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Struggle with the four tunes in Chinese, ā á ǎ à? You can’t help but pause at the moment you have a Chinese word like “自己” (zì jǐ) or “出租车” (chū zū chē)? Want to speak clearly and fluently when giving a presentation or having a meeting in Chinese?
Learning Chinese tongue twisters can help you speak confidently with both accurate pronunciation and fluency. Here are 4 tips to learn Chinese tongue twisters and 15 interesting examples given below. Let’s get started!
4 tips to learn Chinese tongue twisters
1. First of all, you need to identify which Chinese words you are always pronouncing with difficulties. You may struggle with the four Chinese tones. Then find a tongue twister which contains these particular Chinese pronunciations.
2. You can make a start at a low speed. Don’t worry about the fluency at the very beginning but do pay attention to the accuracy of your pronunciation. During the process, you must correct your pronunciation at the moment you notice it is incorrect, otherwise, it could be very hard to get rid of your wrong pronunciation later on.
3. Once you have an accurate pronunciation, repeat the tongue twister every day. Squeeze out 10 minutes every day, after dinner, before bedtime, whenever you want. You may account it into your schedule in a fixed time so that you can set up a habit. Practice makes perfect.
4. Take you time, “心急吃不了热豆腐” (xīn jí chī bú liǎo rè dòu fu, the direct translation is “do not hurry up, otherwise you cannot eat hot tofu”, which means be patient, otherwise you will not have a good outcome. You will see your fluency will improve after a few weeks or months.
15 interesting Chinese tongue twisters
Here are 15 interesting Chinese tongue twisters, their pinyin and translation. To help you better understand each tongue twister, a slash “/” is used to separate each phrase in a sentence (this method is called “断句”, duàn jù), and the meaning for each phrase in these particular texts is explained below the translation.
hēi huà féi / fā huī / huì huī fā, huī huà féi / huī fā / huì fā hēi.
When the black fertilizer turns grey it will volatilize; when the grey fertilizer volatilizes it will turn black.
黑化肥: black fertilizer
灰化肥: grey fertilizer
发灰: turn grey
发黑: turn black
xiǎo niú kòu kòu / shǐ jìn jiū, xiǎo niū kòu kòu / duì zhǔn kòu yǎn / kòu. xiǎo niú / hé / xiǎo niū, shéi / xué huì le / kòu niǔ kòu?
Xiaoniu (xiǎo niú) wanna fasten with buttons but pulled hard; Xiaoniu (xiǎo niū) wanna fasten with buttons and aligned with the buttonhole to fasten. xiǎo niú and xiǎo niū, who has already known how to fasten with buttons?
小牛 and 小妞: two different Chinese nicknames
扣扣: the first “扣” is a verb while the second “扣” is a noun. The combination of the two means “fasten (clothing) with buttons”.
使劲: use one’s strength to so something; strongly; hard.
对准: align with
对准扣眼扣: the last “扣” in this phrase is a verb, which means “fasten (with buttons)”.
学会了: learned and already understood
扣纽扣: the first “扣” is a verb, which also means “fasten”. “纽扣” here is a noun, just means “button”.
yī tiáo kù zi / bā tiáo fèng, héng fèng shàng miàn / yǒu shù fèng, féng le héng fèng / féng shù fèng, féng le shù fèng / féng héng fèng.
A pair of pants has eight seams, with vertical seams above the horizontal seams. Has sewn the horizontal seams and then sewn vertical seams; has sewn the vertical seams and then sewn the horizontal seams.
一条裤子: a pair of pants
八条缝: eight seams.
(The character “条” is used when you want to say how many striped objects there are. And it should be put between the number and the striped objects. In this case, the number is “eight”, and the striped objects are “seams”.)
横缝: horizontal seams
竖缝: vertical seams
有: have …, there be …
缝了横缝: sewed the horizontal seams. The character “了” can be used to represent past tense.
缝了竖缝: sewed the vertical seams
缝竖缝: sew the vertical seams
缝横缝: sew the horizontal seams
yǒu gè xiǎo hái / jiào qiǎo qiao, qiǎo qiao gē ge / jiào qiáo qiao, qiáo qiao huá chuán / dài qiǎo qiao, qiǎo qiao qiáo qiao / kàn lǎo lao.
There is a child named Qiaoqiao (qiǎo qiao). qiǎo qiao’s brother is named Qiaoqiao (qiáo qiao). qiáo qiao rowed a boat with qiǎo qiao. qiǎo qiao and qiáo qiao visited their grandmother.
巧巧 and 乔乔: two different Chinese nicknames
有: there be …, have …
(The character “个” is used when you want to say how many objects or people there are. Here the number is one and can be omitted, that is, we can say “有一个小孩” or “有个小孩”.)
