Japanese tongue twisters

By | April 12, 2014

One thing you’re unlikely to come across in most Japanese learning resources is tongue twisters, which are the Japanese versions of phrases like “She sells sea shells by the shore”. These are called 早口言葉 (はやくちことば), a word which might seem like a tongue-twister in itself (:

Though these phrases themselves don’t have much practical use (you’re not likely to spit one of these out during a conversation except as a joke), there are several reasons I think they are valuable to Japanese learners. First, they can help train your tongue and mouth to speak quickly and accurately, and make speaking ‘normal’ words a breeze. Second, you’re likely to pick up new kanji and words from these (did you know what a 屏風 is?). And finally, just like English tongue twisters in English-speaking countries, tongue-twisters are are a part of Japanese culture.

Here are a few fun ones to get you started.

  • 生麦生米生卵    (なまむぎ なまごめ なまたまご)
  • 東京特許許可局(とうきょうとっきょきょかきょく)
  • 蛙ぴょこぴょこ三ぴょこぴょこ合わせてぴょこぴょこ六ぴょこぴょこ  (かえるぴょこぴょこ みぴょこぴょこ あわせてぴょこぴょこ むぴょこぴょこ)
  • 坊主が屏風に坊主の絵を上手に書いた  (ぼうずが びょうぶに ぼうずのえを じょうずに かいた)
  • 魔術師手術中、手術中集中術著述 (まじゅつし しゅじゅつちゅう、しゅじゅつちゅう しゅうちゅうじゅつちょじゅつ)

If you’re addicted to these and want to try some more, see the links below. In particular, this link has several levels of increasing difficultly with the later ones getting quite long and crazy.

You can also check out a funny video where choir members are asked to say some tongue twisters for the first time.






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