- Japan Tips
21+ Japanese Tongue Twisters to Perfect Your Pronunciation
No matter what tongue you attempt them in, tongue twisters are always fun verbal puzzles that test our ability to navigate the rhythmic complexities of a language. This is no different for those who are trying to learn Japanese.
With wordplay and cleverly crafted sound combinations, tongue twisters offer a playful and entertaining way to engage with Japanese culture. Although they may seem bewildering at first, these tongue twisters are meant to be enjoyed, and embracing the challenge can lead to new avenues of growth in your language-learning quest.
So, without further ado, here are 21+ Japanese tongue twisters for you and your friends to enjoy. Not only will these funky phrases improve your pronunciation and fluency in Japanese, but you’ll also gain a deeper appreciation for the richness of the Japanese language.
21 Fun Japanese Tongue Twisters for You to Practice
1. Akamakigami, aomakigami, kiimakigami
English: Red wrapping paper, blue wrapping paper, yellow wrapping paper.
Pronunciation tip: Pay attention to the clear distinction between each color: “Aka” (ah-kah), “ao” (ah-oh), “ki” (kee).
2. Kawazu pyokopyoko san pyokopyoko, miteru hito mo pyokopyoko san pyokopyoko
English: Three hopping frogs, even the watching person hops three times.
Pronunciation tip: Focus on the repetition of “pyokopyoko” (pyoh-koh-pyoh-koh) to maintain a steady rhythm.
3. Uri futatsu, nasu futatsu
English: Two identical melons, two identical eggplants.
Pronunciation tip: Emphasize the clear enunciation of each word: “Uri” (oo-ree), “futatsu” (foo-tah-tsoo), “nasu” (nah-soo).
4. Torawo torunara torawo toru yori toriwo tore, toriwa otorini torawo tore
English: Instead of catching the tiger, catch a bird and use the bird as bait to catch the tiger.
Pronunciation tip: Maintain a steady rhythm and emphasize the distinction between “wo” (woh) and “wa” (wah) in “toriwa otorini torawo tore” (toh-ree-wah oh-toh-ree-nee toh-rah-woh toh-reh).
5. Tonari no tonari no bāsan wa tonari ni o-bāsan
English: The neighbor’s neighbor is an old lady next door.
Pronunciation tip: Remember to pronounce each syllable clearly and don’t speed up too much: Toh-nah-ree no toh-nah-ree no bah-sahn wah toh-nah-ree nee oh-bah-sahn.
6. Aka pajama, ao pajama, ki paja
English: Red pajamas, blue pajamas, yellow pajamas.
Pronunciation tip: Be sure to pronounce each color distinctly: “Aka” (ah-kah), “ao” (ah-oh), “ki” (kee).
7. Shanson kashu, shinshun shansonshu
English: Chanson singer, new year chanson show.
Pronunciation tip: In “shanson,” pronounce each syllable as follows: “shan-son.” “Kashu” sounds like “kah-shoo,” and “shinshun” sounds like “shin-shoon.” Lastly, “shansonshu” is pronounced as “shanson-shoo.”
8. Yaoya no Yaorō wa, Yaorō de yaoya
English: Yaorō, the greengrocer, is a greengrocer by profession.
Pronunciation tip: “Yaorō” is pronounced as “Ya-oh-roh.” The “wa” sounds like “wah,” and “de” sounds like “deh.” Lastly, “yaoya” is pronounced as “ya-oh-yah.”
9. Karaage tōgarashi age
English: Deep-fried chicken, deep-fried chili pepper.
Pronunciation tip: Pay attention to the elongated vowel sounds in “karaage” (kah-rah-ah-geh) and “tōgarashi” (toh-gah-rah-shee).
10. Kono takegaki ni take tatekaketa no wa take tatekaketakattakara , take tatekaketa
Japanese: この竹垣に 竹 立て 掛け た のは 竹 立て 掛け た かったから、竹立て掛けた。
English: I laid this bamboo against the bamboo fence because I wanted to lay bamboo against it.
Pronunciation tip: In “kono takegaki,” pronounce each syllable as follows: “koh-noh tah-keh-gah-kee.” “Take” is pronounced as “tah-keh,” and “tatekaketa” sounds like “tah-teh-kah-keh-tah.”
11. Banana no nazo wa mada nazo na no da zo
English: The mystery of the banana is still a mystery.
Pronunciation tip: Emphasize the repetitive and playful nature of the phrase. Pronounce “nazo” (nah-zoh) with a rising intonation. Give a confident and assertive tone to “na no da zo” (nah noh dah zoh) at the end.
12. Kono kugi wa hikinuki nikui kugi da
English: This nail is a nail that is difficult to pull out.
Pronunciation tip: Emphasize the repetition of “kugi” (koo-gee) to create a rhythmic effect. Pronounce “hikinuki” (hee-kee-noo-kee) with a firm and determined tone. Maintain clarity and enunciate each syllable distinctly.
13. Tonari no kyaku ha yoku kaki kuu kyaku da
English: The next customer is a customer who often eats persimmons.
Pronunciation tip: Convey the rhythm and playfulness of the phrase. Pronounce “tonari” (toh-nah-ree) with a light and friendly tone. Emphasize the repetition of “kyaku” (kyah-koo) to create a lively and engaging flow.
