Spanish Tongue Twisters: Trabalenguas

Spanish tongue twisters serve two truly tremendous tasks:

  • Spanish learners can use them to increase vocabulary. Because of the rhythm and concentration requirements, tongue twisters really stick in your memory. I first heard the tres tigres tristes tongue twister about six years ago — before learning Spanish — and it stuck like glue.
  • Tongue twisters, known as trabalenguas in Spanish, are incredible social tools. Think about it: who can resist attempting a tongue twister after hearing it for the first time? If you’re traveling in a Spanish-speaking country, knowing a few tongue twisters in the local lingo will help you entertain hordes of kids — and probably adults, too.
spanish tongue twisters

photo © Danielle Pereira,

Spanish Tongue Twisters with English Translations

So, do a few stretches, warm up those vocal chords… it’s time to delve into the wonderful world of trabalenguas.

  • ¿Cuántos cuentos cuentas cuando cuentas cuentos?
    (How many stories do you tell when you tell stories?)
  • 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.)
  • 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.)
  • Tres platos de trigo para tres tigres tristes.
    (Three plates of wheat for three sad tigers.)
  • Pablito clavó un clavito. ¿Qué clavito clavó Pablito?
    (Pablito nailed a little nail. What little nail did Pablito nail?)

Taking it to the next level of Spanish tongue twisters…

  • 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.)
  • 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.)

This next one is perfect for practicing the ‘r’ and rolled ‘rr’ sounds in Spanish (erre is the name of the letter “r” in Spanish):

  • 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.

Know Any More Spanish Tongue Twisters?

If you have any more Spanish tongue twisters to add, feel free to write them in the comments box below. The trabalenguas above are fairly well known (and alternate versions exist), but there are plenty more out there…

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