48 answers

My Son Can't Pronounce the Letter L Well. Is It Normal?

My son started speaking English quite well early on. By the time most kids say 500 words he already had 1,000 in English and a few in Spanish under his belt. But just around the time he turned 3 I started to notice that even though he enunciated clearly most words, he still had trouble with the ones that contained an L. English words are usually short so it was only when he started using longer Spanish words more often that I realized that he had this problem. He's now 3.5 and I think this issue is hindering his progress in Spanish because he gets tangled in sentences of 3 words if there's an L somewhere.

I did some research some time ago and they were mentioning kids having difficulties with letters like K,R but nobody mentioned the letter L.

Does anyone know of other kids having the same problem? Is it relatively normal... or should I bring it to the attention of his Pediatrician?

Thanking you in advance for your answers,

L.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Guess what? He simply didn't know where to put his tongue to pronounce the "L" sound well! Just after practicing a couple of those exercises some of you recommended I've seen a huge change! What used to sound like W is now a soft sounding "L" in 100% of the words! What a dramatic change!
Thank you sooo much!
L.

Featured Answers

L.,
Most kids I know have trouble with the letter L. They pronounce as a Y, or vice versa. My son could not say yes, he would say Les. However, my nieces and nephews would say yittle instead of little. It's a common problem and it will just go away. One day they will just get it. No worries. =)

He is 3 1/2 and can speak two languages? That is incredible. Most kids misprononce sounds till Kindergarten. If he is still having a problem they will help him with speech.

Though many kids can pronounce the L sound at his age, it is normal to not have this sound until after 4. If you can understand him at least 75% of the time, he is within normal range.

More Answers

My son has a tough time getting words that begin with the letter L out, but he knows that he will stutter his "L" words, so he stutters it at first and then I always ask him "say it one more time" and its fine. And my son is 5. Give him some time, be patient with him when he speaks, and its ok to ask them to repeat themselves, nine out of ten times they will repeat the words without stuttering. I suggest doing some word rhymes with the letter L and mix it up in english and spanish, focus only on L words but like 5 a day and for short intervals

My son (who is now 23, and speaks perfectly) also had problems with "L", he went to school in Manalapan, and speech teacher called it "glottal L", apparently quite common, Tom Brokaw also has this. It really just required concentration and practice. He went to speech class for a short time and problem resolved. Hope this helps.
DC

Hi L.,

As a child I too had a problem with my L's. I also had a problem with sh,ch,and s in general. I had what was called a lazy tongue. I had speech therapy for several years, and it did help. Do you notice it more when he is tired? I still have it sometimes when I am very tired. But, speech therapy may help. Or, you could have him try fun tongue twisters with the letter L in them. He may get flustered at first, but make it fun for him. Do not make it a chore, and do not show disapointment when he does not do it correctly. He will eventually learn how to roll his tongue properly. I hope I helped. Sincerely, K. PS I am now a teacher. Age 46

Totally normal!! My son only speaks only language and could speak an L by the age of 4, the other one by the age of 5. No worries! Try to teach him to "lift his tongue" to the roof of his mouth. But I wouldn't push it till he is 4 or 5 unless it really bugs you. Good luck!

When my daughter was in 3-year-old and 4-year-old nursery school she was very vocal as well. She had difficulty with the letter C and G. I talked with her nursery school teachers about this and they assured me that she'd grow out of it. She did.

But if you are at the doctors in the near future, ask them to check it out just to allay your fears.

B.

Though many kids can pronounce the L sound at his age, it is normal to not have this sound until after 4. If you can understand him at least 75% of the time, he is within normal range.

My son turned three in October and I have two daughters, both of whom are older, so I have been through the speech concerns. The main thing to remember is there are no speech concerns until the child is older than five. Five years old is considered a turning point (for most children) in tongue muscle control and by that time children should have "worked out the kinks." My son can currently say his "L's", but only when he uses them incorrectly. Instead of saying "music" he says "lusic", but when he says "love", it comes out "wuv." These kind of speech kinks are always based on where the letter falls in the word and in what combination the word is used in a sentence.

