Everything You Need to Know about The Human Tongue

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Why do some people love a food while other people hate it? Liz Waid and Adam Navis tell about a much-used, but little-understood, part of the body – the tongue.

Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And I’m Adam Navis. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

Think about a food you HATED as a child. You never wanted to eat it because it tasted terrible! But, when you grew up, you tried that food again. This time, you LOVED it! What changed? Why did the food taste so good when you were older? The answer to this question may be on the tip of your tongue. Today’s Spotlight is on the amazing human tongue.

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Voice 2 

The tongue is a muscle. It is like the muscles that move your arms or legs. However, the tongue is different in a big way. The tongue is not connected to any bones. It is a group of eight muscles that work together. This is what makes the tongue able to move and change shapes.

Voice 1 

The tongue’s flexiblity and movement help with eating, drinking, talking and singing. But it is the surface of the tongue that helps with taste. The tongue has taste receptors located all across its top. Many people believe that the surface of the tongue has different areas to taste different things. This is not exactly true. Erich Voigt is a doctor at NYU Langone Medical Center. He told the website MentalFloss.com,

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“Taste receptors are concentrated on the tip of your tongue – the front point. They are also along the sides and at the back. The middle of the tongue has the least taste ability. The idea that the tongue has different taste areas is a myth. There is no tongue map with different parts for different tastes. That idea is wrong. All taste areas are able to sense the five kinds of taste. These are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savory.”

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay
Voice 2 

So the tongue is a group of muscles that lets people taste different foods. But what is taste? And why do people taste things differently?

Voice 1 

For a long time, scientists thought there were four basic tastes. The first is salty. Salty foods are foods like french fries, soy sauce, olives, and chips. The next is sour foods. Sour foods are foods like lemons or yogurt. The third taste is sweet. Sweet foods are fruits, breads, and candy. The fourth taste is bitter. Bitter foods are foods like coffee, dark chocolate, and some spices.

Voice 2 

However, all people know that there are more than five tastes. And as science has advanced more tastes have been identified. Umami is the flavor of cooked meat. It is also sometimes called savory. Astringent foods make your mouth tighten. Pungent foods have a strong smell, such as mustard or ginger. These tastes were always part of foods. But people now use a new clearer way to talk about them.

Voice 1 

Every tongue is able to taste all of these things. However, every tongue tastes each kind of food at a different level. Some people may not like the taste of a sour lemon. Their tongue may be very sensitive to sour foods. So the sour lemon is too much taste for them to enjoy. Other people may love coffee. They may NOT be very sensitive to bitter foods. So the bitter taste of coffee is a perfect balance. What you like to eat is based on your tongue. You may never be able to make someone love a food that you love. If someone does not like the taste of fish, it will not matter how much they try it. Their tongue may not let them enjoy it.

Voice 2 

However, people should still try new foods often! The human tongue changes over time. As people get older, the tongue becomes less able to taste foods. This means that people could begin to like foods with more spice. Food they did not like as a child begins to taste great. Another reason for food tastes changing is that people also become less able to smell. Smell is a big part of eating. It influences how we react to foods.

Voice 1 

Each person’s tongue combines genetics and culture. Your tongue tastes foods because of your parents’ genes. You also have the food experiences you have because of the culture of your childhood. Veronique Greenwood wrote about why different cultures value different tasting foods for the BBC.com. She says that food tastes can make people remember home. She writes,

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‘The combination of tomato, garlic, oregano, and olive oil feels Italian. Food with dried shrimp, chili peppers, ginger, and palm oil feels Brazilian. For Germans, it is dill, sour cream, mustard, vinegar and black pepper. Chinese food uses soy sauce, rice wine, and ginger. Those tastes seem to describe a taste that most people from that culture enjoy eating.”

Image by S K from Pixabay
Voice 2 

One of the joys of travel is getting to try new foods. Each new place offers a new taste. But not every taste will be good to every person. Yet it is good to try new foods. Natalie Jesionka is a writer and teacher. She wrote about eating new foods for the Muse.com.

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“No matter how frightening a new food may seem, it is better to try it and experience it yourself. If it tastes great then you will have a new favorite food. If it tastes very bad? Well, then you will have a good travel story to share when you get home.”

