Speak Chinese like a Boss: Mandarin Tongue Twisters!
Speak Chinese like a Boss: Mandarin Tongue Twisters!

Every language has tongue twisters, try saying “she sells sea shells on the sea shore” fast! Mandarin Chinese is no exception, and there are some really classic Mandarin tongue twisters. Here is one example

四是四,十是十,十四是十四,四十是四十;谁把十四说”十适”,就打他十四;谁把四十说”适十”,就打他四十

Sì shì sì, shí shì shí, shí sì shì shí sì. sì shí shì sì shí, shéi bǎ shí sì shuō shí shì, jiù dǎ tā shí sì, shéi bǎ sì shí shuō shì shí, jiù dǎ tā sì shí

4 is 4, 10 is 10, 14 is 14, 40 is 40, whoever pronounces 14 as shi shi, hit him 14 times, whoever pronounces 40 as shi shi hit him 40 times.

So this tongue twister plays on the fact that different characters with the same sound pronounced in different tones have different meanings. Half the characters in this strange story are pronounced shi, but when said in different tones, shi has different meanings. You’ve also probably noticed it’s a bit mean–encouraging people to bully each other for having a speech impediment. 

Check out the video for more.

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