Dans ta tente ta tante t’attend.
dah taa taht-uh tah taht-uh taa-tah. Click below to hear this!
In your tent, your aunt is waiting for you.
Sounds ominous! Let’s hope she’s just bringing you a plate of cookies she baked over the campfire.
More likely, she wants to makes you practice your /t/ sounds, and to be aware that the sound spelled en and the sound spelled an are the same sound. So there is no audible difference between ta tante and ta tente.
So how would you know which is which? First answer: context. In this case, grammatical context: the moment I say Dans ta tente, at some level of your brain you should be sorting through the possibilities. Dans ta tante doesn’t make much sense, because we don’t normally talk much about inside a person.
Secondly, the very nature of a tonguetwister is to provide as little context as possible. The goal is to make you guess, and to allow all sorts of incongruous thoughts to run through your head. You are supposed to laugh at the crazy possibilities as your brain does a quick sort-and-discard triage.
So the tent could be inside your aunt (Dans ta tante ta tente t’attend), but it’s unlikely that she ate the tent, so you go with the more likely version.
Note that t’attend is also pronounced with the same ending vowel sound, a nasal /ah/, but with no final /t/ sound. That’s because there’s no silent e on the end. With nothing to prop it up, the /d/ falls into silence. You should end the sentence with your mouth hanging open!
And make sure you don’t pronounce any /n/ sound anywhere in this sentence! The only meaning of the letter n here is to signify a nasal sound. The tip of your tongue will tap repeatedly on the ridge behind your upper teeth as you pronounce the /t/ sound over and over, but you never get to leave your tongue in place for an /n/. It’s all staccato!