Voice 1 

Do you like to try new foods? Have your tastes changed as you have grown older? Do you have a food from another country that you love or hate? Tell us about your experiences. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on Facebook at Facebook.com/spotlightradio. Visit us on YouTube at youtube.com/spotlightenglish1.

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Adam Navis. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the
United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Everything You Need to Know about The Human Tongue’.

Voice 1 

Visit our website to download our free official app for Android and Apple devices. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.


Is there a food you hated as a child but like now as an adult? What is your favorite food?

Join the discussion

  • I love talking about food. I enjoy trying new foods and cultures, recently I have tried Jajjangmyeon, a korean dish that I love. When I was child, I hated jiló, many people used to say that I had to try many times, so I tried it, though it’s not changed. Once, when I grew up, I decided to eat Jiló and it tasted so savory, no too much bitter, how it used to taste before. Recently, I am not able to smell normally, it was difficult, and I was so sad, because I didn’t taste foods. Now I get over it, so i value my taste and smell ability. Thanks spotlight team! I really enjoy it!

  • I used to hate when I was a child cow livel I will never eat it again. My favourite food are fruits specially bananas I think I am a monkey What about you?♡ I

  • Do you like to try new foods?
    no, I don’tH
    Have your tastes changed as you have grown older?
    yes, a lot food changed its teast when I grown older
    Do you have a food from another country that you love or hate?
    yes, a lot food I love it

  • From: ssramossilva@gmail.com
    To: spotlight program
    Subject: to answer the questions below
    Date: Sunday 04 October 2020
    Location: São Paulo SP Brazil

    Dear Liz Waid, Adam navis, Michio Ozaki
    First, I want to thank you for bringing us more one great article. Thank you.
    Question 1 – Is there a food you hated as a child but like now as an adult?
    Answer 1 – Yes, there is. I hated milk when I was a child but now as an adult I like it because I know the importance that the milk is for our health to let the teeth and bones strong, and other benefits for our body.
    Question 2 – What is your favorite food?
    Answer 2 – My favorite food is cornmeal. Food made from corn. I love it..
    God bless you
    Severino Ramos da Silva

  • I like testing food from different cultures, I think it is interesting to know about customs, traditions and the way people use vegetables, meat, species to Cook.

  • Yes, when I was a chiled I used to hate all kind of fish because it tastes is not good maybe cause our country,by the way I’m from Egypt and as an adult I loved all these kind without kind o them

  • I don’t like to trying new food because I don’t like to trying new food because I don’t like to lose my money for food, not sure if it’s good or bad

  • Well, during my childhood period, I was haiting all seafood types. That because my nose is sensitive about strong smells but, right now this issue is mot longer available. Latterly seafood became my favorite.

  • Actually I didn’t like taste food in childhood once become an adult I like some but not all , my favorite food Italian but now I’m like healthy food more, avocado

  • Actually when I was child I used to heat onion it was taste so bad to me but when I became older I was have no problem eating it and my favorite food is noodles I eat it most daily

  • Since I was a child, I never liked watermelon or mango… I still don’t like them. I guess I will never do it…

  • yes, I’m enjoying in new kind of food, and my taste is changed before I grew up when I child I didn’t like green pepper taste but now it is my favorite vegetable.

  • I like to try new foods. I love Korean noodles and I think it becomes so popular around the world.
    I don’t like bitter foods so I don’t like coffee, But sometimes I have to drink it when I’m studying.
    Also my tastes hasn’t changed much since childhood

  • My taste change when I grow up, I didn’t like peas and now I found them delicious.
    For me I like japanese food , the combo salty and sweet it’s my favorite.

  • The food I hate as a child is cpisy food but when became a teenager l like this type of food. In addition, my favorite food is a salty food espially fast food such as beurger, pizza, and tabkafok tabka it’s my favorite food. my mother to cook this food professionnally espially that it bring it to me in the time of exams l hope try them this dish because it’s deli and amazing.

  • Thank you spotlight for these information.
    Personally, I used to hate olive tastes; Because in our feeding culture, olive has a lot of tasting flavours: sour taste, bitter taste and chili taste.
    When i was in my childhood, i didn’t like to eat it in severel meals which it is in and i didn’t eat these meals unless i removed it.
    But now, I try to enjoy eating it and I try to accept its flavors.

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