The difference between the ‘i’ sound (as in ‘ship’), and the ‘ee’ sound (as in ‘sheep’) is an important difference.
It is not hard to pronounce this difference, your mouth stays in the same position, but you squish the back of your tongue up slightly at the back. The ‘i’ is a very short sound. The ‘ee’ is longer. To start with, try making it very long, so the difference is obvious; when you get better at the sound, you’ll be able to make the difference obvious with a shorter sound.
It is very difficult to hear the difference between the two sounds.
If you can’t hear the difference, it is hard to copy the sounds, and hard to know if you are doing it right.
Once you can hear the difference, you can hear if you are doing it right or not.
Below are some simple examples to help train your ear, minimal pairs (two words that sound the same apart from one difference), some tongue twisters and song lyrics to practise with:
“bid/bead; chip/cheap; did/deed; hit/heat; lick/leek; pick/peek; rip/reap; ship/sheep; sin/seen; whip/weep”
“I slit a sheet, a sheet I slit, upon a slitted sheet I sit.”
“The big bug bit the little beetle, but the little beetle bit the big bug back.
And, as it’s nearly halloween, you might hear kids from the USA saying: “Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat…” (which finishes: “…if you don’t, I don’t care, I’ll pull down you underwear”).
“‘Cause it’s a bittersweet symphony this life…” – (from The Verve, Bitter Sweet Symphony).
“‘Cause I couldn’t sleep a wink last night, I didn’t have my favorite dream” – (from Frank Sinatra – I Couldn’t Sleep a Wink Last Night, featured in the musical film ‘Higher and Higher’).
“Waking up before I get to sleep, ’cause I’ll be rocking this party eight days a week, no sleep ’til, no sleep ’til Brooklyn” – (from Beastie Boys, No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn).
Here’s a list of other songs to practise with:
Peaches – Presidents of the United States of America
Big Big World – Emilia
Sleeping Village – Black Sabbath
Thinking About You – Radiohead
Dreaming While You Sleep – Genesis
Until It Sleeps – Metallica
I Didn’t Sleep a Wink – Willie Nelson
Peaches – The Stranglers