The Mother of All Tongue Twisters

Sjuttiosju sjösjuka sjömänSjuttiosju sjösjuka sjömän sköttes av sju sköna sjuksköterskor på skeppet Shanghai!

This is a Swedish tongue twister. It means:

Seventy-seven seasick sailors were looked after by seven lovely nurses on the ship Shanghai.

The Swedish sounds sj- and sk- are probably the absolute hardest for learners of Swedish to grasp when practicing pronunciation. Pronunciation and stress on vowels and syllables in Swedish is, as a rule, very difficult for non-native speakers, but this particular tongue twister really does take the cake.

It is very old and there are several variants. Some of those have been invented just to make things harder. As if the task was not difficult enough. Here is an example:

Sju skönsjungande sjuksköterskor skötte sjuttiosju sjösjuka sjömän på skeppet Shangai.

Seven singing nurses took care of seventy-seven seasick sailors on the ship Shanghai.

The most complex variation I have ever heard is:

Sjuttiosju sjösjuka sjömän sköttes själsligt i sjögång själva av sju skönsjungande sjuksköterskor på det sjunkande skeppet Shanghai.

Seventy-seven seasick sailors were treated spiritually in high seas solely by seven singing nurses on the sinking ship Shanghai.

Try saying that 10 times without faltering.

Here is a video of a German guy trying to say yet another variant:

What he is trying to say is: Sju sjösjuka sjömän sjöng sjukt sköna sånger om sjöstjärnor.

Even Swedish people find this hard to do:

Note: I usually translate the Swedish word sjömän with sailors. The word sailor is more accurately translated to seglare in Swedish. For reasons I don’t really feel like getting into though, I try to refrain from using the term seamen.

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