By Claudia Quesito
Tongue twisters, scioglilingua—literally, (things that) melt your tongue—are great for practicing your Italian pronunciation skills and improving fluency. As in every language, Italian scioglilingua don’t normally have any specific meaning, but they sound funny and they are challenging even for native speakers. Remember this when you try saying them aloud!
One of the most basic ones is tre tigri contro tre tigri, or the simpler version, tigre contro tigre. You might want to start with the latter, since it not as easy as it appears: try to repeat it multiple times in a row and, if these tigers fighting each other don’t drive you too crazy, your r sound will improve a lot!
If you feel like practicing your l sound and the double consonants, try this: Apelle figlio di Apollo fece una palla di pelle di pollo. Tutti i pesci vennero a galla, per vedere la palla di pelle di pollo fatta da Apelle, figlio di Apollo. It’s a story about this guy named Apelle making a ball of chicken skin—and yes, it sounds and senseless in Italian as in English.
The gl sound gives you a headache? After you master Sul tagliere gli agli taglia, non tagliare la tovaglia, la tovaglia non è aglio, se la tagli fai uno sbaglio, any single word containing a gl will be a no-brainer.
If you feel like raising the bar, here’s a tough one: Se l’Arcivescovo di Costantinopoli si disarcivescoviscostantinopolizzasse, vi disarcivescoviscostantinopolizzereste voi come si è disarcivescoviscostantinopolizzato l’Arcivescovo di Costantinopoli? Does it look crazy? Indeed, it is crazy; except for the Archbishop of Constantinople, the other words are all made up, and just reading the whole thing is quite a challenge.
Finally, a couple of tongue twisters in dialect. The first one is from Sicily: Apru u stipu e pigghiu u spicchiu, poso u spicchiu e chiu u stipu. It is about someone opening and then closing a cupboard to grab a slice of who knows what. And this one is from Mantova, in Lombardia: Li galini li gh’a ligà li gambi (the chickens have their legs tied). At this point you know the trick, right? Don’t worry about the meaning, brace yourself, and go for it!