Tongue twisters are a fun way to improve your English pronunciation. Today I’m choosing five which focus on some of the toughest sounds in English (SH, Z, TH, R & H)

She sells seashells down by the seashore (/ʃ/ )

This is a classic tongue twister that almost every English speaker knows. This sound can be very tricky for students, especially for native Spanish speakers but it’s important to get it right to avoid confusion when speaking.

The zebra’s prize is the wrong size (/z/)

Another tough sound for Spanish speakers in particular! Remember that this sound isn’t just represented by Z. Words like rise ( raɪz ) also have this /z/ sound. You can check to see if a word has this sound at https://www.dictionary.com/

Without thinking you can thoughtlessly hurt your mother (/θ/) (/ð/)

Many students who don’t have this sound in their mother tongue make substitutions which can make it difficult for native speakers to understand. For example, many French speakers will substitute this sound for a /Z/ which can make them less comprehensible when they’re speaking. A lot of teachers wrongly tell students that to make this sound they have to put their tongue between their teeth. This isn’t true, when we make this sound the tongue hits the back of our front teeth.

Roger Rabbit lost his red marbles over the bridge (/r/)

It seems that English pronunciation is quite unique with this sound and it causes a lot of frustration for students! The trilled R of Portuguese or Spanish can sound way too strong in English and speakers of languages like Chinese can struggle to hear the difference between an L and an R. Too many times students only practice making this sound at the beginning of a word, but this sound an be anywhere in a word. For that reason it’s important to practice it in combination with other sounds and in various positions in a word.

Horrid Henry loves happily helping his hamster (/h/)

Do you pronounce this sound too strongly or not at all? This seems to be the main problem with this sound for English language students. Think of this sound as a short release of air, like when you steamed up a window as a kid. Remember that no sound is an island and /h/ is no exception! It usually alters a little depending on the vowel that comes after it. So it’s important to practice this sound with other vowels (this tongue twister uses them all minus U if you want to practice the /h/ sound with other vowels try “hut” and hunt”).

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