Tongue twisters are one of the few types of spoken wordplay that are fun to recite and are a great tool to aid children’s language development. Attempting to recite a tricky rhyme or tongue twister as fast as possible without tripping over your tongue is a great challenge – try saying “She sells sea shells” or “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” and you can’t help but smile and enjoy the race to get it right.
Moreover, tongue twisters are not only for light-hearted linguistic fun and games. They serve a practical purpose in practising pronunciation. English tongue twisters may be used by foreign students of English to improve their accent, actors who need to develop a certain accent, and by speech therapists to help those with speech difficulties. When their use is for one of these more serious reasons, then tongue twisters are generally subdivided into categories classifying them by the particular vowel or consonant sounds they exercise. The Peter Piper twister, for example, clearly provides practice for the P sound.
The Benefits of Tongue Twisters in Speech Therapy
By their very nature, tongue twisters are challenging to say. With their repetitive use of similar sounding sounds, words and syllables, they can trip up the tongues of even the most articulate individuals. However, as fun as they are, tongue twisters have a very practical application. As such, tongue twisters can be used to treat speech problems in speech therapy, and help reduce the prominence of a foreign accent. This use of tongue twisters in speech therapy is universal for all ages and users.
Speech therapists use tongue twisters to improve the child’s constant and vowel sounds. Tongue twisters ensure that the students articulate the syllables and not slur the sounds together. As well, if the student has difficult with the ‘p’ and ‘b’ sound, the therapist will have the student practice tongue twisters that focus on these sounds.
People who use tongue twisters in speech therapy exercise the muscles in their mouth, enabling clearer pronunciation, overall clearer speech patterns, and an easier time pronouncing previously difficult syllables. The use of tongue twisters can also make speech therapy drills more of an enjoyable game, particularly for children. Even individuals who have long surpassed their difficulties in speech continue to use tongue twisters as a warm-up exercise, especially individuals in the public realm such as actors, politicians, motivational speakers and other professions such as priests, teachers, scientists, and college students.
Often times when used as an exercise, the tongue twister is spoken slowly, in order to give the individual time to speak it correctly with proper pronunciation and articulation, and master the saying at a comfortable speed. After that, the speed increases until the person is able to say the tongue twister at various speeds without tripping up their tongue. One recommendation is to read the twisters aloud, or practice in front of mirror until the flow of the words, the tone and the correct pronunciation and articulation becomes second nature. Sometimes the exercise is turned into a game, especially important when dealing with children who can become bored of the normal drills.
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light-hearted linguistic fun and games–cheerful or carefree in mood or disposition.
articulate individual–using language easily and fluently; having facility with words.
speech therapy–training to help people with speech and language problems to speak more clearly.
Prominence–the state of being important or famous.
slur the sounds together–speak (words or speech) indistinctly so that the sounds run into one another.
Tripping up their tongue–to make a mistake, or to cause someone to make a mistake.
Realm–a field or domain of activity or interest.
second nature–a characteristic or habit in someone that appears to be instinctive because that person has behaved in a particular way so often.