The long ‘e’ /i:/ sound is the first sound in the International Phonetics Association’s (IPA) list of vowel sounds. When you look at the vowel quadrilateral, it is the first sound you see. We could describe the long ‘e’ sound as a universal sound. In Nigeria, all the major dialects have the sound, so it is not a difficult sound for Nigerians to articulate.
The only difference that can be noted between the ‘e’ in our dialects and the English long ‘e’ is in the variation in length. The English ‘e’ is a long sound and so it is always loud. Phonetically, it is described in English as a front close vowel produced with spread lips.
How to teach the /i:/ sound to beginning learners
Show an item that contains the long ‘e’ sound. Use an item everyone is familiar with. For example, a piece of sweet.
Ask if anyone can spell the word. After the word is spelt underline the double ‘e’ in the word and ask if anyone can sound it.
Explain that the double ‘ee’ has the long ‘e’ sound and write out the phonetic sound /i:/. Give other word examples (Bee, weed, cheek) and explain that when the learners see the double ‘ee’ in words, it will most likely have the /i:/ sound.
Ask the learners to supply more word examples with the /i:/ sound. They will supply a mix of words. Some are spelt with other letters; some may not contain the sound. Use a dictionary to show them how to confirm whether a word has the /i:/ sound or not.
Have the learners say the /i:/ sound in isolation and then practice writing it down in their notebooks.
Word Examples for the Long ‘e’ Sound
Phoebe /fi:bi/ foetus /fi:tәs/
Sheila /∫i:lә/ peak /pi:k/
Phoenix /finɪks/ please /pli:z/
Queen /kwi:n/ Cheek /t∫i:k/
Machine /mә∫i:n/ feature /fit∫ә/