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
Using the 5 human senses can be extremely advantageous when learning something new, like Spanish or another foreign language. Teachers can use experiences, meals, and experiments to get students excited to use their new language. Want to try some sense exploration at home? Here are some fun activities you can do with things you already have at home.
Sight or Vista
There’s no question that some learners are more visual than others. For those that are, there are plenty of ways to explore the sense of sight to aid in learning Spanish.
You can start by playing a sight-word game with your child. Sight words encourage students to memorize and recognize the way words look and how they are spelled. Jump for the Words is a fun sight word game that also spends some energy. First, write 5-10 Spanish words on paper and attach each word to a piece of yarn hanging from a doorway (or entry way). Make sure the words are just out of reach for you child and start calling out the Spanish words. Your child will have to listen to what word you’re calling out, recognize that word on paper, and jump to grab it. You can take this game to the next level by adding a friend or sibling for some friendly competition.
If your learners are younger, try using a prism for some fun visual effects. Hold it in the sunlight to make a rainbow on the floor. Use them to warp your view of patterned paper or to inspire a work of art. Have your little learners point to and call out the colors they see in Spanish.
Smell or Olfato
The human nose is amazing. There are so many ways to explore our sense of smell can be that it’s hard to choose just one. Here are three to get you started.
Try painting with spice paints. Before you start, let your child decide which colors should go with each spice. This is a great chance to smell everything in the spice cabinet and learn the names of the different spices in Spanish. Then stir one spice into each color, take the easels outside and paint in the sun. The air will bring out the scents in the paintings and make your little artist want to create all day.
You can also grab a blindfold and then collect different foods from the kitchen with distinct smells. Try onions, lemons, cilantro, cinnamon sticks and vinegar. The kids put the blindfold over their eyes, then try to identify each food through smell only. For each food identified, be sure to identify in one language, then the other. Switch up the order of identifying in English and Spanish to truly master each word.
Finally, you can add on to the smelling game by adding a matching challenge. Double up on your food samples and then see if your learners can find each cup’s exact match using only their sense of smell.
Hear or Oido
Listening activities are a chance to listen to new kinds of music, audio books and play games like “Marco, Polo” in the pool. These are all solid activities, but you can also play some fun games that explore the sense of hearing in a new way.
A fun way to practice a new language is playing a game of old fashioned tin can telephone. Use any clean, empty cans and carefully punch holes in the bottom. Connect them with a long string. Each person should stand just far enough apart for the string to be tight. Then tell a secret, riddle or joke (in Spanish!) into the can. Your kids will love listening with this low-tech phone. Have the listener repeat what they heard out loud in Spanish and then try to translate into English. Then, switch turns.
Feel or Tacto
Use this sense as a chance to run barefoot in the grass, splash in the pool or compare the feel of different fabrics. Exploring your neighborhood can be a good way to use the sense of touch (or feel) for learning. Design a Scavenger Walk using a list of Spanish words that describe how things feel. Then, go word by word and see who can find the most examples for each word. You can give points or make this more of a discussion.
Need to stay indoors? Try some homemade finger paints. Based on your student’s level of Spanish, make a list (in Spanish) of things to paint. Using Spanish, have them call out each color they use and write the word in a sentence below each picture before moving on to the next.
Taste or Gusto
There’s a big opportunity in using the sense of taste to promote learning. Whether it’s trying new flavors or enjoying a bite of our favorite foods, there are many memorable ways to practice Spanish while doing so.
Set up a taste test using 5+ foods with various flavors and textures that can be classified as any of the following. Sweet – sour -bitter – salty -spicy (stick to mild level) – dry – crunchy – moist – chewy. Have your student identify the food in Spanish, then try the food and identify the flavor and/or texture. You can use a blindfold and make this a blind taste test if your little learner is feeling extra adventurous.
You can also try baking one of your child’s favorite sweet treats or get together and cook a favorite family meal at home. Have your student translate the recipe from English to Spanish, then talk through each step in Spanish. For example, when it’s time to set the oven, your student should tell say, Poner el horno a 400 grados. If you’re not too familiar with Spanish yourself, be sure to check the translation before starting so everything turns out just the way you like it.
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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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