Tongue Twister: The Connection From Your Mouth To Your Brain

One of my favorite exercises for good voice and speech at the VoiceZone is the old-fashioned tongue twister.

What child doesn’t remember the fun games that were had in school and at home by challenging our friends and family to recite the word game of Peter Piper and his peck of pickled peppers….or: how a certain gal named “she” sells her some seashells by the seashore.

A fun fact is that tongue twister was named after Henry Twister, an English poet. Mr. Twister was a bit ‘twisted’—as in drunk during a brothel excursion one night in 1923. His memory the morning after served up this ditty: “Boats and Hoes, gotta have me boats and hoes.”

There are now over 6,654,564,432 tongue twisters. Besides being fun, they are a fast way to connect your mouth to your brain and exercise a certain vowel or consonant sounds. I find them useful for a wide number of applications for proper articulation. Whether my students are actors who want to develop a certain accent for a role, foreign students who want to learn English, or professional speakers who want to heighten their art of communication, tongue twisters are a fabulous form for practicing pronunciation more clearly and effectively.

Over the years as a voice coach and acting coach, I have experimented with thousands of tongue twisters, but my personal winning and simple combination is: “TOY BOAT.” I would like you to try it now and you will see why it’s a sturdy exercise. Begin by taking a nice, full breath, and always make sure to prounounce the final “t” in “boat.”

When you say it fast, it’s very easy to skip over that “t,” but the point of the exercise is to complete your sounds. If we don’t finish our sounds, we’re going to have weak speech and we sound like we are mumbling. If the audience or listener has to ask themselves, “What did they say???”, then the meaning of our message is more than likely lost.

• We’ll start slowly and then we’ll increase our speed. Okay. Ready? Take a nice breath in: “Toy Boat.”
• Now, let’s try it two times: taking a nice breath in: “Toy Boat! Toy Boat!”
• Again, nice and slow, breath and then say it three times: “Toy Boat! Toy Boat! Toy Boat!”

Here are some additional tongue twisting resources:

1. Warming up your Voice includes work on breathing, relaxation, and verbal agility. This page discusses exercises for all of those and it gives you more tongue twisters:

http://www.ehow.com/list_6690171_speaking-voice-training-exercises.html

2. What is the connection between your brain and your mouth when it comes to saying tongue twisters? Why are they so hard for us to say? Here’s an great article about tongue twisters and the way our brains work:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201312/tongue-twisters-reveal-quirky-brain-functions

3. To see different and unique tongue twisters in action, check out Andrea Giordano, as she says them slowly and then quickly. You can practice along!

http://www.eslbasics.com/?s=tongue+twisters&h

What are your favorite tongue twisters?

Video Transcripts

Toy Boat Tongue Twister

Today we’re going to do one of my favorite exercises for good voice and speech: tongue twisters. Tongue twisters are a fun, fast way to connect your mouth to your brain. Today’s tongue twister is “Toy Boat”.

Now, as we begin, make sure to take in a nice full breath and also make sure to pronounce the final “t” in “Boat”. When you say it fast, it’s very easy to skip over the “t”. But the point of these exercises is to complete your sounds. I f we don’t finish our sounds, we’re going to have weak speech and sound like we’re mumbling. If the audience or listener has to ask themselves, “What did they say?”, the meaning of our message may be lost.

We’ll start very slowly and then we’ll increase our speed. I’ll say it first and give you time to repeat after me. Taking a nice breath in, “Toy Boat”. Now we’ll try it two times. Taking a nice breath in, “Toy Boat, Toy Boat”. Your turn. Let’s say it three times, again nice and slowly. Big breath in. “Toy Boat, Toy Boat, Toy Boat.” Let’s start to increase our speed. If you can say these tongue twisters quickly, you’ll be able to say them very clearly at a regular normal pace. Nice breath in, “Toy Boat, Toy Boat, Toy Boat”—your turn. And a little bit faster. The Boat is really taking off now. And take a nice breath in. “Toy Boat, Toy Boat, Toy Boat”.
All right, good job. I’m Patrick Munoz at the Voice Zone. You can visit me at www.thevoicezone.net and follow me on Twister @TheVoiceZone.

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