcast is really dependent on you right now. No, I’m kidding, it’s not dependent on you. Really, like you don’t have to do it. But if you want to do it, it would be really nice.

I feel very talkative today, so someone should stop me before I start blabbering on and on and on about things instead of letting you listen to today’s episode. But it feels like that when you’re listening to the podcast, unlike watching the episode on YouTube, time passes differently. At least for me.

Anyway, let’s not keep you waiting. And let’s talk about whether or not tongue twisters can really help you improve your clarity and confidence in English.

Hey everyone, it’s Hadar. Thank you so much for joining me. Today, we are going to talk about something that some people might experience as very painful and tedious and annoying, and others might find it fun, joyfully challenging and exciting. That thing is tongue twisters.

I noticed that recently I’ve started uploading more and more tongue twisters here and on my Instagram page. Which by the way, if you’re not following me there, then what are you waiting for? I’m posting something interesting and educational every single day, almost. So, come and follow me at @hadar.accentsway if you want to learn more and you really want to establish our relationship. I think it’s time, no? I mean, we’re ready for it, you and me. Let me know in the comments, if you’re ready to take it to the next step. Anyway, tongue twisters.

So, I personally love tongue twisters for many different reasons, but I know that some people love it, just like I do. And some people really hate it. So in this video, I want to talk about why I think it could be beneficial. But I also want to turn this into an opportunity to discuss your responsibility as a learner, and your responsibility to know your boundaries and what’s right for you and what’s not. And to be okay with it. Because, you know best, my friend, you know best.

So, this is what we’re going to talk about too. And an opportunity for me to collect all the tongue twister videos that I’ve ever created – there are a lot of them – and to put them in one place. And this is what I’m going to do as well on my webpage. So I’m going to link to my webpage with all the tongue twister videos that I have created thus far. So you can see tongue twister videos from six years ago, too. We’re all evolving, what can I say? We’re all evolving.

By the way, if you’re new to my channel and this is the first time you’re seeing me, then hello, nice to meet you. My name is Hadar. I’m a non-native speaker of English. And I am here to help you gain confidence, gain clarity, and start enjoying communicating in English every single day of your life. So I have a ton of resources for you on my Instagram page and on my website. So, all the links are going to be below this video. And subscribe to the channel if you dig this video.

Anyway. Tongue twisters, why I like him twisters so much. First of all, I’m always up for a fun challenge, right? When something is demanding in a way that is, you know, the consequences are not that high, but it requires me to do something that is out of the ordinary – I like it. Right? I think it’s good. I think in a safe environment, it’s also fulfilling. And I think that when you are able to accomplish something that is challenging because tongue twisters are challenging for native and non-native speakers alike. Right? I don’t think that we need to have that distinction that only native speakers should do tongue twisters. Because it’s hard either way, right? In our own native language, it’s hard.

So, I think that a good challenge is always great, and feeling accomplished after you achieve something is a good feeling to have, right? Even if it’s just a tongue twister. And you can show off to your friends and say something like, [a tongue twister in another language]. That was not in English, by the way. Just saying. Anyway.

So, a good challenge in, you know, English is good for you. To be able to accomplish something that is very, you know, feasible, and you can see that you were able to do it. Another reason why I like it is because it organizes the sounds in a way that regular speech does not. Okay? So yes, if we have speech exercises, that helps you organize your sounds. But if you don’t have access to it, tongue twisters are challenging because there’s always this distinction between very similar vowel sounds or consonant sounds, right?

For example, ‘Cheap Sheep Soup’ – ‘ch’ – ‘sh’ – ‘s’. Right? Those three sounds could be challenging for some speakers or for all speakers. And the organizing it in your head and making sure that your mouth is making those sounds – that you’re not just thinking them – is another advantage. Right?

Which gets me to the next part. Not only that it organizes the sounds in your head, it also helps you understand if what you’re doing with your mouth is aligned with what you’re thinking. Especially in English. Where, you know, we can’t take for granted what the mouth is doing versus what the head is thinking. Because sometimes the mouth is just going back to old habits, which is how we pronounce things in our first language.

So this is why I think it’s really important to look at short segments of speech, organize the sounds in your head, understand the challenge, right? What’s tricky here – is it the vowels? Is it the consonants? Which consonants? Do I even have those consonants in my native language? If I do, what do I need to do differently? And then to say it.

It also teaches you to be patient with yourself. Because you cannot hear a tongue twister and do it quickly right away. Most people cannot. I mean, maybe you can, but most people cannot. I definitely cannot look at a tongue twister and be like, “Let me do it right away” in neither language that I speak.

