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Try These Chinese Tongue Twisters

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Life is all fun and games in grade school until the siansi asks you to recite the most recent Chinese tongue twister they had you memorize. I can’t imagine having to go through that again. One wrong tone would mean you changed the entire meaning of the statement.

In case you want to relive some of those moments that introduced you to true fear, here are some of the most commonly taught tongue twisters to test your precision of Chinese pronunciation:

1. Four is Four, Ten is Ten

sì shì sì, shí shì shí, shísì shì shísì, sìshí shì sìshí;
shéi bǎ shísì shuō “shíshì”, jiù dǎ tā shísì,
shéi bǎ sìshí shuō “shìshí”, jiù dǎ tā sìshí.

Four is four, ten is ten, fourteen is fourteen, forty is forty.
If anyone pronounces “shísì” as “shíshì”, hit them fourteen times.
If anyone pronounces “sìshí” as “shìshí”, hit them forty times.

2. Bamboo Pole

biǎn dàn cháng, bǎn dèng kuān,
biǎn dàn bǎng zài le bǎn dèng shàng,
bǎn dèng bú ràng biǎn dàn bǎng zài bǎn dèng shàng,
biǎn dàn fēi yào bǎng zài bǎn dèng 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.

3. If You Know, Just Say You Know

zhī dào jiù shuō zhī dào,
bù zhī dào jiù shuō bu zhī dào,
bù yào zhī dào shuō bu zhī dào,
yě bù yào bù zhī dào shuō zhī dào,
nǐ zhī dào bù zhī dào?

If you know, just say you know.
If you don’t know, just say you don’t know.
You shouldn’t know and say you don’t know.
And you shouldn’t not know and say you do know.
You know?

4. Mama Rides a Horse

Mā mā qí mǎ.
Mǎ màn,
mā mā mà mǎ.

Mother rides a horse.
The horse is slow,
mother scolds the horse.

5. Butterfly Flies

hēi húdǐe fēi,
hūi húdǐe fēi, 
hēi húdǐe fēiwán, 
hūi húdǐe fēi. 

The black butterfly flies,
the gray butterfly flies,
after the black butterfly flies,
the gray butterfly flies.

Tell us, were you able to get through any of these without your tongue twisting?

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