Tongue twisters are a super way to challenge your tongue’s muscle memory, learn new words, and better your pronunciation.
Learning a language can be rewarding and entertaining, but it’s also challenging. That’s a good thing: growth comes from being challenged.
Yes: I’m saying that explaining over and over again how a young girl named Suzie sells seashells by the seashore can be a language activity if you’re learning English.
And if you’re learning Brazilian Portuguese, you can try these 7 Brazilian tongue twisters.
How Tongue Twisters Can Help Your Pronunciation
But first, can you really better your pronunciation with tongue twisters?
Absolutely. By exercising the muscles involved in speech, these verbal games help to improve diction (the way to articulate or pronounce words). This is why many actors, singers, and public speakers use tongue twisters as warm-up activities. Tongue twisters are also sometimes used by speech therapists to improve speech in adults.
Why do they work?
Tongue twisters force you to repeat unfamiliar sounds. Since they are within a sentence instead of isolated in words, you practice the sounds in context. It’s more realistic and it gives your tongue and mouth muscles better practice.
To get the most out of these Brazilian Portuguese tongue twisters, don’t forget to:
- Learn the words. Before repeating the words randomly, find out their meaning. This will help you remember the tongue twister and understand what you’re saying.
- Start slowly. Tongue twisters are difficult, so take your time saying them at first. Try to assimilate and pronounce each word accurately while they’re still unfamiliar.
- Repeat difficult words. If you trip on a tongue twister, go back to the challenging word and repeat it until you fully learn it.
- Speed things up. Once you are familiar with the new words, get steadily faster and faster. With time, you will be repeating sentences—these ones as well as others—more and more easily.
So, without further ado, here are 7 Brazilian tongue twisters to get your tongue moving in Portuguese. How many can you say?
Try to Say These 7 Brazilian Tongue Twisters 10 Times Fast
1. O rato roeu a roupa do rei de Roma
”The rat gnawed the clothes of the King of Rome.”
This is one of the most common tongue twisters in Brazil and it’s the perfect exercise if you’re struggling with the “r” phoneme (one that’s often very difficult for English speakers).
Some students can say their Brazilian “r”s naturally, while others might find it helpful to begin by making a deep-throated growl. Gradually, you’ll find it easier to use the right muscles to pronounce a perfect “r”.
Here’s a great video if you want more advice on how to pronounce the “r” in Brazilian Portuguese.
2. Sabia que o sabiá sabia assobiar?
“Did you know that the thrush could whistle?”
In Portuguese, the accent on the “a” (“á”) doesn’t change the pronunciation of the letter, it just changes where you put the stress.
But, as in this tongue twister, it can also signal a different word. For example, the word sabia, without the accent, is a conjugation of the verb saber (“to know”). With the accent, it becomes “thrush”.
Use this one to practice changing the stress on words in a sentence.
3. Cair no poço não posso
”Fall into the well I can’t”.
This is another example of how a small detail changes the whole meaning of a word in Portuguese.
This tongue-twister plays with the pronunciation of the word poço, which means “well”, and the pronunciation of the verb poder (“to be able to”) in the first-person singular, with the word posso (“I can”). With the”ç”, the word is a noun; with “ss”, it becomes a verb.
To pronounce this tongue twister, remember that the word poço meaning well is pronounced with a more closed “o”, like the “o” in “road”. To pronounce the word posso, the “o” is more open, like it is in “fossil”.
4. O doce perguntou ao doce: “Qual é o doce mais doce?” O doce respondeu ao doce: “O doce de batata doce!”
“The candy asked the candy: ‘What is the sweetest candy?’ The candy replied to the candy: ‘The sweet potato candy!’ “
This tongue twister is particularly popular among Brazilian children when they are starting to learn to speak. It helps to demonstrate the different meanings of the word doce in Portuguese, which can mean both “candy” (noun) and “sweet” (adjective).
5. A aranha arranha a rã. A rã arranha a aranha. Nem a aranha arranha a rã. Nem a rã arranha a aranha.
“The spider scratches the frog. The frog scratches the spider. Not even the spider scratches the frog. Not even the frog scratches the spider.”
With this tongue twister, you can practice the difference in the pronunciation of words that have only one “r” compared to those that have two “r”s.
The word aranha (“spider”), is pronounced using the tip of the tongue to almost tickle the roof of the mouth. Arranha, with two “r”s, is a verb and means “scratch”. It’s pronounced with a strong “r”, pulled from the bottom of the throat, similar to how “r”s are pronounced in French.
6. Casa suja, chão sujo
“Dirty house, dirty floor.”
This is a short but fun tongue-twister. The repetition of the similar sounds makes this one tricky to say quickly—even for Brazilians.
7. O peito do pé de Pedro é preto. Quem disser que o peito do pé de Pedro é preto, tem o peito do pé mais preto do que o peito do pé de Pedro.
“Pedro’s instep is black. Whoever says that the instep of Pedro is black, the instep is blacker than the instep of Pedro.”
English speakers usually don’t have much trouble pronouncing the “pr” or “tr” in Portuguese because these consonant sounds are common in English (think “principal”, “trial”, “prone”, and “traffic”).
But speakers from other languages often have trouble with these phonemes. This tongue twister is great for those people that may not have these sounds in their native languages.
Improve Your Portuguese Pronunciation with Brazilian Tongue Twisters
Now that you’ve seen how tongue twisters can be a useful—and fun!—way to learn new words and improve pronunciation, tell us in the comments below how well you’re saying the tongue twisters you learned in this article.
Want more? Check out the Brazilian tongue twisters section of the first international collection of tongue twisters. They’ve even got tongue twisters from a bunch of other languages. We’ve also got several articles on Brazilian phrases and idioms, including holiday sayings, food idioms, and slang.