By: Lindsay Brown
Have you ever wished you could improve your Spanish accent so others could understand you better? Spoken Spanish has 39 elemental sounds, or individual speech sounds produced by vocal organs. You can easily master these through exposure and regular practice. Without forming this habit, however, we are doomed to repeat pronunciation mistakes for the rest of our lives! How can we sharpen our speaking skills, even if we only have five extra minutes a day? The answer lies in the power of Spanish tongue twisters, or trabalenguas.
*To see the tongue twisters, scroll to the bottom of the page.
Why are Spanish Tongue Twisters Useful?
Choosing a Spanish tongue twister that focuses on a particular pronunciation issue will give you the ultimate learning tool. First of all, you can practice it at any moment, anywhere, until you have mastered the sound. Furthermore, Spanish tongue twisters will train the muscles in your mouth to move correctly, creating authentic pronunciation. Once you have learned one sound, you can then move on to harder trabalenguas that combine different sounds. Before long, you’ll be able to speak Spanish without tripping over your tongue!
Quite often, pronunciation problems lie in the physical – where you place your tongue. In American English, for example, we are used to relaxing the tip of our tongue while the center is raised halfway up in the mouth. This creates that typical hard /r/ sound we find in the word ‘red.’ If we attempt to do the same exact movement when pronouncing a Spanish word, such as pero, we quickly hear a striking difference between our pronunciation and that of native speakers. This is because the phonetic usage of /r/ in Spanish is physically different from that of the English language. For correct pronunciation, you must “flick” your tongue against the roof of your mouth, producing a very quick and light sound similar to a soft /d/ in English. With continued practice, you will notice a drastic improvement when you pronounce Spanish words containing the single r.
To practice this tongue movement, try the following Spanish tongue twister:
Tres tristes trapecistas con tres trapos troceados hacen trampas truculentas porque suben al trapecio por trapos y no por cuerdas.
Build Muscle Memory to Improve Pronunciation
Think back to being young and wanting to learn how to ride that shiny new bike in the driveway. When you started out, you fumbled quite a bit and lost your balance. You may have even fallen over and ended up with a scraped knee or two. Likewise, learning how to pronounce words in a new language is a process of learning a new physical skill – without the scraped knees. Instead of simply copying what you hear and attempting to copy the sounds native speakers make, you can take the time to study the actual movement required by the tongue to produce such sounds. Once you isolate a certain sound and begin to practice it, you can look for an appropriate Spanish tongue twister. Search for one that forces you to repeatedly practice the desired sound, especially in conjunction with other sounds.
Some accents may be almost impossible to mimic at first due to weak facial muscles since not every language uses the same muscles to create sounds. However, you can overcome this through extensive practice and awareness of how to strengthen those specific muscles. Thankfully, Spanish tongue twisters are the perfect answer because they provide repeated practice with certain muscles and sounds. Do yourself the biggest favor by creating a daily routine of pronunciation practice. First, identify which sounds are the most difficult for you, then find the corresponding Spanish tongue twisters that work those muscles. In no time, you’ll see how easy and efficient it is using Spanish tongue twisters to enhance your pronunciation!
A Collection of Spanish Tongue Twisters
Here are some of the best Spanish tongue twisters that children giggle over and adults remember fondly from their school days. Many are fun to try and will certainly get you smiling over how hard – and silly – they can be.
For Practice with Vowels:
- Lado, ledo, lido, lodo, ludo, decirlo al revés lo dudo. Ludo, lodo, lido, ledo, lado, ¡Qué trabajo me ha costado!
- ‘A’ – Si Pancha plancha con 4 planchas, ¿con cuántas planchas plancha Pancha?
- ‘E’ – Esteban es escalador escala y escala, Esteban el escalador, de tanto escalar, en una cima quedó.
- ‘I’ – Tengo una gallina pinta pipiripinta gorda pipirigorda pipiripintiva y sorda que tiene tres pollitos pintos pipiripintos gordos pipirigordos pipiripintivos y sordos. Si la gallina no hubiera sido pinta pipiripinta gorda pipirigorda pipiripintiva y sorda Los pollitos no hubieran sido pintos pipiripintos gordos pipirigordos pipiripintivos y sordos.
- ‘O’ – Un dragón tragón tragó carbón y el carbón que tragó el dragón tragón le hizo salir barrigón.
- ‘U’ – Cuando cuentes cuentos, cuenta cuantos cuentos cuentas. Porque si no cuentas cuantos cuentos cuentas, nunca sabrás cuantos cuentos cuentas.
For Practice with ‘b/v:’
- Juan tuvo un tubo, y el tubo que tuvo se le rompió, y para recuperar el tubo que tuvo, tuvo que comprar un tubo, igual al tubo que tuvo.
