Speakers of many languages in Sub-Saharan Africa have problems saying words with /i:/ as it is often pronounced the same as the short sound /i/. So they say ‘ship’ instead of ‘sheep’, for example.  

Say: ‘Smile. Now say “sheep”.’ Demonstrate and exaggerate the long vowel sound so that learners can more easily hear the difference. 

Say: ‘Now relax your mouth and say “ship”.’ 

Repeat this several times and remind learners about the position of their mouths. 

Repeat the procedure with the following pairs of words. In each case, the first word has the long /i:/ sound, and the second word has the short /i/ sound.  

  • heat / hit 
  • feel / fill 
  • feet / fit 
  • beat / bit 
  • meal / mill 
  • peel / pill 
  • seat / sit 
  • weep / whip 
  • lead / lid 

Write the words on the board and elicit that for words with the longer /i:/ sound, the mouth is much wider like a smile. 

Do pronunciation practice like this regularly to help your learners improve – but only for a few minutes at a time because learners can become bored and frustrated.


Demonstrate: To show and explain how learners should do a task. 

Elicit: How a teacher gets information from learners, e.g. asking questions, prompting.