Six tongue twisters to test your French

Stretch your tongue and your language skills with these difficult to pronounce virelangues

Twist, turn and contort your tongue with these tough tongue twisters
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Tongue twisters are a fun way to practise your pronunciation and dexterity in a foreign language.

They are called virelangues in French and, while they may not have a specific meaning, they can be a handy tool for understanding the intricacies of phonetics. To maximise learning, try and listen for every individual sound and figure out where in the sentence it is coming from.

Some tongue twisters can make you sound like you are speaking a different language.

Below are some of the most well-known French tongue twisters and remember that native speakers can struggle with these too so do not give up too easily.

1. Les chaussettes de l'archiduchesse sont-elles sèches, archisèches?

This is perhaps the most well-known.

The literal translation is ‘are the archduchess’s socks dry, extremely dry?’

The difficulty is with the pronunciation of the ‘s’ sound and the ‘ch’ (in English, ‘sh’) sound. The English equivalent is ‘She sells seashells by the sea shore”.

You can hear it pronounced by a French person in this video:

2. Un chasseur sachant chasser doit savoir chasser sans son chien

This translates as ‘a hunter who knows how to hunt must know how to hunt without his dog’.

Like the previous virelangue, it involves the ‘s’ and ‘ch’ sound and is well-known. It is often used as practice for people with a lisp.

The longer version continues with: Un chasseur sachant chasser sans son chien, ça se chasse aussi, sachez-le! (A hunter that can hunt without its dog can also be hunted you know?)

You can always just saying un chasseur sachant chasser as quickly as possible if you are struggling.

You can hear it pronounced by a French person here:

3. La roue sur la rue roule, et la rue sous la route reste

This is a particularly useful one for anglophones as it combines two of the hardest sounds to pronounce: the ‘r’ and the ‘o/ou’.

It translates to ‘The wheel on the road rolls, and the road under the wheel remains’, which is also a tongue twister in English.

Here is a video of it being pronounced correctly:

Once you have practised this one and can say it comfortably, try saying it and then again but with the propositions switched: la rue sous la route reste et la roue sur la rue roule.

Try to clearly differentiate between the ‘u’ of ‘rue’ and the ‘ou’ of ‘route’ to help with your pronunciation.

Read more: 10 of the most difficult French words for English speakers to say

4. Le ver vert va vers le verre vert

This one is a good example of homophones. The same one syllable sound ‘ver’ has four different meanings in this sentence: ‘worm’, ‘goes’, ‘towards’ and ‘glass’.

It translates as ‘the green worm goes towards the green glass’.

When you pronounce this one, try to think about which ‘ver’ you are saying.

5. Une belle boule bien bleue brille

The meaning of this is ‘A beautiful blue ball is shining’.

The difficulty comes from the combinations of ‘b’ sounds. It is also an opportunity to practise your ‘l’ sounds: belle, boule and bleu have the same ‘l’ but in brille, the ‘ille’ is pronounced like an ‘ee’.

Here is a video to help you:

6. Tati, ton thé t’a-t-il ôté ta toux? disait la tortue au tatou. Mais pas du tout dit le tatou, je tousse tant que l’on m’entend de Tahiti à Tombouctou

This famous tongue twister is a high level one, including for French people. It translates to: ‘Auntie, has your tea gotten rid of your cough? The turtle asked the armadillo. No, not at all, said the armadillo, I cough so loudly that it can be heard from Tahiti to Timbuktu.’

If you can pronounce this one correctly you are probably an advanced French speaker - although it sounds like a different language altogether.

Here is an example of a child saying it:

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