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AlwaysSpanish is Retiring!

After a long awkward silence, here's something to break the ice – all over again. I can totally see why you should be upset to see no action from the Burro for over a month now, but trust me, your wait was all worth it. The news here is that your beloved Burro has just moved into a brand new home – one that's a whole lot richer, swankier, and easier to live in. I'm talking about PeppyBurro. That's the name of the new website! Isn't that cool? At least it tells you all about the Burro's pepped up temperament right off the bat, right? This post is not about Spanish-learning tricks (although I will drop in a couple out of habit, I guess) or grammar lessons. This one's all about our new home!

The Witchcraft Of Spanish Vocabulary

The very first step to conquering a language is to tame its vocabulary. And sadly, that's the part that puts off most novice learners because memorizing strange-sounding words is too darn boring! A never-ending chant of rote rehearsal and a nervous prayer can see you through an upcoming test, but the process just won't cut it if your goal is to actually use the language in the street. It's a mystery how this incredibly inefficient method has survived this long and still continues to be perpetuated by schools and educators around the world. So is there any nirvana around this assault of monotony in our miserable lives? Anything that could make learning foreign words less painful?

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: Always Spanish has retired. Please visit the new blog at for all future articles.

15 Spanish Tongue Twisters To Exercise Your Mouth

Think you have just nailed the pronunciation of the Spanish language just by memorizing the small list of pronunciation rules off your Spanish primer? If so, test the depth of your proficiency with some challenging Spanish trabalenguas (tongue twisters) and see where you stand. Chances are, they will stretch your limits beyond horizons not much known before. These tongue twisters should most likely have you in knots even if you happened to be a native speaker of the Spanish language. Just like English or any other language, Spanish is full of such phrases to give the speakers’ tongues more than a fair share of workout.

Just fun? Not really

Spanish tongue twisters, like those in any other language, contribute to your learning process in three immensely interesting ways:
  1. Vocabulary – By virtue of their rhyming nature and the amount of focus they require as a part of the associated challenge, tongue twisters stick to your memory like glue and thus help augment your vocabulary very much like music does.

  2. Motivation – The bragging rights that come along if you are capable of rattling out a bunch of impossible-sounding phrases in an alien lingo is no insignificant motivation. This motivation, in turn, bolsters your stamina to further your cause, i.e., absorption of Spanish until native-level fluency.

  3. Fluency – By virtue of their very nature, tongue twisters are one of the best tools available to exercise your facial muscles and vocal chords and get acclimatized to producing Spanish sounds. Knowing the rules of Spanish pronunciation is one thing and being able to rapidly pronounce Spanish syllables in quick succession is another. If your goal is fluency in Spanish, tongue twisters will surely make life easier for you.
  4. Tongue twisters are the best drills for pronunciation
    Tongue twisters are the best drills for pronunciation
    Photo credit: Christopher licensed CC BY-SA 2.0

The easier ones

Now, let’s strap up our boots and get ready to warm up our vocal chords with these most common Spanish tongue twisters; here we go with some of the easier ones:

  • ¿Cuántos cuentos cuentas cuando cuentas cuentos? How many stories do you tell when you tell stories?
  • ¡Qué triste estás, Tristán, con tan tétrica trama teatral! How sad you are, Tristán, with such a gloomy theatrical tale!
  • Yo no compro coco, porque como poco coco como, poco coco compro. I don’t buy coconut, since as I eat little coconut, little coconut I buy.
  • Busco al vasco bizco brusco. I’m looking for the rude cross-eyed Basque.
  • El vino vino, pero el vino no vino vino, el vino vino vinagre. The wine came, but the wine didn’t come as wine, the wine came as vinegar.
  • Si don Curro ahorra ahora, ahora ahorra don Curro. If Curro is saving now, now is Curro saving.
  • Tres platos de trigo para tres tigres tristes. Three plates of wheat for three sad tigers.
  • Pepe Peña pela papa, pica piña, pita un pito, pica piña, pela papa, Pepe Peña. Pepe Peña peels potatoes, cuts pineapple, blows a whistle, cuts pineapple, peels potatoes, Pepe Peña.
  • Pablito clavó un clavito. ¿Qué clavito clavó Pablito? Pablito nailed a little nail. What little nail did Pablito nail?
Well, there are many more of them to get your tongue in knots or rather unravel your tongue for the sounds and rhythms of Spanish. Practice these for starters and you should feel reasonably comfortable with producing the language when it comes to speaking. If, however, you feel like challenging yourself further, read on for some of the relatively harder ones.