Two and three-letter combinations are usually the most difficult for children to master, which for us, has resulted in a comical, but not socially acceptable form of the word "firetruck." My son says the first "r", drops the "t" and second "r" and substitutes an "f"....oops. Words that begin with "br" or "tr" or "str" will totally result in a complete mess of a word for a young child.

The most important thing you can do is NEVER mispronounce your child's word back to them or others - no matter how cute it sounds. Children often believe they are saying the word correctly, which is why they are so frustrated when we do not understand them. When my son says something I cannot understand I always ask him, "Can you show me?" This usually does the trick.

My oldest daughter had extreme difficulty with "L's" and she is now a 13 year old eloquent, well-spoken articulate girl who also speaks Spanish just as beautifully!

Hi L.!

I saw your message, and have a few questions. I am a speech language pathologist, and run into this quite a bit. Is this the only sound he can not produce? If so, I would not worry too much. The "L" is one of the "Late 8" developing sounds. The reason for most of it is that the tongue does not stop growing until around age 7, and often the kids do not yet have the coordination for this movement. You can try having him imitate you, and show him where to put his tongue, but I would give it about 6 months to see if there are any changes. If not, let your pediatrician know and contact your local school district who may provide speech therapy if it is causing enough difficulty.Usually, one sound is nothing to worry about. Is he having any problems eating or swallowing? Do you understand most of what he says? You can practice with him by first trying the sound by itself (l - l - l) and then going to syllables (La, le lo, lu) and then words once he achieves each level. Hope it helps!

My daughter substituted "Y" sound for "L". She had a friend who substituted "W" for "L". One day Kristen was showing Meara her "new wamp" and Meara corrected her: "That's not a wamp, Kristen, that's a yamp."
This is a favorite story for both of them to tell today. They are both 23 and have graduated from Yale and Wake Forest. My daughter is active in singing and drama groups.. no problem with her L's after about age 4 1/2! No intervention was necessary.

J.

Hi L.,

My daughter had slow developing speech and we had a therapist come once a week. Both my childred (17) months aparts could not say the L sound. The therapist (who I adore and did a great job) told me to put a bit of peanut butter on the roof of their mouths and make them say 'yellow' - My husband did it once and that was all it took. It may take a bit longer but it can't hurt to try - unless of course they have a peanut butter allergy. Good luck and I believe eventually they will say the L sound by themselves - this just started the process sooner. Good luck!!!

Hi L.. Yes, it is pretty common. My daughter had a problem with L when she was young. She spoke early, had an excellent vocabulary but pronounced L and Y (so words came out like Yight and Yeyyow) - the biggest problem with that there is a
"Y L" combination in her name, so she couldn't even tell someone her name in a way that they could understand it. She received speech therapy in kindergarten and first grade and the problem was resolved.

I was just reading an article in April's Parenting Magazine and the author said that Ls and Rs were the last letters her daughter got. Her example was her daughter pronouced lunch, "yunch." She said that some kids still have pronunciation they are sorting out until 4. But, to bring anything up to your pediatrician you have concern about.

Hi L.-
Unfortunately I can Personally say that It might be a Learning disability of sorts. I have a servere speech impediment started as as a child because "my tougue was too big for my mouth". Which caused great diffuculty do the "l,m,n,r,s etc or the transition of certain combos....I still have impediment even after "speech" therapy & special ed. up into middle school.
To add insult to injury, I was almost deaf as a child until they realized I wasn't having normal reactions to my surroundings. I had tubes in my ears until I was about 8 or so....(now above 30).
Definately get him to a ENT (ear, nose, throat) Specialist..Make sure you get morer than 1 opinion too.
I had several appt at the Boston's Children's Hospital.
They are there for "kids"!
Good luck! J.

L.,
Most kids I know have trouble with the letter L. They pronounce as a Y, or vice versa. My son could not say yes, he would say Les. However, my nieces and nephews would say yittle instead of little. It's a common problem and it will just go away. One day they will just get it. No worries. =)

Hi L., Yes, this is a common troubling sound along with the double LL's. There are exercizes that you can use to help stregnthen the toungue muscle however if your son in school, speak to the teacher/director you should probably have him evaluated because you might not realize but there are other difficult sounds that follow along with the LL's. Better safe than sorry a few years from now. Good Luck!

