Chinese Language Blog

Working on Tones with Tongue Twisters Posted by on Oct 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

Many non-native Chinese speakers find that proper pronunciation and use of tones are the  most difficult aspects of learning the language and gaining fluency. This is because there are a plethora of sounds that don’t exist in both English and Chinese, meaning you have to train your tongue for the verbal somersaults.

Whether it is making sure that your tones would have the proper inflection, learning to purse your mouth and re-position your tongue, or finding a natural cadence and rhythm to your talk, all require practice and repetition when learning Chinese. It takes a good amount of work training your tongue, but there are fun ways to practice. If you really want to master your spoken Chinese, try some of these tongue twisters out. Here’s a quick youtube video to help get you started:

老师是四十四,是不是?(lǎoshī shì sìshísì, shì bú shì)Translation: The Teacher is 44, no (is this true/true of false)?

mā mā qí mǎ,
mǎ màn, mā mā mà mǎ.
Translation: Mother is riding a horse. The horse moves slowly. Mother chides the horse.

四 是 四 , 十 是 十 , 十 四 是 十 四 , 四 十 是 四 十 , 四 十 四 只 石 狮 子 是 死 的
sì shì sì
shí shì shí
shí sì shì shí sì
sì shí shì sì shí
sì shí sì zhī shí shī zǐ shì sǐ de.
Translation: 4 is 4, 10 is 10, 14 is 14, 40 is 40, 44 small stones are dead


zhīdào jiù shuō zhīdào
bù zhīdào jiù shuō bù zhīdào
bū yào zhīdào shuō bù zhīdào
yě bū yào bù zhīdào shuō zhīdào
nǐ zhīdào bù zhīdào
Translation: If you know, just say you know. If you don’t know, just say you don’t know. You shouldn’t know and say you don’t know. And you shouldn’t NOT know and say you DO know. You know?


chī pútáo tǔ pútáo pí ér,
bù chī pútáo bù tǔ pútáo pí ér.
chī pútáo bù tǔ pútáo pí ér,
bù chī pútáo dào tǔ pútáo pí ér.

Translation: Eat grapes throw out their skins, don’t eat grapes don’t throw out their skins. Eat grapes don’t throw out their skins, don’t eat grapes throw out their skins.


(niúláng liàn liúniáng
liúniáng niàn niúláng
niúláng niánnián liàn liúniáng
liúniáng liánlián niàn niúláng.)

Translation: The cowboy longs for Miss Liu (surname). Miss Liu pines for the cowboy. The cowboy longs for Miss Liu year in, year out. Miss Liu pines for the cowboy for ever and ever.

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About the Author: Stephen

Writer and blogger for all things China related. Follow me on twitter: @seeitbelieveit -- My Background: Fluent Mandarin speaker with 3+ years working, living, studying and teaching throughout the mainland. Student of Kung Fu and avid photographer and documentarian.

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