Once you have mastered the basics of German, a great next step to take is finding ways to be playful with the language. For example, Germany has many famous poets and poems, or silly stories like the famous Rhabarberbarbara. One excellent way to improve your pronunciation is practicing tongue twisters. In fact, tongue twisters are sometimes even used by language coaches to help kids overcome language impediments!
There are many tongue twisters in the German language and even native German speakers tend to struggle with them. Although the difficulty between different German tongue twisters varies, it is hard to pinpoint which one is the hardest – this mostly depends on your native language and which sounds you are most familiar with. However, once you’ve mastered one, you can rest assured that you’re making excellent progress in your pronunciation. To get you started, we have compiled a list of 10 famous German tongue twisters.
- Fischers Fritze
- Brautkleid bleibt Brautkleid
- Wenn Fliegen hinter Fliegen fliegen
- Bürsten mit schwarzen Borsten
- Der Cottbusser Postkutscher
- Dem Müllmann sein Mümmelmann
- Einsame Esel essen nasse Nesseln nicht
- Biberacher Bierbrauer
- Oberammergau und Unterammergau
- Ein Soldat mit stumpfen Stiefeln
1. Fischers Fritze
“Fischers Fritze fischte frische Fische.”
Translation: Fritz from the family Fischer fished fresh fish.
This is possibly the most famous tongue twister in Germany.
2. Brautkleid bleibt Brautkleid
“Brautkleid bleibt Brautkleid und Blaukraut bleibt Blaukraut.”
Translation: Bridal gown stays bridal gown and red cabbage stays red cabbage.
One of the hardest German tongue twisters, it is particularly challenging because of its inversion of the R and L sounds.
3. Wenn Fliegen hinter Fliegen fliegen
“Wenn Fliegen hinter Fliegen fliegen fliegen Fliegen Fliegen nach.”
Translation: When flies fly behind flies then flies fly behind flies.
Although this is an easier tongue twister, it may leave you confused with the amount of “Fliegen” in it, but much like in English, fly can be a noun or a verb.
4. Bürsten mit schwarzen Borsten
“Bürsten mit schwarzen Borsten bürsten besser als Bürsten mit weißen Borsten.”
Translation: Brushes with black bristles brush better than brushes with white bristles.
This tongue twister is great to practice your pronunciation of the vowels o and ü.
5. Der Cottbusser Postkutscher
“Der Cottbusser Postkutscher putzt den Cottbusser Postkutschkasten.”
Translation: The coachman of Cottbus cleans the stagecoach carrier of Cottbus.
Several variations of this tongue twister exist, many of which detailing what the coachman is cleaning and adding to the difficulty of pronouncing.
6. Dem Müllmann sein Mümmelmann
“Dem Müllmann sein Mümmelmann mümmelt an dem Müll dran. An dem Müll dran mümmelt der Mümmelmann vom Müllmann.”
Translation: The garbage man’s bunny nibbles on the trash.
Although not used very often anymore, bunnies and rabbits in German can be referred to as “Mümmelmann” because they nibble their food (“mümmeln”).
7. Einsame Esel essen nasse Nesseln nicht
“Einsame Esel essen nasse Nesseln nicht, nasse Nesseln essen einsame Esel nicht.”
Translation: Lonely donkeys don’t eat wet nettles, wet nettles are not eaten by lonely donkeys.
This is a particularly great tongue twister to practice both the sharp (“Nesseln”) and soft (“Esel”) S of the German language.
8. Biberacher Bierbrauer
“Biberacher Bierbrauer brauen beständig braunes Biberacher Bockbier.”
Translation: Beer brewers from Biberach consistently brew brown Bock beer from Biberach.
Bock beer refers to a typical dark strong beer that was invented in the 14th century in Germany.
9. Oberammergau und Unterammergau
“Ob er aber über Oberammergau oder ob er über Unterammergau oder ob er überhaupt nicht kommt, ist nicht gewiss.”
Translation: If he comes via Oberammergau, or via Unterammergau, or not at all, isn’t sure.
If you want to practice your German vowels, this tongue twister will help you.
10. Ein Soldat mit stumpfen Stiefeln
“Ein Soldat mit stumpfen Stiefeln saß auf einem spitzen Stein und starrte stundenlang die stillen stummen Sternlein an.”
Translation: A soldier with blunt boots sat on a pointy rock and stared at the silent stars for hours.
The different s- and sh- sounds in German can be quite challenging at the beginning, but once you have mastered this tongue twister, you surely will not struggle with them anymore.
It’s time to perfect your German skills!
Mastering a tongue twister usually requires quite some practice, especially when they’re in a foreign language. In the beginning, try to say them slowly and increase the speed over time. This way, you’ll get used to the difficult parts and can soon enough impress your friends with excellent German pronunciation. Of course, there are dozens of German tongue twisters. And not only do they vary in difficulty, but each dialect also has its own versions. You can find an extensive list here.
Anne is a German freelance writer and communication consultant. In addition to her job, she is the founder and coach of the Dutch non-for-profit organization CLUB Coaching. Due to her work, she resides in both Germany and the Netherlands. Whenever her time is not occupied with communication in all its forms, she spends time with her six pets, gardening or being creative with fashion and design. You can follow her on LinkedIn.