So, it teaches you to be patient with yourself and to start slowly. Which is something that you need to start doing when learning almost everything: words, grammar rules, new sounds. But because it’s a tongue twister and it’s a challenge, you give yourself permission to actually do that. And I think that’s great – to start slowly and gradually start speeding up. Which is by the way, the best way to learn tongue twisters: to organize the sounds, to understand the challenge, to start really, really slowly; and then gradually to go a little faster.

And when you go a little faster, you’re teaching your mouth to pay attention and to listen to you, to listen to your brain, right, not to do its own thing and not to go back to old habits. Right? So you’re actually practicing control and you’re practicing being consistent with your speech sounds. Which is a great skill to have.

So yes, you may not use the phrase “cheap sheep soup” on your day-to-day life, at least I hope so. But when you do that, it would be a lot easier for you to tackle similar challenging transitions or phrases when you’re speaking. So that’s another reason why I absolutely love it.

Now, before I get to my final point, and that is your responsibility as a learner, I just want to say that there will not be any tongue twisters in this video. Because this is a strategy video – how to improve your learning process, how to improve your communication abilities. But if you want those tongue twisters, then I’ve prepared a list for you. It’s on my website, just click the link below. Or right here, somewhere on the video. I never know where to point. And I’m sure you’ve seen videos of me pointing somewhere saying you can download it here. And then, you know, the button is all the way there. So I’m just pointing here.

The last thing I want to talk about is your responsibility as a learner. Because no matter what I’m saying here, and no matter what it is that I’m thinking about tongue twisters and whether or not you believe me – if it’s not right for you, you should be very clear about your own strategy and about the fact that this is not your thing.

Don’t try to do it because I make videos about tongue twisters or someone else makes videos about tongue twisters. Don’t try to do it because you think it’s something that you need to do. If you did test it and despise it and, you know, you start itching every time you see a tongue twister video, you do not need to do it. There are a hundred other ways in which you can improve. Which, you know, a lot of those ways you can find on my channel.

There are so many different ways for you to improve and practice your pronunciation and practice your perception and practice your listening skills. And tongue twisters do not have to be a part of that. Which again, like, I want you to know that you always need to check in with yourself what works and what doesn’t. Because there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to English learning. And not everything that you hear or not every piece of advice that you hear – even from someone that you respect, like your teacher or someone that you follow – is right for you. Right?

So, you know best. Trust your intuition, trust your gut and listen to it. Because if you force yourself to do something that does not feel right, that makes you feel like a loser, that makes you feel like a failure – which you know, that’s definitely not the point – then don’t do it. Really, don’t do it. And you will advance and succeed anyway. But just make sure to check in with yourself and ask yourself, “Am I feeling this because it’s hard and I don’t want to challenge myself? Or is it really something that does not click with me or is not aligned with everything that I love or enjoy doing?” Right?

So make sure it’s not the challenge that scares you, right, or maybe a few failed attempts, but that it’s really something that you don’t like. Because if it’s just the challenge that scares you, I would encourage you to try it out anyway.

Now, if you’re a member of the InFluency community – which is our free community for non-native speakers from around the world to practice and connect – then when I post this video, I’m going to do an interesting tongue twister challenge. And that tongue twister challenge is not going to be an English tongue twister challenge, but in your own native language.

So, I am going to invite you to make a video and post it with you teaching us a tongue twister in your own language. So if you’re not a member of the InFluency community, I highly encourage you to join us. The link to join is also going to be in the description below. And if you’re listening to this on the podcast, because I also have a podcast, then the link is going to be in the description.

All right. So, thank you so much. I hope that I’ve convinced you. I’ve made a case for tongue twisters. And if you still hate it, let me know in the comments below, or just put an emoji that will represent how you feel about tongue twisters.

Have a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful rest of the day. And I’ll see you next week in the next video. Bye.

The InFluency Podcast
The InFluency Podcast
195. Tongue Twisters… Do we really need ‘em?

Want to practice with me? Here’s my tongue-twister playlist. Something fun to add to your daily practice routine ??



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3 Responses

  1. A great lesson as always. Children love them and we all should remember of the time when we were a child and had fun with challenges. Thanks!!!

  2. Good morning, Hadar

    Thank you for that wonderful strategy video! I didn’t know why I should do toungue twisters, i considered them a real bore. In fact, i was suprised you have millions of toungue twisters in your courses. Now, i see the reasons why i should take some time to study them ( it’s a fun challenge, it helps to orginaze similar sounds in my head, it helps to sychronize my thinking with the sounds i produce).
    Have a fantastic day!

  3. Hi, Hadar Shemesh

    I’d like to thank you so much for all the advice I got from you about the English language and specifically in English pronunciation and a bunch of live videos like this one (DO YOU REALLY NEED THIS). in this short period of time I met you. as I promised I’ll share with this course for sure, but I want to improve my financial situation (My Budget). till that time I want to say again thank you so much, see you next.

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