哥哥: only refers to elder brother. (Younger brother is called “弟弟”.)
叫: named …, called …
划船: row a boat
带: means “take … together with someone” in this tongue twister.
姥姥: grandmother, but only refers to the mother’s mother, which can also be called “外婆”. (Father’s mother is called “奶奶”.)
niú láng / liàn liú niáng, liú niáng / niàn niú láng. niú láng / nián nián / liàn liú niáng, liú niáng / nián nián / niàn niú láng. láng liàn niáng lái / niáng niàn láng, niàn niáng liàn niáng / niàn láng liàn láng, niàn liàn / niáng láng.
Niu Lang loves Liu Niang; Liu Niang misses Niu Lang. Niu Lang loves Liu Niang every year; Liu Niang misses Niu Lang every year. The man loves the woman and the woman misses the man; miss the woman, love the woman, miss the man, love the man; miss and love, woman and man.
牛郎: a man with the family name “Niu”
刘娘: a woman with the family name “Liu”
恋: love someone
念: miss someone
年年: every year
(“来” here is a word to connect the sentences “郎恋娘” and “娘念郎”.)
lán jiào liàn / shì nǚ jiào liàn, lǚ jiào liàn / shì nán jiào liàn. lán jiào liàn / bú shì nán jiào liàn, lǚ jiào liàn / bú shì nǚ jiào liàn. lán nán / shì nán lán zhǔ lì, lǚ nán / shì nǚ lán zhǔ lì. lǚ jiào liàn / zài nán lán / xùn liàn lán nán, lán jiào liàn / zài nǚ lán / xùn liàn lǚ nán.
Coach Lan is a female coach; Coach Lv is a male coach. Coach Lan is not a male coach; Coach Lv is not a female coach. Lan Nan is the main player in the men’s basketball team; Lv Nan is the main player in the women’s basketball team. Coach Lv is training Lan Nan in the men’s basketball team; Coach Lan is training Lv Nan in the women’s basketball team.
蓝 and 吕: two different family names in China
蓝南: a Chinese name, with the family name “蓝” and given name “南”.
吕楠: a Chinese name, with the family name “吕” and given name “楠”.
主力: main player
在: in somewhere
训练: train someone
huáng huā / huā huáng / huáng huā huáng, huā huáng / huáng huā / duǒ duǒ huáng. duǒ duǒ huáng huā / huáng yòu xiāng, huáng huā / huā xiāng / xiàng tài yáng.
Yellow flowers / flowers are yellow / yellow flowers are yellow; flowers are yellow / yellow flowers / each flower is yellow. Each yellow flower is yellow and fragrant; yellow flowers with fragrance face to the sun.
朵朵: each flower
又: and also …
向: face to …
xiǎo guāng / hé / xiǎo gāng, tái zhe shuǐ tǒng / shàng gǎng. shàng shān gǎng, xiē xiē liáng, ná qǐ zhú gān / wán dǎ zhàng. pīng pīng pīng, pāng pāng pāng, dǎ lái dǎ qù / zá le gāng. xiǎo guāng /guài xiǎo gāng, xiǎo gāng /guài xiǎo guāng, xiǎo guāng / xiǎo gāng / dōu guài zhú gān hé shuǐ gāng.
Xiaoguang and Xiaogang, carrying buckets to work. Go up to the hills, take a break to cool down, and pick up bamboo poles to play. Ping ping ping, pong pong pong, hitting to each other and smashing the tank. Xiaoguang blames Xiaogang, Xiaogang blames Xiaoguang, both Xiaoguang and Xiaogang blame bamboo poles and tanks.
小光 and 小刚: two different Chinese nicknames
抬着水桶: carry the bucket
上岗: go to work
歇歇凉: take a break to cool down
拿起竹竿: pick up bamboo poles
玩打仗: play and fight
乒乒乒 and 乓乓乓: just represent the sound from their bamboo poles when they are playing.
打来打去: hit to each other
砸了缸: smash the tank
怪: here means “责怪” (zé guài), i.e. blame someone
tiān shàng / yī gè pén, dì xià / yī gè péng. pén pèng péng, péng pèng pén. péng dǎo le, pén suì le. shì / péng péi pén, hái shì / pén péi péng?
A basin in the sky; a shed under the ground. The basin touches the shed; the shed touches the basin. The shed falls; the basin is broken. Should the basin compensate the shed, or the shed compensate the basin?
天上: in the sky
地下: under the ground
一个盆: a basin
一个棚: a shed
tiān jīn / hé / běi jīng, jīn jīng / liǎng gè yīn. yī shì / qián bí yīn, yī shì / hòu bí yīn. rú guǒ / fèn bú qīng, qǐng nǐ / rèn zhēn tīng.