L's are hard...ask any foreigner who had to learn English as a second language, Asians specifically.

First...I guess it would help if you described what you mean be he's having trouble....is he stopping and stuttering in order to attempt it? is he just using w? is it slurring into an r or d?

Most likely it is simply a muscle control thing that will develop over time, how much time depends on how much he attempts to correct it. When the mispronunciation becomes habit they are teaching the muscle to continue to say it wrong....

Here's a tip...
When ever you hear it wrong...and EVERYTIME you hear it wrong...pretend you cannot understand what he said and ask him to repeat it. If he repeats it without trying to speak correctly, ask again. Nicely ask, he won’t feel offended like a constant criticism, but will try correcting himself in order to talk to you and he will understand the importance of pronunciation to get his message across.

I believe that it is pretty normal. My 8 year old daughter who is the youngest of 5 had that same problem. We actually thought it was funny, she has 2 older sisters and their names both started with "L"'s and she would replace the "L" with the letter "W". She would say mom, "can I put wotion on my wegs". We all thought it was hilarious. She is now 8 in the 3rd grade and has no speech problems, she is actually one of the top readers and performers in her class. I believe it will eventually go away. Good luck!

He is 3 1/2 and can speak two languages? That is incredible. Most kids misprononce sounds till Kindergarten. If he is still having a problem they will help him with speech.

My son just turned 6 and has trouble with his L's he usually substitutes in a W. He is in Kindergarten and he goes to the speech teacher twice a week and has homework from her to help him. He has begun to recognize when he says a word wrong in his homework, we correct his speech when he uses the wrong letter.

They think he may have had a cold or heard it incorrectly when he was young. It takes time to correct.

T.

Have you spoken to your son's doctor about this? Or, looked into any websites about articulation in speech developement? If you're really concerned you could ask for an evaluation by a speech pathologist through your local school system. I only know the rules/policies for here in New York State, but in NYS you would request an evaluation, in writing, and they have 30 days to comply. Even if he doesn't qualify for services (because he does speak so well otherwise), they could give you "exercises" and activities to teach your son how to move his tongue for the "L" sound. Good luck!

Mi hija tuvo el mismo poblema con la R pero cuando la llevé con un terapista de lenguaje me di cuenta de que también lo tenia con la L.

El terapista me comentó que hasta los 5 años es normal que algunos niños tengan algunas dificultades para pronunciar algunas letras.

Hay algunos ejercicios que tu hijo puede hacer para que la lengua sea mas fuerte y pueda pronunciar mejor. Algunos son: hacer trompetillas, pegar un poco de pan al paladar para que con la lengua lo despegue y también comer barquillos o paletas con la lengua. Suerte!!

It's totally normal. As a matter of fact my son's speech therapist says that the "L" sound is the last one a child learns to do properly. My son is 8 and still having issue with it.
If you are that concerned, try to find out if your school district offers Early Intervention services for pre-school children. Most do. My son has been getting speech therapy since before he went to school. The therapist even came to the daycare he was at and did it there.

Hope that helped.
Have a super day.

R.

Hi L.,
At 3.5 I wouldn't worry too much about it. My daughter had a mild delay until she was 6. She had difficulty with the "K" and "G"(which are sounds made with the back of the tongue)and also a slight lisp(which was most likely due to the then chronic thumb sucking and the habitual tongue thrusting). I went threw a slew unnecessary testing and speech therapy with no benefit. It wasn't until she went to kindergarten that she attended speech 1x/2weeks and within the 1st quarter was dismissed from speech with no delay what so ever.
If your son is only displaying difficulty with the "l" he'll probably grow out of it. Some Spanish words really draw out the "l" and the "r". My niece, although tested and proven gifted, can not roll her "r‘s". Perhaps it is the transition from the English "l" to the Spanish "l". If so, I'm sure once you son starts to understand the letter/sound connection learned with reading he'll be able to decipher the difference in the two "l" sounds.
However, if you don't want to wait to see if he grows out of it, you should have his speech evaluated. Most insurance covers this. If you don't have insurance or it’s not covered you can apply with your school district for early intervention.
One thing I'd like to add... if your consantly asking him to repeat himself he may feel insecure in his speech. The most helpful way you can correct him, without making him feel like he's wrong, is to refraze what he has said and repeat the word back to him correctly. Hope this helps.