14. Basu gasu bakuhatsu
English: Bus gas explosion
Pronunciation tip: Give a sharp and explosive tone to the phrase. Pronounce “basu” (bah-soo) and “gasu” (gah-soo) with a quick and clear enunciation. Emphasize the suddenness and impact of “bakuhatsu” (bah-koo-haht-soo) to reflect the meaning of a gas explosion.
15. Kuro neko, shiro neko, shiro neko, kuro neko
English: Black cat, white cat, white cat, black cat.
Pronunciation tip: Create a playful and rhythmic tone. Emphasize the contrast between “kuro neko” (koo-roh neh-koh) and “shiro neko” (shee-roh neh-koh). Maintain a steady and repetitive flow to capture the essence of black and white cats.
16. Bōzu ga byōbu ni jōzu ni bōzu no e wo kaita
English: The monk skillfully drew a picture of a monk on a screen.
Pronunciation tip: Convey a sense of skill and artistry. Pronounce “bōzu” (boh-zoo) with a light and melodic tone. Emphasize the repetition of “bōzu” and “byōbu” (byoh-boo) to highlight the painting aspect.
17. Niwa Niwa Niwa Niwatori Ga Iru; Uraniwa Ni Mo Niwa Niwatori Ga Iru
English: There are two chickens in the yard; there are also two chickens in the backyard.
Pronunciation tip: Create a lively tone. Particularly focus on the repetition of “niwa” (nee-wah) and “niwatori” (nee-wah-toh-ree) to capture the playful essence. Maintain a clear and distinct enunciation throughout the phrase.
18. Namamugi namagome namatamago
English: Raw wheat, raw rice, raw egg.
Pronunciation tip: Embrace a spirited tone and emphasize the repetition of “Namamugi” (Nah-mah-moo-gee), “Namagome” (Nah-mah-goh-meh), and “Namatamago” (Nah-mah-tah-mah-goh) to convey the playful nature of the phrase.
19. Sumomo mo momo, momo mo momo, sumomo mo momo mo momo no uchi
English: A Japanese plum is a peach, a peach is also a peach, both Japanese plums and peaches are a kind of peach.
Pronunciation tip: Pay close attention to the repetition of “sumomo” (soo-moh-moh) and “momo” (moh-moh), emphasizing each syllable with the right intonation.
20. Sumomo Mo Momo Mo Momo No Uchi
English: Both plums and peaches are a family of peaches.
Pronunciation tip: Focus on the repetition of “sumomo” (soo-moh-moh) and “momo” (moh-moh), pronouncing each syllable clearly with enthusiasm. Maintain a distinct enunciation throughout.
21. Watashi wa watashi, watashi ni hanashikakeru no wa watashi
English: I am me, and the one who talks to me is me.
Pronunciation tip: Emphasize the repetition of “watashi” (wah-tah-shee) with clarity. Maintain a steady rhythm and enunciate each syllable distinctly throughout the phrase to convey the self-referential nature of the statement.
Why are tongue twisters useful in learning Japanese?
As with in any other language, learning and practising tongue twisters in Japanese has many benefits. Some of the main benefits include improved pronunciation, diction and intonation for individual sounds and syllables, as well as longer phrases in conjunction.
Also, tongue twisters can help to boost listening skills, as they help language learners to distinguish individual sounds and patterns. This is particularly the case with Japanese, which is a unique language in every sense of the word.
Additionally, tongue twisters improve speakers’ articulatory agility and muscle memory, leading to confident and smooth communication in Japanese.
What is the easiest Japanese tongue twister to learn?
Perhaps the easiest and most accessible Japanese tongue twister to learn is “さくらんぼ、なし、ぶどう” (Sakuranbo, nashi, budō). This translates to “cherries, pears, grapes” in English, and is an excellent starting point for beginners due to its straightforward pronunciation.
It is easy due to its inclusion of three simple words – “さくらんぼ” (sah-koo-rahn-boh) for cherries, “なし” (nah-shee) for pears, and “ぶどう” (boo-doh). Each word consists of commonly used syllables and does not require intricate sound combinations or difficult pitch accent patterns.
By practising this beginner-friendly tongue twister, learners can gain confidence in their ability to articulate Japanese sounds accurately. It serves as a stepping stone for gradually progressing to more complex phrases.
What is the hardest Japanese tongue twister to learn?
One of the hardest Japanese tongue twisters that a new speaker can attempt to learn is “砂利船長、船長は砂利” (Jari senchō, senchō wa jari). This tongue twister translates to “Gravel captain, the captain is gravel” in English.
It poses difficulties due to its intricate sound patterns and repetitive syllables. In particular, the combination of “砂利” (jari), meaning “gravel,” and “船長” (senchō), meaning “captain,” creates a complex sequence of sounds.
Pronouncing these words with precision and maintaining a steady rhythm can be quite demanding. Additionally, the repetition of “船長は砂利” (senchō wa jari) adds an extra layer of complexity, testing the speaker’s ability to maintain clarity and fluency.
Mastering this challenging tongue twister requires meticulous attention to pronunciation, pitch accent, and rhythm. It serves as a valuable exercise for advanced learners seeking to refine their articulation skills.
The last word on Japanese tongue twisters
Thanks for reading our comparative guide to 21+ tough Japanese tongue twisters.
With a bit of practice and perseverance, you’ll no doubt find yourself navigating through the twists and turns of Japanese tongue twisters with confidence and skill. So, dive in, have fun, and let your tongue dance with the delightful intricacies of Japanese tongue twisters!
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