Tianjin and Beijing; Jin and Jing, they are two different sounds. One is the sound from the front nasal and the other is the sound from the back nasal. If you can’t distinguish them, please listen carefully.
北京: the capital of China
天津: a big city next to Beijing.
两个音: two sounds, or two pronunciations
一是…, 一是…: One is …, the other is …
前鼻音: front nasal sound
后鼻音: back nasal sound
如果: if …
分不清: cannot distinguish
jīng jīng / hé / xīn xīn, yī qǐ / kàn xīng xīng. tiān shàng / xīng xīng / liàng jīng jīng, jīng jīng / xīn xīn / shǔ xīng xīng.
Jingjing and Xinxin; watch the stars together. The stars in the sky are shining; Jingjing and Xinxin are counting the stars.
晶晶 and 欣欣: two different Chinese nicknames
看星星: watch the stars
天上: in the sky
数星星: count the stars
qī xiàng / yī gè qī jiàng, xī xiàng / yī gè xī jiàng. qī xiàng qī jiàng / yòng le / xī xiàng xī jiàng de xī, xī xiàng xī jiàng / ná le / qī xiàng qī jiàng de qī. qī xiàng qī jiàng / qì / xī xiàng xī jiàng yòng le qī, xī xiàng xī jiàng / jī / qī xiàng qī jiàng ná le xī.
There is a painter in Qi Alley and a tinsmith in West Alley. The painter in Qi Alley used the West Alley tinsmith’s tin; the tinsmiths in West Alley took the Qi Alley painter’s paints. The painters in Qi Alley was angry about that West Alley tinsmith used his paints; the tinsmiths in West Alley blame about that the painter in Qi Alley took his tin.
七巷 and 西巷: two different alley names
一个漆匠: a painter
一个锡匠: a tinsmith
气: here means “生气” (shēng qì), angry
讥: here means “责怪” (zé guài), blame
lǎo luó / lā le / yī chē lí, lǎo lǐ / lā le / yī chē lì. lǎo luó / rén chēng dà lì luó, lǎo lǐ / rén chēng lǐ dà lì. lǎo luó lā lí / zuò lí jiǔ, lǎo lǐ lā lì / qù huàn lí.
Laoluo pulled a cart of pears; Laoli pulled a cart of chestnuts. People call Laoluo ad Daliluo; people call Laoli as Lidali. Laoluo pulled the pear cart to make pear wine; Laoli pulled the chestnut cart to exchanges pears.
老罗 and 老李: two different Chinese nick names. (“老” added in front of someone’s family name, this combination is often used to call elder people when they are your friends.)
一车梨: a cart of pears
一车栗: a cart of chestnuts
人称: people call someone as …
大力: means someone is very strong
做梨酒: make pear wine
mā ma / qí mǎ, mǎ màn / mā ma mà mǎ. niū niu / hōng niú, niú niù niū / niū nǐng niú. jiù jiu / zhuō jiū, jiū fēi jiù / jiù jiū jiū. lǎo lao / hē lào, lào luò lǎo / lǎo lāo lào.
Mother rode a horse, but the horse slowed down and then the mother scolded the horse. Niuniu asked a cow to go away, but the cow didn’t want to and then Niuniu pulled the cow. Uncle caught a dove, but the dove flew onto uncle and then uncle dragged the dove. Grandma drank cheese tea, but the cheese tea fell down to grandma and then grandma scooped up the cheese.
骑马: ride a horse
妞妞: a Chinese nickname for girls
轰: ask … to go away
拗: think differently with someone
拧: twist, screw, pull
鸠: a type of bird
揪: pull, drag
落: fall down
捞: scoop up, fish up
shí shī sì qián / yǒu / sì shí sì gè shí shī zi, sì qián shù shàng / jié le / sì shí sì gè sè shì zi. sì shí sì gè shí shī zi / bú chī / sì shí sì gè sè shì zi, sì shí sì gè sè shì zi / dào chī / sì shí sì gè shí shī zi.
There are forty-four stone lions in front of the Stone Lion Temple, and forty-four astringent persimmons on the tree in front of the temple. The forty-four stone lions did not eat the forty-four astringent persimmons, however, the forty-four astringent persimmons eat the forty-four stone lions.
前: in front of
树上: on the tree
结: a verb to describe fruits grow on a tree
吃: eat, have
倒: however, but
Enjoyed the Chinese tongue twisters above? Learning Chinese tongue twisters is a much more interesting way to learn pronunciation in Chinese, right? Some of them are even difficult for native Chinese people, just like pronouncing “the sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick”. Tongue twisters are used to practice your pronunciation, so most of them have no logic at all.
To be more efficient, you can even ask your Chinese friend to make up a Chinese tongue twister involving all the Chinese words that you feel are hard to pronounce. Have fun!
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