Improve your French pronunciation with these fun and challenging tongue twisters
8 French Tongue Twisters to Perfect Your Pronunciation
Everyone knows about Peter Piper’s famously pickled peppers and the (likely contraband) seashells she sells by the seashore – these timeless tongue twisters are hard to learn, but even harder to forget! If you thought they were just silly phrases that didn’t make sense, you’re right! But also, tongue twisters (or virelangues in French) have some surprising benefits when learning a new language. By learning a few tongue twisters, you’ll build vocabulary and improve your accent and enunciation so that you can sound just like a native speaker.
Why are tongue twisters useful?
Tongue twisters aren’t just silly sequences of words that are hard to understand – they actually help improve your fluency in any given language, and especially French. Tongue twisters help strengthen the muscles involved in speech which leads to better pronunciation and clearer speech patterns. What’s more, they are a great way to warm up before giving a speech or presentation. Get ready to impress with these fun and challenging French virelangues!
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List of French Tongue Twisters
Douze douches douces
Literal Translation: Twelve soft showers
Tips: This tongue twister is short and sweet which makes it the perfect introduction to French virelangues. This one may seem easy, but don’t be fooled by the recurring silent “e”, or “e” muet, at the end of each word, as well as the silent “s” consonants.
Un grand gradé drague un gradé dégradé.
Literal Translation: A person of high rank flirts with a corrupt person of high rank.
Tips: This tongue twister is an excellent way to practice the slightly nasal pronunciation of “gra” in French. For anyone struggling with the typical French “r” sound, this tongue twister is for you!
Si ton tonton tond ton tonton, ton tonton sera tondu.
Literal Translation: If your uncle shaves your uncle, your uncle will be shaven.
Tips: The French homophones ton (your), tonton (uncle) and tond (shave) are repeated to try and trip you up. Ton is repeated ten times before ending with tondu – don’t forget the du that is pronounced at the end of the last ton!
Le ver vert va vers le verre vert.
Literal Translation: The green worm goes towards the green glass.
Tips: There is little wiggle room for this next entry. This next phrase is a way to practice pronouncing some very common French homophones: ver (worm), vert (green), vers (towards) and verre (glass). Don’t forget that all the words above are homophones which means that they sound exactly the same, but are spelled differently.
Les chaussettes de l’archiduchesse sont-elles sèches ou archi-sèches ?
Literal Translation: Are the archduchess’s socks dry or very dry?
Tips: This famous tongue twister uses alliteration (the repetition of the same letter or sound) to help you make out the difference between the “s” and “sh” sounds that occur side-by-side. If this sentence has your tongue twisted, don’t forget that it helps to break the words down into sounds first before saying the entire sentence at a conversational speed.
Un chasseur sachant chasser sans son chien est un bon chasseur.
Literal Translation: A hunter who knows how to hunt without his dog is a good hunter.
Tips: This tongue twister uses the repetition of the “s” and the “sh” sound to try to tie your tongue in knots much like the sentence above. The difference between the two sounds is subtle, but very important. Remember to start slow and work your way up to increasing your speed.
Trois tortues trottaient sur trois étroits toits.
Literal Translation: Three tortoises trotted on three narrow roofs.
Tips: This challenging tongue twister emphasizes the subtle pronunciation difference between trois and toits that results from adding an “r”. This sentence is a great way to practice the French pronunciation of the letter “r” (a major source of misery for many non-native speakers) and to help you pronounce the French version of “tortoise”, improving your overall animal-related vocabulary.
Six scies scient six cyprès, six cent scies scient six cents cyprès
Literal Translation: Six saws saw six cypresses, six hundred saws saw six hundred cypresses
Tips: This tongue twister uses homophones (words with the same pronunciation) to help you master the “s” sound in French. Don’t forget that the words are spelled differently, but most are pronounced exactly the same.
Tips to get better at tongue twisters
If you found these tongue twisters challenging, don’t worry because you aren’t alone! Tongue twisters are designed to be difficult, even for native speakers. Still, they remain a useful and fun way to improve your pronunciation and learn French. Even if you struggled with these sentences, it’s important to keep practicing. Start slowly, break down the words into their sounds and repeat. Before you know it, speaking French will be as simple as selling seashells by the seashore!
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