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You could say that tongue twisters are nursery rhymes for adults. Both have silly rhymes and like-sounding words and more often than not, they’re fun to say every now and then.


But what most people don’t realize is that both nursery rhymes and tongue twisters help develop reading and speaking skills for young children and adults, respectively.


In the case of adults, tongue twisters help develop a skill which experts call phonemic awareness or the ability to identify and manipulate sounds (called phonemes) in words that are spoken.


– Tongue twisters and your brain

For someone who speaks to an audience, working with tongue twisters to build on his/her phonemic awareness helps to develop better articulation and pronunciation of words.


As one learns to listen and be aware of sound patterns, the brain is trained to detect such patterns and reacts more efficiently in making the body produce that same sound. 


For example, the classic Peter Piper twister develops the “P” and the “-er” sounds. But the training is not done on the oral cavity but rather on the brain that controls your oral functions. 


As the brain listens to the sound, it processes the sound and aims to recreate it again and again until it has become established as a habit. Once that happens, you don’t have to consciously reproduce the sound, as it is second nature to you already. 


– What are its implications in public speaking?

If someone is just starting out to learn how to engage an audience through public speaking, tongue twisters develop pronunciation skills. Clear and precise pronunciations make for clear and precise speakers. There is less chance your audience will mistake your words for another and the better you get at it, the better for your message and your audience.


When tongue twisters are exercised by reading from a card, an aural-visual connection is reinforced which trains the brain to respond faster in translating a visual cue (printed words) to sound (spoken word). This skill is especially helpful when reading from cards or teleprompters. 


Another advantage tongue twisters afford public speakers is its exercise aspect that is helpful to relieve tension just before stepping on stage. It is akin to a warm-up for athletes before a competition as it helps loosen the muscles in the jaw that commonly tense up out of nervousness.


The task of learning how to speak in public does not need to be intimidating. Nifty tools like tongue twisters can actually help make the process more fun and enjoyable. And if that helps in making a speaker relax, the results translate into a well-delivered presentation that benefits everyone and not just the speaker.