Hi L., My name is Mary. I have raised my 5 children and now babysit 2 of my grandchildren. My grand daughter Nicolette is 5 and still having trouble with the letter L. I believe it is common along with the others. You might try to make a game out of putting your tongue to your top teeth (both of you) and making the L sound. La,La,La etc. There is also nothing wrong with asking he Dr. he or she may have a suggestion.

Altough I can't speak for the Spanish language, in my former life (before kids) I was a speech pathologist with school-age children. At this age the kids are really still developing all of their sounds, so yes it is normal for him to be mispronouncing the "l" sound. You could do some little fun exercises to strengthen hid tongue and promote proper placement for "l" - tongue up behind your teeth - such as holding a cheerio up to his teeth with his tongue. I don't know how well that will work being I also have a 3.5 year old son and don't think he would be very good at it - but worth a shot! You could also just model the correct "l" sound for him and ask him to copy you, that is what I have been doing b/c my son is doing the same thing - he says w instead of l (I wike it). Bottom line - I woudn't worry too much about it at this point, they are still so young - concentrate more on the content of what he is saying - which is more and more every day I am sure! If it becomes a major source of frustration for him back off and then maybe talk to the pediatrician, but I am pretty sure at this age they would tell you he will probably outgrow it - which is probably true. Sorry if I rambled too much - hope it helps!
D.

The letter L is a difficult letter to pronounce for many young children. Give him time. Practice some L words with him....Lucky lemon lollipops. You can also call your local school and speak to the speech teacher. Schools have programs for preschoolers who have delayed speech....but I don't think this situation qualifies....it doesn't hurt to ask.

My cousin is a speech pathologist and she says that the "L" is common, some kids don't get it until they are 7 or in first grade - I would not worry.

According to developmental charts, kids are not fully expected to master the "L" sound until 6 years of age...you got plenty of time!

Go to this website...should make you feel much better.

http://www.helpforkidspeech.org/articles/detail.cfm?ID=485

L.,

My son says I WUV you all the time,

Its a very common thing, I have ready it has to do with Muscle control in the toungue,

He has now developed a habit of saying it this way, and as you might have realized 3-4 is a whole new stubborn ballgame for these little guys.

I suggest simply making sure that you annunciate the L each time its said, get down on your knee's so he can see how you move your tongue and wiggle it around so he can see what it sounds like and how he moves his tongue.

Act silly together and you will notice he'll pay closer attention to the silly noises you make, teach him to wiggle that little tounge and HE WILL, which of course helps him use the musle, build the muscle and say the words correctly.

Mom, worst case scenario he continues to be absolutely perfect in every way Except with the ONE FLAW of saying his L's poorly,

LOL-- I certainly could live with it, and I am sure you can aswell,

Trust me, they will grow out of it, just give him the time,

Good luck

M

The tongue is a muscle. Sometimes kids get lazy in using this muscle. You might try practiciing some fun words and fool around with tongue exercises. Try mimicing back and forthe to each other: la, la , la. Make sure he exagerates sticking his tongue out and and against his upper teeth. You try it and see how it feels and then you can help him.
La, la, la, like, like, like, L., L., L., love, love, love; etc. Make it fun, but don't overdo it so he's exasperated. Afterward, make some funny L-words to color or make cookies / pancakes shaped like the letter "L". If the problem persists, mention it to his preschool teacher, his kindergarten teacher, or his doctor. Three of my four boys had some speech problems, but they were "lazy tongue" problems. Only a medical doctor or speech therapist can tell if the problem is physical (jaw or teeth structure).

Hope this helps.

~EL

Have his hearing tested to be on the safe side. My nephew had the same problem and turned out to be deaf in one ear.

