The L is a tough consonant, there is a Light and a Dark version. Learn the difference between these two types of L’s, and study the positions with illustrations and up close, slow motion speech.
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In this American English pronunciation video, we’re going to learn how to pronounce the L consonant sound.
This sound is especially difficult.
There are actually two kinds of Ls and they’re not made the same way.
But if you look up a word in the dictionary,
there’s only one International Phonetic Alphabet symbol for both kinds of L.
In this video, you’ll learn when to make which kind of L.
First, the light L sound.
This is what most people think of when they think of an L.
The L is a Light L when it comes before the vowel or diphthong in a syllable.
For example, let’s— flake— release—
There are two different ways native speakers make this sound.
One way is to lift the tongue so the tip is touching the roof of the mouth just behind the front teeth.
This is not the same as the T, D, and N tongue positions
where the tongue lifts so the top is touching the roof of the mouth.
This is the tip.
Another way native speakers make this sound looks like the TH
with the tongue tip touching the bottom of the top front teeth.
The contact with the teeth is more firm than the TH sound
pushing up on the top teeth.
The tongue is not as loose or relaxed in the L as it is in the TH.
Let’s look at the Light L up close and in slow motion.
Here’s one way to make the L with the tongue tip coming through the teeth
to press up on the bottom of the top front teeth.
Here’s the second way to make the Light L.
The tip at the roof of the mouth just behind the teeth.
Here’s the word ‘lack’.
The tongue comes through the teeth to make the light L.
The word ‘slow’,
the Light L is made with the tongue tip at the roof of the mouth.
The second kind of L is the Dark L.
This is the sound that happens when the L comes after the vowel or diphthong
in a word or syllable like ‘real’ or ‘Google’.
This sound has two parts but many Americans leave out to the second part in most cases.
You should, too. It makes it easier to pronounce.
The first and most important part of the Dark L is the dark sound.
This defines the Dark L.
To make this sound, you don’t lift your tongue tip.
Instead, it’s down touching the back of the bottom front teeth.
The back part of the tongue pulls back towards the throat.
You can see there isn’t much jaw drop and the lips are relaxed.
Llll— you should feel the vibration in the throat and not the face. Lll—
The back part of the tongue presses down or shifts back.
This is an important part of the sound ull— ull—
Most Americans will stop there when making the Dark L.
Unless they’re linking into a word that begins with an L or a sound with a similar position like N, T, or D.
In that case, go ahead and make the second part of the Dark L. The second part of the Dark L is the Light L.
Bring your tongue tip up to the roof of the mouth or through the teeth. Some native speakers make the full Dark L both parts all the time.
What’s important is the dark sound. Make it with the back of the tongue and make sure you never leave that part out.
Again, the Dark L has two parts.
The first and most important part, the tongue pulls back or presses down in the back.
The second part, which is often left out, either option for the Light L.
Here, the option with the tongue tip at the roof of the mouth is pictured. Let’s look at the Dark L up close and in slow motion.
The word ‘feel’. The tongue tip arches in the front for the EE vowel. Watch as the tongue lowers in the back. Now, the tongue is lowered, pulling back a little bit in the back.
It’s hard to see because of the lips but the tip of the tongue is still forward.
Notice that the lips are relaxed. The word ‘recall’. The dark part is made with the back of the tongue as the jaw closes.
This time the Dark L does end with the second part the Light L.
The tongue tip quickly comes through the teeth. Lips are relaxed. The relaxation of the lips is important in the Dark L.
Many non-native speakers want to round or flare the lips which brings the sound forward and changes it. But the dark sound is made back here.
Leave the lips relaxed so the sound can be made in the back of the mouth.
When you look at the International Phonetic Alphabet transcription for a word in a dictionary, you’ll just see one symbol whether it’s a Light L or a Dark L.
It’s up to you to know when to make a Dark L. when the L comes at the end of a syllable.
Remember we’re talking about sounds and not letters. In the example, ‘Google’, you see the letter E after the L.
E is a vowel but when you look at the phonetic transcription of the word,
the last sound is the L. So the L in ‘Google’ is a Dark L.
ull— ull— Google—
If you integrate a good Dark L into your speech, it will help you sound more American.
The Light L.
The Dark L.
Example words. Repeat with me.
Love. ull— Love.
Hello. ull— Hello.
Flat. ull— Flat.
Feel. ull— Feel.
Table. ull— Table.
People. ull— People.