15 FUN TONGUE TWISTERS TO IMPROVE YOUR CHINESE
Tongue twisters or Ràokǒulìng (绕口令) in Mandarin Chinese, are a sequence of words and sounds, that can even form a poem, and it doesn’t even have to make any sense at all (see later), that are alliterative and when pronounced quickly are very difficult to say and will get your tongue tied in a rate of knots. They have existed for centuries and in different languages as a vocal exercise that will tickle your funny bones and improve your pronunciation. But actually is there a more suitable language for tongue twisters than Chinese? They are a match made in linguistics heaven.
Because Mandarin Chinese pronunciation consists of three components which you can see in written pinyin - initials, finals and the dreaded tones, and all these can be practiced in many different tongue twisters. They can also be used to pick up new vocabulary and new characters. That’s why they are great and fun for learning and improving your Mandarin.
*Tips: At first you should focus on your articulation and pronunciation, once that is right then you can start saying these tongue twisters aloud as quickly as possible and have a laugh. Find some videos on YouTube and imitate those sounds. Also you need to get some regular practice of these tongue twisters as just saying them a few times won’t have any lasting affect. Long term practice and you will start to reap the rewards of these fantastically twisty tongue twisters.
Ok, without further ado, here are 15 fun short and long Chinese tongue twisters for you, in pinyin, Chinese characters, and then translated to English. Once your Mandarin has improved or it has already reached a decent level then you can try these tongue twisters through only looking at the characters. Have a good time!
Eight hundred spearmen rush towards north hill slope
Artillery soldiers abreast in rows run towards the north
Artillery soldiers afraid to bump into the spearmen
Whereas the spearmen are afraid to bump into the artillery’s bomb.
Mama rides a horse
Māma qí mǎ,
māma mà mǎ.
Mum is riding a horse,
The horse is slow,
Mum scolds the horse
Four is Four, Ten is Ten
sì shì sì,
shí shì shí,
shí sì shì shí sì,
sì shí shì sì shí
4 is 4
10 is 10
14 is 14
40 is 40
Chī pútao bù tǔpútao pí,
bù chī pútao dào tǔpútao pí
Eat grape but do not spit out grape skin,
do not eat grape but spit out grape skin.
Is the Teacher 44 years old?
Lǎoshī shì bú shì sì shí sì de?
The teacher is or is not 44?
If you Know, Say you Know
zhīdào jiù shuō zhīdào,
bù zhīdào jiù shuō bù zhīdào,
bú yào zhīdào shuō bù zhīdào,
yě bú yào bù zhīdào shuō zhīdào,
nǐzhīdào bù zhīdào?
If you know say you know,
if you don’t know say you don’t know,
don’t say you know when you don’t know,
and don’t not know and say you know, do you know?
Ten Stone Lions
shíshì shīshì Shī Shì, shì shī, shì shí shí shī.
shīshì shíshí shì shì shì shī.
shí shí, shì shí shī shì shì.
shì shí, shì Shī Shì shì shì.
shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐshì, shǐshì shí shī shìshì.
shì shí shì shí shī shī, shì shíshì.
shíshì shī, Shì shǐshì shì shíshì.
shíshì shì, Shì shǐshì shí shì shí shī.
shí shí, shǐshí shì shí shī, shí shí shí shī shī.
shì shì shì shì.
In a stone den, a poet called Shi Shi, who was a lion addict, and had resolved to eat ten lions.
He often went to the market to look for lions.
At ten o’clock, ten lions had just arrived at the market.
At that time, Shi had just arrived at the market.
He saw those ten lions, and using his trusty arrows, caused the ten lions to die.
He brought the corpses of the ten lions to the stone den.
The stone den was damp. He asked his servants to wipe it.
After the stone den was wiped, he tried to eat those ten lions.
When he ate, he realized that these ten lions were in fact ten stone lion corpses.
Try to explain this matter.
Pan and Bottle
zhuō shàng yǒu gè pén,
pén lǐyǒu gè píng,
pèng pèng pèng,
shì píng pèng pén,
hái shì pén pèng píng.
