Chinese Language Blog

Five Chinese Tongue Twisters Posted by on Dec 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

Chinese Teacher by Marco Klapper from is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Chinese pronunciation is pretty difficult. Some words are very hard to pronounce.Some sentences are tongue twisting. Difficult indeed! But no need to be afraid, just practice. There are many ways to practice pronunciation, tongue twisters is one of them. The more you say tongue twister the better, practice makes perfect. Today we will check out five amusing tongue twisters.


Hànyǔ fāyīn bǐjiào nán. Yǒuxiē zì hěn bù shùnkǒu de. Yǒuxiē jùzi shuō qǐlái hěn rào zuǐ. Zhēn nán! Dàn bùyào pà, yīnggāi duō liànxí ba. Liànxí fāyīn de bànfǎ hěnduō, ràokǒulìng zhī yī. Ràokǒulìng yuè shuō yuè hǎo, shúnéngshēngqiǎo. Jīntiān zánmen kàn kàn wǔ gè hěn yǒuqù de ràokǒulìng.


四和十Four and ten

This绕口令composed of only two consonants: ʽs’ and ʽsh’. As such it provides good practice of these particular sounds and of tones. This 绕口令 has several versions, the shortest one is well known to Chinese learner.






Sì shì sì,
shí shì shí,
shísì shì shísì,
sìshí shì sìshí,

Sìshísì shì sìshísì.


The translation:

Four is four,

Ten is ten,

Fourteen is fourteen,

Forty is forty,

Forty four is forty four.


Listen to one of the longest version of 四和十绕口令:



孩子和鞋子 A child and a shoe

This 绕口令 is less famous, but much easier. It requires more vocabulary than the first one, but still suits beginners.









Háizi shì háizi,

xiézi shì xiézi,
háizi bùshì xiézi,

xiézi bùshì háizi.
Shì háizi chuān xiézi,

bùshì xiézi chuān háizi.
Shuí fēn bù qīng xiézi hé háizi,

shuí jiù niàn bù zhǔn xiézi hé háizi.


The translation:

Child is child, shoe is shoe,

Child isn’t shoe, shoe isn’t child,

The child wears the shoe, is not the shoe that wears the child,

Who can’t distinguish shoe from child, doesn’t read these characters accurate.


登山Climbing a mountain 

This 绕口令tells a whole story about a boy name Xiaosan.











Sān yuè sān,

xiǎosān qù dēngshān.
Shàngshān yòu xiàshān, xiàshān yòu shàngshān.
Dēngle sāncì shān,

pǎole sānlǐ sān.
Chūle yīshēn hàn,

shīle sān jiàn shān.
Xiǎosān shānshàng dàshēng hǎn:

“Lí tiān zhǐyǒu sān chǐ sān!”



The translation:

On March the third, Xiaosan went climbing a mountain.

He climbed the mountain and went down, went down and climbed again.

He climbed the mountain three times, walked three point three Li.

Perspired all over, wetted three shirts.

On the mountain Xiaosan shouted loud:

“From here to the sky only three point three Chi!”


*Li is a Chinese unit of length equivalent to half a kilometer.

**Chi is a Chinese unit of length equivalent to third meter.



南南有个篮Nannan has a basket

This 绕口令is about another boy, named Nannan. He is not climbing any mountain, but carrying a basket.









Nán nán yǒu gè lán,

lán lán zhuāngzhe pán pán,
pán pán fàngzhe wǎn wǎn,

wǎn wǎn chéngzhe fàn fàn.
Nán nán fānle lán lán,

lán lán kòule pán pán,
pán pán dǎle wǎn wǎn,

wǎn wǎn sāle fàn fàn.


The translation:

Nannan has a basket, in the basket there’s a plate,

On the plate there’s a bowl, the bowl filled with rice.

Nannan turned the basket over, the basket turned the plate upside down,

The plate smash the bowl, the bowl spread the rice over.


大猫小猫 Big cat, small cat

This time not little boys involved, but cute cats. This 绕口令 works on the ‘d’ and ‘m’ sounds, and of course on the tones.





Dà māo máo duǎn,

xiǎo māo máo cháng,
dà māo máo bǐ xiǎo māo máo duǎn,
xiǎo māo máo bǐ dà māo máo zhǎng.


The translation:

The fur of the big cat is short,

The fur of the small cat is long,

The fur of the big cat is shorter than the fur of the small cat,

The fur of the small cat is longer than the fur of the big cat.

Those were only five classic tongue twisters, but be sure the Chinese language has more of that. The four tones and the one syllable words provide diversity 绕口令. Use them for practice and laughter.

加油!(Jiāyóu, you can do it!)




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  1. Peter Simon:

    Thanks, I didn’t know about such tongue-twisters but I thought they existed, Chinese has such a simple set of phonemes. However, to me, they sound like Dutch children’s songs: too simple and idiotic. Try some of the Hungarian ones. (sorry, again, I’m a bit too demanding again)

    • Ayana:

      @Peter Simon You are right, Peter, they do sound simple. But that’s the beauty of it: they are far from being simple! The content is indeed unsophisticated, as appropriate for kids. But the pronunciation, wow, that’s a different story… My advice: overlook the meaning, focus on the accent and the articulation. 🙂

      • Peter Simon:

        @Ayana Ayana, you may be right, but perhaps I didn’t express myself clearly.
        The point of tongue twisters is the juxtaposition of consonants that are produced near e/o in the mouth. In that respect, among those seen here, only the first one, and to some extent, the second one, is a good example, except that my friend’s 3-year-old half-Chinese daughter can perfectly reproduce it, let alone the 5-year-old son. So much about level – this is, after all, a site not really for toddlers, right? The “she sells sea shells…” verse is a good comparison to this.

        Another example would be p and f, like in ‘Az ipafai papnak fapipája van, ezért az ipafai fapipa papi fapipa’ – you don’t have to understand it at all to see why it is a difficult, though also simple, tongue twister at higher speeds.

        On the other hand, the juxtaposition of h, n, l, d, m can’t be considered a challenge, so I’d contend that the above are not real tongue twisters, except that the Chinese j would come close when next to s, sh or x.

        Above all, however, I’d say all the above miss the real Chinese challenge: the fact that they find it very-very difficult to differentiate between l and r. I’d love to know if there’re tongue-twisters playing on this pair, or the similarly difficult, or at least interesting groups of ch-z-zh-j, p-t, k-g or something along those lines, or at least t-d, which doesn’t appear above either. A little bit of phonetics would help to understand what I mean, but of course, in Chinese, such verses would be terribly difficult to create.

        All in all, my opinion is that in the five examples provided, articulation is not a challenge and I’d like to see some if possible.

        • Ayana:

          @Peter Simon Hi Peter, your point is well taken. I promise to collect – and publish – more challenging tongue twisters. 😉

          • ria:

            @Ayana lol peter its not that deep. calm down

  2. Jon:

    These are great! Sometimes learning a whole language feels impossible, but I found when I first started having a few ‘tricks’ to impress native speakers was highly motivating. I visited 成都 knowing nothing, a friend taught me a tongue twister about a ‘gate with a dead stone lion’. They were just about the first full sentences I managed, and I practiced it endlessly. In hindsight, I should have picked up a book of one-liner chinese jokes at the airport :P.

    • Ayana:

      @Jon Hi Jon, I really like your encouraging comment! And you are right – learning a whole language seems impossible, the key is to take it step by step. Just like you did! And by the way, the tongue twister you’ve mentioned – about the 石狮子 – ain’t easy at all… 🙂

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