- Nadie silba como Silvia, porque si alguien silba como Silvia, es porque Silvia le enseñó a silbar.
- Un ave pensaba mientras que volaba, que sentía el pez mientras que nadaba. Y pensaba un pez mientras que nadaba, que sentía el ave mientras que volaba.
For Practice with ‘c/ch:’
- La casa de Casique muy casicada es y si Casique no limpia la casa de Casique yo no la veré.
- Yo compré poca carne, poca carne yo compré, como la carnicería carne tenía al carnicero poca carne le compré.
- María Chucena techaba su choza y un techador que por allí pasaba le dijo: María Chucena, ¿techas tu choza o techas la ajena? Ni techo mi choza ni techo la ajena, que techo la choza de María Chucena.
For Practice with ‘p:’
- Pepe Pecas pica papas con un pico, con un pico pica papas Pepe Pecas.
- Compré pocas copas, pocas copas compré, como compré pocas copas, pocas copas pagué.
- Pedro Pablo Pérez Pereira pobre pintor portugués, pinta pinturas por poca plata para pasar por París.
For Practice with ‘q:’
- ¿Cómo quieres que te quiera si quien quiero que me quiera no me quiere como quiero que me quiera?
- Yo no quiero que tú me quiera porque yo te quiera a ti, quieréndome o sin quererme, yo te quiero porque sí.
- Quique Queco Quicas quiere quintales de queso para quesadillas quebradizas, así que quintales de queso para quesadillas quebradizas quiere Quique Queco Quicas.
For Practice with ‘r/rr:’
- Tres tristes tigres comen en tres tristes platos de trigo.
- El perro de Rita me irrita dile a Rita que cambie el perro por una perrita.
- Erre con erre cigarro, erre con erre barril, rápido corren los carros cargados de azúcar al ferrocarril.
For Practice with ‘s:’
- La sucesión sucesiva de sucesos sucede sucesivamente con la sucesión del tiempo.
- Si Sansón no sazona su salsa con sal, le sale sosa; le sale sosa su salsa a Sansón, si la sazona sin sal.
- La sucia Susana ensucia suficientemente el suéter de Sonia.
For Practice with ‘z:’
- Tengo un durazno muy desduraznador, el que me lo desdurazne, será un gran desduraznador.
- Un zapatero zambo, zapateaba zapateados de zapata, de zapata zapateaba zapateados un zapatero zambo.
- Baza, come calabaza. Baza, calza zapatas y come calabazas.
Advanced Spanish Tongue Twisters:
- Doña Panchívida se cortó un dévido con el cuchívido del zapatévido. Y su marívido se puso brávido porque el cuchívido estaba afilávido.
- El volcán de Parangaricutirimicuaro lo quieren desemparanguatizar y el que lo desemparangaritutimice, un buen desemparanguatizador será.
- El otorrinolaringólogo de parangaricutirimicuaro, se quiere desotorrinolaringaparangaricutirimicuarizar, el desotorrinolaringaparangaricutimicuador que logre desotorrinolaringaparangaricutimicuarizarlo, buen desotorrinolaringaparangaricutimicuador será.
How to Use Spanish Tongue Twisters
- To make the most of your experience with Spanish tongue twisters, try writing them down while memorizing them. Although native Spanish speakers likely learn these silly sayings verbally, it may be harder for you without writing them down. When learning any other language, it’s beneficial to practice both spelling and pronunciation. Not only is it important to train your tongue to pronounce words correctly, but it is good to know how to spell what you are saying.
- Do not waste your time trying to understand every word in a tongue twister! The words will often be from particular regions of the Spanish-speaking world and will not have a meaning outside of that area! They were also meant to be fun to say, not to have a deep meaning. Remember when you were a kid learning tongue twisters in your native language? You were not concerned about the meaning of what you learned, but instead tried saying it faster and faster! Keep this in mind as you expand your volume of memorized Spanish tongue twisters. What’s most important here is using it to enhance the quality of your pronunciation.
- If you are learning Spanish with a friend or classmate, turn the tongue twisters into a game. You can play telephone, where you say a tongue twister as fast as possible and your friend repeats what they heard. Similarly, you can also try playing Pictionary with Spanish tongue twisters both you and your friend know. One person draws the basic idea from a tongue twister with the other tries to guess it.
Most importantly, have fun! Learning a language can be hard, so don’t forget to take a step back and enjoy the process. ¡Disfrútalo!
Do you need help pronouncing these Spanish tongue twisters?
