No doubt you know a few tongue twisters in your own language. But do you know any in Japanese?
The Japanese word for tongue twister is hayakuchi kotoba (早口言葉) – which literally means ‘fast mouth words’. Pretty descriptive, right?
Tongue twisters can be a really fun way to learn something new in a language and hone your pronunciation. So why not try to wrap your mouth around some of these crazy phrases in Japanese today?
Why study with tongue twisters?
It’s great pronunciation practise. You really have to focus on the individual sounds to read a tongue twister. Once you can read one of these with ease, normal phrases will trip off your tongue that bit easier!
Tongue twisters are a great way to learn new words. For some reason, even though they seem difficult, funny phrases like tongue twisters get stuck in our heads very easily. Practise them a few times and you’ll never forget the words that make up the phrase!
Language study shouldn’t be boring all the time. Mix it up a bit and do something that makes you laugh! It’ll give you a break from the textbooks, and all the other benefits are just a bonus!
Impress your Japanese friends
Seriously, just learning one or two of these will take you such a long way in Japan. Japanese friends (and strangers!) will be impressed if you can trot out a tongue twister or two. Also, tongue twisters are a great party trick when meeting new people. Bust out one of these at the bar and then ask your new friends to teach you more!
Japanese tongue twisters to try
Ready? Here are just a few of my favourite Japanese tongue twisters to get you started.
Some of them might seem easy at first, but just try saying them out loud three times!
I’ve tried to provide a fairly literally translation to help you understand what you’re saying.
Nama-mugi nama-gome nama-tamago
Raw wheat, raw rice, raw eggs
Basu gasu bakuhatsu
Bus gas explosion.
Kono kugi wa hiki nuki nikui kugi da.
This nail is a difficult-to-pull-out nail.
Aka-maki-gami, ki-maki-gami, ao-maki-gami
Red scroll, yellow scroll, blue scroll.
tonari no kyaku wa yoku kaki kuu kyaku da
The guest next door is a guest who eats a lot of persimmons.
uraniwa ni wa niwa, niwa ni wa niwa niwatori ga iru.
In the back garden there are two chickens, in the front garden there are two chickens.
buta ga buta o butta node butareta buta ga butta buta o butta.
The pig beat the pig, therefore the beaten pig beat the beater pig.
sumomo mo momo, momo mo momo, sumomo mo momo mo momo no uchi.
A Japanese plum is a peach, a peach is also a peach, both Japanese plums and peaches are a kind of peach.
By the way, this last one is also a great demonstration of how kanji makes Japanese sentences easier to read. Here’s how the sentence would look in hiragana alone:
すももももも ももももも すもももももももものうち。
All warmed up? Here are a few more, courtesy of Risa sensei at JapanesePod101:
Phew! Could you manage them all? Do you know any more?