Many teachers like to use tongue twisters in pronunciation practice, and they can be valuable tools if they're used wisely. However, if they’re misused, they just lead to frustration and discouragement. Here are some warnings.
- Use tongue twisters sparingly. They may be fun once in a while, but students will get tired of them quickly if they have to practice them too often, so don’t use them in every lesson.
- Make sure students understand what they’re saying. If they don’t understand the words, it becomes just a difficult tongue exercise, and that’s not much fun. Try to use vocabulary and grammar that the students have already learned.
- Don’t jump too quickly from explanation and very controlled practice directly to a difficult tongue twister. Do some practice with simple, ordinary sentences first. (After all, you wouldn’t give somebody one tennis lesson and then send them to play at Wimbledon, would you? They need lots of easier practice first!)
- Don’t make the tongue twisters too hard or too long, or they'll become frustrating and pointless. If you can’t say a tongue twister easily, your students probably won’t be able to say it at all. For example, this one is hard enough to discourage even the most eager student, and should therefore be avoided:
- Don’t emphasize speed too soon. We’ve probably all practiced tongue twisters in our own language, trying to say them several times very quickly, but it’s much harder to do that in a new language. Don’t rush until students are ready.
The three trees
Orange jello, lemon jello
We took a cheap ship trip.
Funny Frank fell fifty feet.
Betty loves the velvet vest best.
So choose and use tongue twisters carefully. Don’t let them twist your students’ tongues into knots!