For the daredevils

Now, time to take it to the next level. The tongue twisters that follow are the ultimate for the most daring players and being able to produce them flawlessly in loop would ensure a fluency closer to that of native speakers.
  • Pedro Pérez Pereira, pobre pintor Portugués, pinta preciosos paisajes por poco precio para poder pasar por París. Pedro Pérez Pereira, poor Portuguese painter, paints precious landscapes for little price to pay for passage to Paris.
  • El suelo está enladrillado. ¿Quién lo desenladrillará? El desenladrillador que lo desenladrillare un buen desenladrillador será. The ground is paved with bricks. Who will unpave it? The unpaver who unpaves it a good unpaver will be.
  • Compadre de la capa parda, no compre usted mas capa parda, que el que mucha capa parda compra, mucha capa parda paga. Yo que mucha capa parda compré, mucha capa parda pagué. Brother of the brown cloak, don’t buy anymore brown cloaks, because he who buys many brown cloaks, pays for many brown cloaks. I, who bought many brown cloaks, paid for many brown cloaks.
  • El niño está sosegado. ¿Quién lo desasosegará? El desasosegador que lo desasosiegue, buen desasosegador será. The child is tranquil. Who will disturb him? The disturber who disturbs him will be a good disturber.
  • En la población de Puebla, pueblo muy poblado, hay una plaza pública poblada de pueblerinos. In the city of Puebla, a very populated town, there is a public plaza populated with Pueblans.
  • Erre con Erre Cigarro,
Erre con Erre Barril,
    Rápido ruedan las ruedas
    Sobre los rieles del ferrocarril.

    R with R cigar,
R with R barrel,
Quickly run the cars
Over the rails of the railroad.

    This one is an excellent tool to help you wire your tongue for the Spanish “r” and oh-so-Spanish “rolled-rr” sounds (erre is the Spanish name for the letter “r”).
That should be all for now. Hope these fun lines help you exercise your facial muscles and get you fluent in Spanish as rapidly as you aspire. Need more? Scour the Internet and you will find hundreds of snippets for this purpose, some easier, some harder. Just be sure to stay persistent however hard they appear.  The rewards of mastering them are worth every pain they give when you are starting out. Loop them on and on till perfection. Got one you find particularly interesting or just damn hard to get your tongue around? Do share it with the rest of us!

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  1. l looked everywhere for how to trill the rr, but decided to get down to what is really happening inside the mouth. I saw supposedly anatomical illustrations on the net, but there is nothing like getting into someone's moth who can actually do it and this is what I did, along with asking extensive questions about how he's doing it. Ok, I got it! It is not "pretty". As an American, I can't think of any words we say that will require you to grimace this way, but it is key. I want to share it with you and your readers. Trilling is like when you are licking the reed in music class to blow into a wind instrument. Your tongue is going to "play" the roof of your mouth! Open your mouth as if to grin widely, lower teeth behind upper and together. This results in a fake smile. Ok, so your tongue is there, point it, but relax it and it makes a "flatish canoe shape" of itself (if you take time you'll feel what happens). Now control the very tip of it to tickle (lick up and down with a rythm) the gum spot dead center behind your two front teeth. Where does the rr sound come from? It comes from your throat like all other words! Say "eh", stretch open wide the mouth and hold it and flap the tongue while your mouth is stretched wide and you are following the previous steps. Now try "erre"! I am rolling with no problem now. Tell the world! :-)

    1. Wow! That's the most comprehensive stuff on the notorious "trill" I ever read thus far! You remind me that this is one extremely important aspect of Spanish that I have missed covering, rather taken for granted, so far. I strongly believe, such pronunciations warrant a post of their own and I will soon be doing one. Thanks for the food for thought, Jo! :)

  2. Wow! That's the most comprehensive stuff on the notorious "trill" I ever read thus far! You remind me that this is one extremely important aspect of Spanish that I have missed covering, rather taken for granted, so far. I strongly believe, such pronunciations warrant a post of their own and I will soon be doing one. Thanks for the food for thought, Jo! :)


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