15 English tongue twisters for ESL

There is a general conception amongst native Chinese that speaking is the toughest part of learning English and what they struggle with the most. Because, reverting to a stereotype, many Chinese students are good at exams, so they can pass an English exam with hard study, they have the textbooks, they can learn textbook grammar, they can listen to news and videos. But they lack proper speaking practice. They lack a native English sparring partner. That is why many English teachers are revered here because they can offer so much. What can you use English tongue twisters ESL for?

So how would a TEFL teacher go about improving their student’s speaking and pronunciation? Well, one trick which we will go through today is to use some fantastic tongue twisters that are guaranteed to get your tongue-tied and also inject some much-needed fun and liveliness into your ESL lessons.

What exactly is a Tongue Twister?

A tongue twister is a sequence of words and sounds, it can even be a short poem or something senseless as we will see later, that is alliterative and are very difficult to pronounce quickly. Tongue twisters have existed for centuries being extremely popular in the 19th century, but the phrase was only coined in 1895, and they continue to be a humorous form of vocal exercise. Tongue twisters feature repeated sounds which are great for you to improve your English pronunciation, and different tongue twisters focus on different sounds and phonemes. You can incorporate these nicely into your lesson plans as a starter or at the plenary.

*Tip: Remember to focus on your students’ articulation first and foremost, then once they get the pronunciation right then they can start reading it as quickly as they want. Also make sure that they regularly practice these tongue twisters as just a few repetitions won’t do, long term practice and you will see the benefits of these tongue twisters.

Ok! I’ve kept you waiting enough, let’s get right down to it.

There are so many great tongue twisters out there that it was so difficult for us to pick so we have just compiled 15 that we absolutely love, and we hope you guys enjoy these as much as we have. So here they are, 15 tongue twisters for any ESL classroom, in no particular order.

Red Lorry, Yellow Lorryred lorry yellow lorry

red lorry, yellow lorry,

red lorry, yellow lorry,

red lorry, yellow lorry.


The Wish

I wish to wish the wish you wish to wish,

but if you wish the wish the witch wishes,

I won’t wish the wish you wish to wish.

i scream ice cream

I scream, you scream

I scream, you scream,

we all scream for ice cream.


Say this Sharply

Say this sharply, say this sweetly,
Say this shortly, say this softly.
Say this sixteen times in succession.


The Mary Poppins One!


*Mary Poppins would be a nice topic for an ESL lesson.

sixth sheep

Sixth Sheep

Sixth sick Sheikh’s sixth sheep sick.

*This was once the Guinness World Record’s most difficult tongue twister.


Pad Kid

Pad kid poured curd pulled cod

*Created by MIT researchers in 2013 for the 166th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, this tongue twister caused most problems amongst volunteers, and therefore may have inherited the crown from the sixth Sheikh, did you see what I did there?

seashells by the seashore

Sea Shells by the Sea Shore

She sells sea shells by the seashore.
The shells she sells are surely seashells.
So if she sells shells on the seashore,
I’m sure she sells seashore shells.


Peter Piper

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
Did Peter Piper pick a peck of pickled peppers?
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?



How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
He would chuck, he would, as much as he could,
and chuck as much wood as a woodchuck would
if a woodchuck could chuck wood.


Betty Botter

Betty Botter had some butter,
“But,” she said, “this butter’s bitter.
If I bake this bitter butter,
it would make my batter bitter.
But a bit of better butter–
that would make my batter better.”

So she bought a bit of butter,
better than her bitter butter,
and she baked it in her batter,
and the batter was not bitter.
So ’twas better Betty Botter
bought a bit of better butter.


Yellow Butter, Purple Jelly, Red Jam, Black Bread

Yellow butter, purple jelly, red jam, black bread.yellow butter
Spread it thick, say it quick!
Yellow butter, purple jelly, red jam, black bread.
Spread it thicker, say it quicker!
Yellow butter, purple jelly, red jam, black bread.
Don’t eat with your mouth full!

*This one makes me hungry!


To Sit in Solemn Silence

To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock,
In a pestilential prison, with a life-long lock,
Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock,
From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!

To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock,
In a pestilential prison, with a life-long lock,
Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock,
From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!

A dull, dark dock, a life-long lock,
A short, sharp shock, a big black block!
To sit in solemn silence in a pestilential prison,
And awaiting the sensation
From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!

English tongue twisters ESL for adult classes

And finally two more tongue twisters not for the faint-hearted, for older and more mature students as any quick repetition or mispronunciation will sound like a rude profanity. Be careful haha.

I’m Not the Pheasant Pluckerpheasant plucker

I am not the pheasant plucker,
I’m the pheasant plucker’s mate.
I am only plucking pheasants
Because the pheasant plucker’s late.


I Slit a Sheet

I slit a sheet, a sheet, I slit.
Upon a slitted sheet, I sit.


We hoped you had fun with our English tongue twisters ESL! Are you interested in challenging yourself and teaching English in China? If so, get in touch!, we can find the perfect TEFL job for you.

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