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Speakers of languages such as Italian and Spanish tend to have difficulty pronouncing the 'I' in words such as it and is correctly. For example, they might pronounce "it is" as "eat ease."

Are there any good exercises that can help them pronounce the 'I' correctly?

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For an actual exercise, you would have to be face to face with a real teacher. But you can listen to a couple minimal i/e pairs in this video. The woman is really talking like an elementary-school teacher, but she pronounces the pairs clearly. You might want to practice these words beforehand, and see whether you pronounce them the same way she does in the video:

fit - feet

mitt - meat/meet

chip - cheap

sin - scene/seen

wit - wheat

itch - each

Youtube: The Difference Between I and E

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Using English vowel sounds: make an "oo" sound. Move to an "ee" sound. Note that the lips move and the tongue pulls back as you do so. If you can start with the "oo" and make the same lip movement without moving the tongue you will have sound you are looking for.

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Actually there is one that occurs to me, somewhat the reverse of one that English speakers can use to get the French u.

Make the u sound in "puro". While doing this, move the lips to make the i sound in "mi" ("unround" the lips, if you would), without (and this is important) moving the tongue. This should come pretty close. You will find that the main issue is to avoid pulling the back of the tongue up to the roof of the mouth as you do with the "mi" sound; the degree of pressure of the sides of the tongue against the sides of the mouth can vary more.

Another way to go at it is to make the "mi i" sound and attempt to relax and drop the back of the tongue from the roof of the mouth.

  • This might work with the French u, but that vowel isn't in Italian or Spanish. I don't think it can work with "puro", because the tongue is in a different position for that vowel. – Peter Shor Jul 24 '13 at 14:11
  • I was wondering if I mentioned the French whether it would be confusing. Apparently so. If you were to ignore that entire paragraph, then perhaps what I'm saying will be clearer. (With the French u for English people, the exercise is to make an "oo" noise, and then move the tongue to where it is when making a long e, leaving the lips as they are. So it's sort of the reverse of this exercise; here one keeps the tongue as is and moves the lips.) You'll note that the tongue is in approximately the same position when making the English i and the English oo; it's the lips that change. – BobRodes Jul 24 '13 at 22:42

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