Posted by: janecronin | July 2, 2017

Tongue Twisters


The Spanish word for “tongue twister” is “trabalenguas”.  Rather than twisting your tongue as in English, in Spanish they trip it up.  In just the same way as we have things like “she sells sea shells” and “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled paper” so the Spanish have a few faithful “trabalenguas” to test out the dexterity of their tongues.  Probably the best known of all is to do with sad tigers.  Here it is: “Tres tristes tigres tragaban trigo en tres tristes trastos, tres tristes tigres tragaban trigo en un trigal”.  In case you’re wondering, it’s all to do with sad tigers eating wheat in a wheat field, as they do.  Another “trabalenguas” which helps to practise “r” sound is as follows: “Por la calle Carretas pasaba un perrito.  Pasó una carreta y le pilló el rabito.  Pobre perrito, como lloraba por su rabito”.  If you’re trying this at home, remember that the strong rolled “r” is needed where the letter is doubled and when the single “r” appears at the beginning of a word, such as “rabito”.

Of course when we learn Spanish we don´t really need anything to trip us up especially, we can do that quite easily on our own!  An early difficulty for students is the name of the letter “y” – igriega.  After a while, that seems easy, and we then struggle with the name of the one place we all have to go to sooner or later: “ayuntamiento”.  Of course the key is to break with word down into syllables and pronounce them slowly in sequence.  This works because Spanish is a phonetic language made of syllables which do not vary irrespective of where they appear in the word.  “Izquierda” and “peluquería” are two more challenges.  One of the key things to remember here is that the “u” after the “q” is not pronounced, in other words that the “qu” combination is like a “k”.

Later on you can progress to some of the harder words.  One that I was very pleased to conquer was “concienciación” which means “awareness”.  Several years ago in the Adapt association in San Pedro we organised an Awareness Day for disabled access so I had to keep saying this word over and over on the radio and on microphones.  Consequently, I can now say it as though it were second nature.

Next in my sliding scale comes the word “impermeabilizaciones” which, believe it or not, means “waterproofing”.  It was written on the side of a van I used to walk past every day.  And finally, one that I freely admit I still can’t stay without looking it up first.  The ultimate Spanish tongue-twisting word, meaning “ear nose and throat specialist” which is: “otorrinolaringólogo” and if said specialist were a woman, would be “otorrinolaringóloga”.  I think once I can say that without hesitation, I will regard myself as a native.

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