L.- That is a very typical error. I am a speech pathologist and work with several children in grades K-2 with "l" distortions. I wouldn;t worry about it too much until he is around 6. However, here are some activities you can do to encourage the accurate production of the sound. You can place peanut butter just behind the upper teeth and encourage Nickey to lick it. You can show him where to place his tongue and refer to it as the "tip tapper" sound. Overll though I wouldn't push it too much because you don't want to discourage him. Hope this helps!

hi!
i am not an expert of kids. i do have 3 of my own, and i am a firm believer in not worrying too much. 3.5 is very young. very many children do not speak clearly yet. in my opinion i would bring it up to the dr. but i would still give him more time to adjust his speaking.
my son is 17, when he was around 2 my dr noticed something minor with my son. under his tongue, there is that skin that attaches to the bottom of your mouth. well my sons skin , instead of ending halfway , ended almost to the front of his mouth. the doctor told us that because of my son not being able to move his tongue properly, he might have some speech problems. to date i just let my son alone, and monitored him. he still the same way, and it did not cause a problem. in time it straightened itself out.. i hope my opinion does help you.

I'm a speech pathologist and I have to tell you not to worry. The letter /l/ is not worked on in therapy until the child is about 6 years old. If you think your child is able to and or feel the need to do something...you could practice the /l/ sound in the mirror and show him tongue placement....or do auditory discrimination activities.

it can be a normal problem for some children. my brother almost always had the problem. like Linda (his god-mother) he was calling her Winda until he was close to his teens. My mother put him in a speech class in his school (i think instead of 2 extra-curricular classes he took 1 and then the speech class, though it could have been after school...it was about 10-15 yrs ago though). Now he doesn't really have problems with his speech unless he gets really excited and doesn't pay attention to what he's saying, basically just blurting out what he's trying to say...and then if you just ask him to repeat himself he says it slower and you can understand perfectly. And with him it wasn't just his L's, it was also some S's. I guess just see if you can get him in a speech class. it's not that big of a deal if you catch and deal with it early on. Good luck, hope i was of some help.

Children who speak 2 languages are more likely to master them a little later than a child that only speaks one, they will understand more than they can articulate...also a child isn't cabable of making all sounds and some word sounds aren't even developed til around 8yrs old...this being said if you are concerned with his speech a simple thing you can do is have him drink through straws...it stregthens his muscles...also if you are still concerned ask your peditrican and/or have him tested...your public school system should have a pre-k special needs testing and speech all for free...(they test for everything) and don't worry if they decide your child needs help they provide it and just because they get it early doesn't mean they will be classified as special needs forever...I've had 2 of my sons tested...both scored above average in everything but speech, one had services from ages2 and 1/2-4 and 1/2 and was declassified before he entered kindergarden and needs nothing now and my other lil guy is in it right now and doing so well I am sure the same thing will happen....either way you win, they need help and get it or they don't need help and you get piece of mind...good luck!

Hi L.,

My name is A. and I am a reading teacher. I have been teaching for about 13 years and have worked with hundreds of kids. He is only 3.5 so it could be developmental meaning he just needs a little more time to work it out - which does happen sometimes. However, if he appears to be struggling, or notices that he is not maing the sound he should make, then it is worth bringing him to a speech and language pathologist. They can can give him a very routine screening and let you know if this is developmental and will correct itself in time with further exposure / school, or if he needs to work with a speecha nd language teacher to help correct his speech patterns. Don't panic, but start there. It is actually more common than you might think. I hope it all goes well.
A.

Hi L.,
Two of my sons had the same problem. In the case of my older son, when he entered kindergarten, the public school provided speech lessons. We did the assignments at home and the pronouncement was corrected very quickly. My other son had a few more problems so we took him to a speech therapist prior to kindergarten and again, it was corrected within 6 months. It couldn't hurt to take him to a speech therapist for an evaluation if you are concerned.
Donna

Hi L.,

As a speech-language pathologist I can tell youthat a child not pronouncing their "L" by the age of 3 is completely normal. Each sound develops at different ages and "L" isn't supposed to be fully developed until 5 to 7 years of age. At this point, be thankful that he has such a large vocabulary!

