In a nutshell
Generally the letter ‘l’ makes a nice consistent sound, although the presence of silent ‘l’ in quite a few words does add a bit of complexity. ‘L’ is one of the more difficult letters to pronounce correctly and a surprising number of adults struggle to get it completely right.
Difficult to pronounce
Many people pronounce ‘l’ incorrectly – even people who are otherwise extremely well spoken. In some words the ‘l’ sound is quite hard to produce and people often make a ‘w’ sound instead. For example, you will hear ‘stiw’ instead of ‘still’, ‘douboow’ instead of ‘double’ and ‘awways’ rather than ‘always’.
In reality, almost every English speaker is guilty of this mistake at least occasionally – especially when we are in a hurry or feeling a bit lazy. Rather than making the correct ‘l’ sound, our lips move forward and out comes the ‘w’ sound instead!
It is worth taking some extra time with your child when introducing the letter ‘l’ to ensure they are pronouncing it correctly. This podcast provides a useful insight into the right and wrong ways to make the ‘l’ sound.
Here is Bert and Ernie’s take on the letter l from Sesame Street:
We are so used to seeing silent ‘l’ in some words we probably don’t even notice it. For example, a word such as ‘would’ is so familiar it is easy to forget that for a new reader this is not an easy word. As with so much of English, it is hard to formulate consistent rules to explain whether an ‘l’ will be silent or not.
Once your child is familiar with the basic sounds that all letters make, you may wish to give them the ‘silent l’ worksheet to introduce them to the idea that sometimes ‘l’ makes no sound at all.
English as a second language
If English is not your child’s first language, they may have difficulty in correctly differentiating between the ‘l’ and ‘r’ sounds. This difference is very important in English – getting it right goes a long way towards sounding natural and correct. The following video takes you through exactly where to put your tongue and lips in each sound – once you watch it you will be able to help guide your child:
There are five countries which end with the letter l. Can you name them? (Answer below)
How do you pronounce ‘salmon’? This is a word that often trips up non-native English speakers – even very good ones. The correct pronunciation is with a silent ‘l’.
This is a very short tongue twister, but surprisingly difficult. Can you or your child say it five times in a row, very quickly and without making a mistake?
Red lorry, yellow lorry.
‘I Spy’ words
‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with…’ is a great game to play to reinforce the sound that a letter makes and it can be a fun game to kill some time – for example on a long car trip.
Here is a selection of short words starting with ‘l’ for you to use:
lion, lamp, light, lounge, lake, line, lava, lid, lamb, lens, lane, lady, lock, loop, logo, loaf, lump
The Letter L Worksheets
This letter l worksheet gives your child lots of opportunities to practice writing capital L.
This letter l worksheet focuses on the lower case letter l.
This worksheet gives your child an introduction to the sound that ‘l’ makes, and also allows them to practice writing the capital and lower case letter l.
Give your child an introduction to the silent l concept in this worksheet, where they will learn words such as ‘calf’ and ‘walking’.
Answer to trivia question
The five countries which end in ‘l’ are: