One of the problems many international students have when learning Japanese is pronunciation.
A fun way to improve your Japanese pronunciation is by learning Japanese tongue twisters.
For those not familiar with tongue twisters, a tongue twister is defined as a sentence or phrase that is difficult to articulate clearly and quickly, such as Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers or She
sells seashells by the sea shore. I`m sure there are such word games in other languages, too.
In Japan, such tongue twisters are called Hayakuchi Kotoba 早口言葉 (はやくちことば). This literally translates as Fast Mouth Words. Using these tongue twisters will help to improve flexibility in the mouth, lips, and jaw. Tongue twisters help you to improve diction and enunciation, as well as the ability to properly form vowels in order to produce a clearer tone.
They are great for beginners to learn as they target pronunciation and mistakes. The whole point of tongue twisters is that they’re difficult to say, and they’re difficult to say because a lot of their sounds are
the same. However, by stumbling over difficult words you will eventually learn to say the sounds correctly and distinctly.
It doesn`t matter if you make mistakes. The point is to get to the level where you can say them correctly and fast. Don`t think too much about the meaning because there isn`t a lot of meaning to it! It`s just a fun word game that helps improve your Japanese language ability. They were made to sound silly.
The easiest way is to start with the shorter tongue twisters and work your way up to the longer, more difficult ones. Ready? Let`s go!
- バスガス爆発 (バスガスばくはつ basu gasu bakuhatsu)
– bus gas explosion
Start off by taking one word at a time, so バス (bus), ガス (gas), 爆発 (explosion), and repeat these until you can say them without looking at the text. Remember that, in Japanese, tongue twisters are known as fast mouth words. So, it’s not enough just to say the words, you have to say them fast! Japanese people try to say them three times, and fast.
There is actually a longer version of this:
1.バスガス爆発ブスバスガイド – basu gasu bakuhatsu busu basu gaido
Bus gas explosion ugly bus guide.
Once you`ve got the hang of that, you`re ready to use the same techniques with other, more difficult tongue twisters.
2.生麦生米生卵 (なま むぎなまごめなまたまご
namamugi namagome namatamago)
– raw wheat, raw rice, raw eggs
This one is the probably the most common or well-known Japanese tongue twister. If you ask any Japanese person to give you an example of hayakuchi kotoba, this would be the one they give you.
akamakigami aomakigami kimakigami)
– red scroll, yellow scroll, blue scroll
Sumomo mo momo mo momo no uchi)
– both plums and peaches are members of the peach family
tonari no kyaku wa yoku kaki kuu kyaku da)
– the customer next to me eats a lot of persimmons
Niwa no niwa ni wa niwa niwatori niwaka ni wani wo tabeta)
– In (Mr.) Niwa’s garden, two chickens suddenly ate a crocodile.
This one is really the top of the tree. If you can do this tongue twister, you are on your way to mastering Japanese pronunciation!