Russian Language Blog

Twist Your Tongue Russian Style! Posted by on Jan 4, 2010 in language

It has been said before, «я знаю» [I know], but there’s nothing wrong with a little «повторение» [repeat, repetition; renewal; relapse; rehearsal] of something good! This blog has some of the best readers out there and thus duly receive plenty of excellent comments from you guys. «Спасибочки!» [‘(tiny) thanks!’ a slang version of «спасибо» placing the ‘thank you’ both in plural as well as diminutive. You’ll see this written on the internet about half of the time; the other half Russians make use of the colloquial «пасибо» instead] I especially like to visit the blogs and/or websites of people who comment here. (If you don’t want to risk me liking your blog enough to bookmark it, then don’t leave a trace behind!) A few days ago my last post received an excellent comment by a certain Homo Post-Soveticus, telling me that this blog had been added to the blog roll at RusIn / РусИн. Of course «я не могла не взглянуть» [I couldn’t not (pfv.) take a look at, glance, take a gander, take a slant, take a peep at] it. And as I read the latest post on it, I stumbled onto a tremendous website containing no less than 80 Russian Tongue Twisters!

The Russian word for tongue twister is «скороговорка» [patter, chatter; tongue twister. The plural form is «скороговорки» in nominative case]. This word is made from the adverb «скоро» [quickly] and the imperfect verb «говорить» [speak, talk; relate, tell; say, utter; refer; proclaim, declare] – translating literally as ‘to speak quickly’. All tongue twisters should be said with great speed, otherwise you won’t be twisting your tonue at all! It is interesting to compare the construction of this word with the word «поговорка» [saying, proverb; adage; household term] – do note that the stress in both words fall on the last «о» – which is made from the perfect verb «поговорить» [have a talk, or ‘talk for a shorter amount of time’]. When I was still studying only «русский язык как иностранный» [Russian as a foreign language] back when I lived «в Сибири» [in Siberia] I used to hate it whenever the teacher told us to memorize one «скороговорка» for our homework. Especially difficult for me were tongue twisters containing the vowel «ы», or the super soft consonant «щ». Those sounds are so difficult on their own, not to mention plenty of them inside one tiny little sentence… This website also has tongue twisters in other languages. It gives not only a transliteration of each and everyone of them in Russian, but also a rough translation in English. It does not, however, mark the stress on top or underneath the Russian words – something that’s crucial for you to know if your goal is to really twist your tongue Russian style! So here I present a few of them with stress marked «для вашего удобства» [for your convenience]:

«Два щенка щека к щеке щиплют щётку в уголке» [Two puppies cheek to cheek are nibbling a broom in the corner].

«Лена ела еле-еле. Лена ела так от лени» [Lena barely ate. She thus ate because of laziness].

«Это ты, Илья, или я, Илья [Is it you, Ilya, or I, Ilya?]

«Сев в такси спросила такса: “За проезд какая такса?” А таксист ответил так: “Возим такс мы просто такс“» [In a taxi the dachshund asked the taxi driver about the fare. The taxi driver replied, “The ride for dachshunds is free”].

«Во лесу лозу вяжу. На возу лозу везу. Коза, лозу не лижи – накажу [In the woods I tie the vines. On the cart I bring the vines. Goat, do not lick the vines – I’ll punish you!]

This kind of proper practice is perfect for polishing your pronunciation! Or you could be imaginative and try to make your own «скороговорка» from your favorite (or simply the words you find tricky) Russian words and repeat that sentence over and over again until you sound like you were born «в Самаре» [in Samara] or something. Like I tried to do below… 

«Что это [What is this?] «Это шахта» [It is a mine, coal pit; shaft]. «В шахте шахтёр с ящиком синих яхонтов шепчет монтёру о шансе танцевать на яхте» [In the mine a miner with a box of sapphires whispers to the electrician about a chance to dance on a yacht]. Okay, so I admit that my own example is a little over the top, but I just really like the word «шахтёр»

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