Check out our video to see our very own teachers pronounce some of the tongue twisters mentioned above! Comment with your favorite one.Read More
A tasty homemade snack, dessert or even a full meal can make a great addition to any Spanish lesson and a wonderful way to look at culture. Here are some Spanish foods to learn about and taste the next time you want to do some extended learning.
Spanish Deviled Eggs
Eggs are a huge part of Spanish cuisine as well as an important element in the Latin diet. The Spanish have several egg dishes that they enjoy throughout the day and chilled, spiced Deviled Eggs are a good option for a hot afternoon.
This Andalusian version of eggs is full of chorizo, pimento and olives, all of which are known Spanish foods used in a variety of dishes. If you have picky eaters in your home, you can adjust the recipe to leave out some of the extra ingredients. Encourage everyone to try a bite of the original as these are a true taste of Spain.
Ham and Cheese Empanadas
Ham and cheese empanadas are great because it’s essentially a warm, crunchy sandwich that helps introduce your family to empanadas. Empanadas are little half-moon shaped pastries filled with anything from seasoned ground beef to sweet summer strawberries.
Empanadas are more than tasty, they’re also a piece of history. Recipes of these delicious pastries can be found in cookbooks as far back as the 1500s. Today, many people still love them and your family will adore this version.
This recipe is sure to be a new favorite. Cream cheese is seasoned and paired with slices of ham to make a warm, salty snack perfect for any lunch or party. Have them as a post-Spanish class snack or to munch on while you plan your trip to Catalan, Spain.
Kids Watermelon Sangria
A cool, tall glass of sweet, pink sangria is hard to top on a hot summer day. Grab some watermelons, mint, and blackberries.
Traditional sangria mixes sugar and fruit and dates back to ancient Rome. When the Spanish wine industry took off, Sangria was created and is still popular all over the country. Luckily, many non-alcoholic versions have gained the same standing as the original and now everyone can have a glass.
Make this version with the kids when the weather starts to warm up. Be sure to name the ingredients in Spanish when you make it – there’s nothing like a lesson you can taste!
Pink Banana Agua Fresca
More popular in Mexico than Spain, agua frescas are definitely worth a try because they’re so refreshing and delicious. The drink is somewhere between a pressed juice and a smoothie. They’re lightly sweetened and served ice cold to take the edge off of a hot day.
This one uses a bit of milk to smooth out the taste of banana and then calls for dashes of grenadine to give it a pink color. Don’t be afraid to water this drink down a little to keep the texture light – agua frescas should never be too intense.
The recipe is quick and easy. Younger chefs can be in charge of the grenadine while older helpers can chop up the bananas and measure out the milk. Make plenty – this one is likely to be a favorite.
Authentic Spanish Flan
No Spanish dinner is complete without a few wiggly bites of flan. This gelatinous dessert is golden yellow with caramelized sugar on top and all around on your dessert plate.
Made of only five ingredients, flan comes together fast and tastes delicious. It’s creamy, sweet and easy on the pallet so even your most picky eater will want to try it.
Remember to incorporate a bit of the Spanish foods history behind whichever dish you choose and be sure to use as much Spanish vocabulary as possible to get the full effect of the lesson.
If you tried one of these Spanish foods or any other fun, authentic dishes, please share in the comments for others’ to enjoy!
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Playing games can be a way for students to practice Spanish in a fun, relaxed environment. Some recess favorites from the US and Canada have Spanish Adaptations equals you can use for extra vocabulary practice whenever your learner needs time outside.
1. Red Light, Green Light becomes 1, 2, 3 – ¡Momia Es!
This game works the same way in Spanish as it does in English with the bonus of freezing in your favorite mummy pose. One child controls the game by standing with their back to the group of momias. He or she counts Uno…dos…tres and the players try to move forward before the counter spins around. Anyone caught moving, the lead player calls them out by name and says, “¡Momia Es!” to get that person out or make them the caller.
This is a fun game for all ages and ability levels as it doesn’t require a lot of vocabulary to play. You can add extra Spanish phrases like “I see you!” or “You moved!” to make it interesting. Also, try counting higher or switch to a different creature to act out.
2. Ring Around the Rosey becomes Pares y Nones
A game for young learners, this one only requires learning a short song and walking around in a circle. Unlike the English version, this game doesn’t ask players to fall on the ground. Instead, they pause and grab one or more partners when the leader gives the command.
For example, when the break comes in the song, the leader calls out “Tres amigos!” Everyone in the circle has to end up in a group of three and either hold hands or give each other a big bear hug. Anyone who doesn’t get a group can try again in the next round or stand in the center for the next round.
To hear the song and see the game in action, check out this video.
