Do tongue twisters help with learning?


Neither nor nor neither can be used with either or or either, whereas neither either...or...or nor neither...nor...nor are either wrong or right, right?

grammar edited Oct 10 '12 at 11:51 Peter Guess Expert

2 answers


I think so.


While Tolley seems to be up-to-date on the research, I can only speak from personal experience. I found tongue twisters and other mnemonics to be helpful in learning/memorizing complicated facts "in bulk."


During my first two semesters of architectural history, we were required to memorize facts for about 500 buildings each semester. As part of the final exam, we would be shown a picture of a building, and we would have to identify its name, location, style, architect, and year. So I made up little ditties for each. Today, 35 years later, I still recall the ditty when I see certain buildings.

link edited Oct 10 '12 at 17:21 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

Learning times tables by heart in unison with about 25 other 10-year-olds certainly worked for me. I always say the sums in my head when any basic mental arithmetic is required.

Peter GuessOct 10 '12 at 19:42

I guess rote learning really does have its place in education. I remember very well learning my times tables, spelling words, and the like. Pribyl, your Arch History story made may skin crawl. I'm sure the mnemonics helped, but that seems to be cruel and unusual. Muscle memory, as with any memory according to many brain researchers, comes through good ol' repetition.Cheers!

TolleyOct 10 '12 at 21:28

It wasn't as bad as it sounds. The Professor posted a copy of every slide shown in lecture (hence the 500) in the corridor outside the faculty offices (today they are online). The final asked about 25 slides. We just didn't know which ones they would be. It was really more like "total immersion" in the language of architecture. I went on to take another 4 years worth of Arch History.

Jeff PribylOct 11 '12 at 15:47

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I have never heard the sample you gave, Peter, but it doesn't really twist my tongue.  I think that it depends on what one is trying to learn.  Tolley described using tongue twisters to aid in learning how to speak English.  Your example about either and neither seems more like a catchy device used to remember a grammar rule.  Peter Piper's pickled peppers won't help me to learn something like that.  The saying "i before e, except after c" does, though. 


When music is added to words, it is much easier to remember.  Jeff Pribyl still remembers some of his ditties 35 years later.  Thanks to Tommy Tutone, a lot of us remember that Jenny's number is 867-5309.  In high school, my German teacher sang a lot.  It made learning a new language a lot easier.  Advertisers use jingles because they are more easily remembered, so less repetition is needed.

link edited Oct 11 '12 at 07:34 Patty T Grammarly Fellow

Yes, "i before e, except after c" is another that automatically enters the head when you're writing "receive" – every time. The "either . . . or" thing was something I thought of a couple of days ago when answering HsKyH7's question, "It is not true either". My intention was, as you suggest, a device for remembering a grammar rule, but it lacks the "catchy" you refer to. Being able to reproduce it would surely mean the usage was understood, though. Good point about music, too: Memory seems to work well when you consciously create a link between apparently unrelated things – they subsequently reinforce each other.

Peter GuessOct 11 '12 at 06:59

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