Here's a good website that gives a chart regarding sound development in children. There are some techonological speech language therapy tools in there but it should ease your mind.
http://members.tripod.com/Caroline_Bowen/acquisition.html

Good luck and relax it sounds like your child is doing well. . . ;-)

My son also had a tough time with "L" -- also when he was about 3...but I am happy to say he outgrew it. I would say that every now and then the L sounds a little weird to me..but I have been told the letter L is hard for young kids. I wouldn't worry. I will tell you what I did that helped. I used to tell my son Alex, "Take your tongue and tickle the top of your mouth..and say "love" or "lollipop." He thought it was funny...but it was actually training him to put his tongue in the correct place to say those words.
Good luck and don't panic. If you feel like there are other sounds that he is having trouble with, then check it out to ease your mind. As one mom to another, It's all not easy. It's always something for us to worry about. (I am 44 with two boys ages 5 1/2 and 8) A.

It is normal to have trouble with L until your little one is around 5. If he is still having trouble than you can see a speech pathologist to ask a few questions or have him/her give you a few suggestions.

K.
Speech Language Pathologist

I find it is fairly normal with kids that young. He may very well work his way out of it. If you are really concerned, have him screened by a speech pathologist.

You mention that your son is 3.5 years old? Before I was a stay at home mom I taught first grade. In a classroom of 25 I typically had 1 or 2 that struglled with the L. When I would send them fora speech evaluation I was told that the letter wasn't considered a concern by the speech teachers until second grade.( 7 or 8 years old) But no less frustrating early on

Hello L.,
I am a speech language pathologist in NYC. /L/ and /R/ are the two hardest sounds in the English language to pronounce. Many children have difficulty pronouncing them and typically they grow out of it and are able to produce them by 5-7 years old. The school systems typically won't treat articulation just for sounds like /L/ until they are 8 years of age, if there are no other misarticulated sounds in their speech. If you every feel concerned you can seek help from your local speech language pathologist (get a little early treatment to nab it) or get evaluated by early intervention services in your area. But don't be too worried :)

C.

L. my daughter was a late talker (at 18 months she said a total of 4 words). Now 13 months later and 2.5 yrs. old she talks in full sentences (6 and 7 word sentences) uses words like delicious, fantastic and even conjuctions, e.g. I'm going to sleep now momma. Her speech therapist is coming over Thursday. I will ask her about the "L" for you.

I will not tell you not to worry because I know I did when my daughter was basically grunting and pointing at 18 months. Just make sure you teach him and guide him. You're a teacher so I am sure you know what to do.. Make it fun when you try to work with him on it. I am sure it will come eventually.

My daughter is going to be 3 in a month and she has the same trouble. My nephew did too. It's quite a normal thing for children. My daughter never had a problem with K or R, just L's and B's. Her L's are sometimes W and her V's are sometimes B's. We've only just started correcting her within the past month and a half or so and she now sometimes catches herself and corrects it. All you really have to do is correct them when they make the mistake. My sister had asked the pediatrician (we use the same one) and they said it was normal and by the time he hits kindergarten it will correct itself and it did. He no longer has any problems with his letters and hasn't for a while. It probably stopped around the age of 4 with him. And if it's still a problem once your son hits grade school he may have a speech therpist. I went to a speech therapist right in school for an hour like twice a week until 3rd or 4th grade b/c I had a lisp. I no longer have one and have never since then had a problem. I wouldn't worry yourself too much about. Just try to correct him when you notice it and I'm sure you'll find it will fix itself pretty soon. Good luck!

It is very common for kids to have problems with the letter L. Sometimes up until they enter Kindergarten. Many of the kids in my son's class that rec. speech rec it for TH, L and R. My daughter is 4 and she is just starting to get the hang of the L. But still has trouble with it.

N.

I believe this is common. My oldest daughter had a little trouble with the letter L also, we played a game with her and over emphasized the letter L while saying the phrase, "I Like it, I Love it!" It was fun and she learned quickly to pronounce the L correctly! Have fun with it and good luck.

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