3. Rock, Paper, Scissors becomes Piedra, Papel, Tijeras
You can’t go wrong with this game. Of all the Spanish adaptations, this one is bound to be a family favorite. It helps break ties, decide who goes first and can help pass the time during long car rides or while you wait in line. The Spanish version is a direct translation of the English game.
Start with a fist that jumps up and down on your other hand’s palm while you chant “Piedra, papel, tijera!” After the last word, show which one you picked. Remember, a fist is rock/piedra, a flat hand is paper/papel and two open fingers are your scissors/tijeras.
Paper beats rock, rock beats scissors and scissors beat paper. Play a few rounds to determine the best out of three or five.
4. Hot or Cold Becomes Frio o Caliente
A fun guessing game, Frio o Caliente is a chance for your child to hide something and enjoy watching a friend or Mom and Dad try to find it. The hider lets the seekers know how close they are through temperature. Hot is close, cold is far away.
You need some key phrases for this game.
“¡Te quemas!” You’re burning hot or right next to it
“¡Caliente!” Hot or close
“Tibio, tibio” Lukewarm or headed in the right direction
“Frio” Cold or moving the wrong way
“¡Te estás congelando!” You are freezing cold or going the wrong way
Keep guessing and moving until the hidden object is found, then switch leaders. While younger learners love this game, it can be adapted to older learners who need to practice directions. They can tell you which way to turn, go forward, go backward, stop. More advanced speakers can give verbal clues or riddles to help the seekers find the hidden object.
Have more kid-worthy games with Spanish adaptations? Share them with the HSA community in the comments below!
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Young readers love to hear a great story over and over! This makes for a great opportunity to incorporate Spanish into story time at home. These bestselling storybooks are recommended to Spanish students by kids and parents alike.
1. La Catrina: Emotions/Emociones by Patty Rodriguez (Best for Ages 0-3)
Written for little readers, this sotrybook teaches words for different feelings with the help of a friendly catrina, or dolled up skeleton, from Mexico. Don’t worry, the skeleton has a warm, sweet face painted with traditional makeup to ensure she’s not scary.
As a result, many reviews of this book highlight that kids want to read it on repeat and how much fun they have practicing new Spanish words by reenacting the emotions of the main character. This book is from the Lil Libros series. Other books include true stories about traveler Cantinflas and artist Frida Kahlo.
2. Donde Viven Los Monstruos by Maurice Sendak (Best for Ages 4-8)
Maurice Sendak’s classic storybook Where the Wild Things Are has been translated into numerous languages, so help your kids get to know the Spanish version. This is a great story to read as a family. Grown-ups will revel in the chance to hear an old favorite while kids will empathize with the main character’s struggle.
3. Dragones y Tacos by Adam Rubin (Best for Ages 4-8)
Did you know dragons love tacos of all kinds? Rubin’s book walks you through a dragon’s taco addiction with the help of gorgeous illustrations from artist Daniel Samieri. Kids love to see the big, silly dragons who are afraid of spicy food and yet live for crunchy chicken or barbecue tacos.
Similarly, this story is another translation and many reviewers mention reading both the Spanish and English version to see the variations in the text. Try it with your readers to help them better understand how Spanish grammar differs from English.
4. Cali Y Mona by Pepe Valle (Best for Ages 3-8)
Author Valle read a touching story in his local newspaper about a little blind girl who had a small pony for a guide. He was so moved that he wrote Cali Y Mona, telling their story for Spanish speaking children and for visually impaired readers.
This book includes braille print alongside the Spanish text. Stunning illustrations are printed in bas-relief from the page, inviting readers to feel them as they listen to this tale of loyalty and friendship. Don’t miss this beautiful story written by an author who lives to tell stories that celebrate Latino culture.
5. Chimoc en Machu Pichu by Andrea and Claudia Paz (Best for Ages 6-9)
Written to be silly and educational, this is the story of Chimoc and his animal friends who travel to Peru to save a forest. The story uses real places to engage readers and helps them practice new words while they learn about the importance of the environment.
Even more, this book comes with a bonus CD full of songs that inspire listeners to sing along and dance. Try this one for anyone who needs to read or simply jump up and get your wiggles out.
6. Friends from the Other Side by Gloria E. Anzaldua (Best for Ages 8 and up)
This book offers a realistic look at the struggles of living on the Mexican/American border. The book focuses on the people and the kindness in everyone from border patrol agents to traditional healers as paths cross and needs clash. A great read at any age, this book is a great one to read as a family .
Written in both English and Spanish, this book is one your family will want to read over and over. This is a great story for students looking to better understand how immigration affects families in the US and Mexico.
Have any favorite Spanish storybooks you and your kids love to read together? Share it with us in the comments below.
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