Tuesday’s Tip: Tongue Twisters

Tongue twisters are not ideal to use in an ESL class.

Picture yourself trying to communicate in a new language.  It can be intimidating speaking with correct grammar or using the right pronunciation of a word (is it sheep or seep, or jeep?).  Maybe you’ve been misunderstood or laughed at.  That’s not very fun.

Then your teacher hands you a sheet with funny phrases that have only the most difficult sounds in this language.  Now, the teacher wants you to say them!!!??

Any research on good teaching practices would advise against creating uncomfortable situations for students, and using tongue twisters in an ESL class qualifies.  Not only can they make students distressed, they are linguistically confusing.  Hearing the differences in sounds is hard because some sounds that exist in English don’t exist in other languages.  Not only that, but it also provides occasions for students to involuntarily recreate errors, solidifying the very sounds they may wish to eventually correct.

Now, I’m not a total fuddy duddy, and have been known to use tongue twisters myself.  They’re fun…what can I say?  There is, however, a time and a place to appropriately use tongue twisters.

When you have a class who might enjoy the word play, here are a few tongue twister links.

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