Pan and Bottle.
A pan on the table,
there's a bottle in the pan, bang, bang, bang.
Is it the bottle hitting the pan
or the pan hitting the bottle?
Red Phoenix, Pink Phoenix…
huáng fènghuáng .
fěn hóng fènghuáng huā fènghuáng.
The Monk and the Mute (A terrific name for a new avant-garde film)
dǎnánbiān lái le gè yǎbɑ, yāo lǐbié le gè lǎbɑ；
dǎběibiān lái le gè lǎmɑ, shǒu lǐtí le gè tǎmɑ.
tí zhe tǎmɑde lǎmɑyào ná tǎmɑhuàn bié zhe lǎbɑde yǎbɑde lǎbɑ；
bié zhe lǎbɑde yǎbɑbù yuàn ná lǎbɑhuàn tí zhe tǎmɑde lǎmɑde tǎmɑ.
bù zhī shì bié zhe lǎbɑde yǎbɑdǎle tí zhe tǎmɑde lǎmɑyī lǎbɑ；
hái shì tí zhe tǎmɑde lǎmɑdǎle bié zhe lǎbɑde yǎbɑyī tǎmɑ.
lǎmɑhuí jiā dùn tǎmɑ,yǎbɑdīdidādachuī lǎbɑ.
From the north comes a mute, carrying a trumpet at his waist.
From the south comes a monk, holding a fish in his hand.
The monk who is holding a fish wants to trade his fish for a trumpet with the mute who is carrying a trumpet.
The mute who is carrying a trumpet doesn’t want to trade his trumpet with the monk who is holding the fish.
Not only the mute who is carrying a trumpet hits the monk who is holding a fish with his trumpet, the monk who is carrying a fish uses his fish to hit the mute who is carrying a trumpet.
The monk goes home and stews his fish.
The mute plays his trumpet.
Pear and Mud
Shù shàng yǒu lí
dì shàng yǒu ní
Fēng guā lí
lí luò dì
lí gǔn ní
ní zhān lí.
Pear and mud
atop the tree, there is a pear
atop the ground, there is mud,
the wind knocks off the pear,
the pear falls to the ground,
the pears rolls on the mud,
the mud sticks to the pear.
biǎndàn cháng, bǎndèng kuān,
biǎndàn bǎng zài le bǎndèng shàng,
bǎndèng bú ràng biǎndàn bǎng zài bǎndèng shàng,
biǎndàn fēi yào bǎng zài bǎndèng shàng.
A bamboo pole is long, and a bench is wide.
The bamboo pole was bound to the bench.
The bench did not allow the pole to be bound to it,
but the pole insisted on being bound to the bench.
hēi húdié fēi,
hūi húdié fēi,
hēi húdié fēi wán,
hūi húdié fēi.
The black butterfly flies,
the gray butterfly flies,
after the black butterfly flies,
the gray butterfly flies.
Big Rabbit and Big Belly
dà tùzi，dà dùzi，
dà dùzi de dà tùzi，
yào yǎo dà tùzi de dà dùzi.
Big rabbit, big belly,
big rabbit with big belly,
will bite big rabbit’s big belly.
Niǎodǎo shì dǎo,
Niǎodǎo yóu niǎo.
niǎodǎo de niǎo duō de shǔbù qīng le.
yào xiǎng dào Niáodǎo,
yīdìng yào ài niǎo.
nǐbú ài xiáoniǎo
jiù bié dào Niáodǎo.
Bird Island is an island;
Bird Island has birds.
The birds on Bird Island are countless.
If you wish to go to Bird Island,
you must love birds.
If you don’t love small birds,
don’t go to Bird Island.
How is your tongue after that?
If you’re looking for more Chinese practice, we’ll you’re at the right place, here at Instant Mandarin we have professional online 1-to-1 Chinese lessons. All you need to do is sign up for your free trial?https://www.instantmandarin.com/signup