Teaching Tips

Using Tongue Twisters to Supplement Beginning Level Cfl Students’ Pronunciation and Tone Practice

  • Shenglan Zhang (Iowa State University)


Chinese is a tonal language and some sounds in Chinese such as <_>, < _h>, <_>, , and <_>, do not exist in English. To learn tones and pronunciation well is a very challenging task for adult CFL learners whose native language is English. There are activities for students to train and improve their sensitivity on similar sounds and tones. For example, they can listen to and repeat the recordings of two-syllable words to detect the correct pronunciation or tones after hearing sets of words read out, and to speak in sentences and paragraphs in different contexts such as doing dialogues and performing with a well-written skit. These methods have been found useful, but they sometimes are a little boring. The teaching tip introduced below is an approach that could keep students more motivated to strengthen the accuracy of their pronunciation and tones: using tongue twisters to supplement beginning CFL learners’ pronunciation and tone practice. Tongue twisters are phrases or sentences that were constructed to put similar but distinct phonemes and tones together to exercise the jaws, the tongue, and the muscles around the mouth. By purposefully putting the similar but distinct phonemes and different tones together, tongue twisters sometimes achieve comic effects. Because of these features, tongue twisters are challenging and engaging as well. This teaching tip demonstrates how tongue twisters can be used to exercise adult CFL learners’ jaw, tongue and muscles around the mouth while enforcing their acquisition of the language structure and vocabulary and motivating students to engage in practicing tones and pronunciation. Although the tip talks about using tongue twisters in improving CFL learners’ pronunciation and skills, I also give suggestions for ways that the principles behind the tip may apply to other languages.

How to Cite:

Zhang, S., (2013) “Using Tongue Twisters to Supplement Beginning Level Cfl Students’ Pronunciation and Tone Practice”, Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Proceedings 5(1).

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Published on
31 Dec 2013