After a rather tough time of thinking where my freshmen class was learning how to read the context of a sentence to help them find the right vocabulary word for the blank, I wanted them to take a thinking break. On a lark, I said, “Now, I want to hear a tongue twister in Arabic.” (We live in Saudi Arabia.) There was a pause as they tried to register this sudden shift in the lesson, so I filled the pause with a couple of English examples:
“How much wood would a wood chuck chuck, if a wood chuck could chuck wood.”
“Rubber baby buggy bumpers.”
They started trying them in English: toy boat, toy boat, toy boat—unique New York—the sea ceaceth and it sufficeth us. They started laughing at silly sounds coming from their mouths.
Then Gabby from Brazil tried one in Portuguese. We all listened. Kids were on their phones and computers searching for more.
Then Zain from Pakistan tried one in Arabic. The throat clearing sound clogged every word.
Carlotta from Mexico rattled off one in Spanish, tripping over her tongue once or twice to say it.
Abdul from Nigeria tried one in Yoruba, a language I’d never heard before. The rolling R from Spanish was absent and replaced with so many B sounds.
The Pakistani Zain found one in Urdu to try, and his head matched the lilt of the language.
Just when everyone thought it was over, Hammad,
All through the little break the kids were laughing and the energy level of the room rose back up, preparing them for the next part of the lesson.
The delight I find in the tongue twister break is that there were so many other languages in the class. English is the language of the school, or learning, but in my room there were kids who spoke, German, Urdu, Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, Arabic, Yoruba, and there are only eleven students in the class. It’s like someone shook loose interesting people of the world, and they landed in my classroom. It’s why I love teaching.