'u' is pronounced like an english 'i' in 'bin' or like 'ee', as in 'see'
Depends on whether you're in the north or the south :)
In the south, I believe it's [i], pronounced exactly like the letter "i".
In the north, I think it's a bit further back than "i" and closer to a German "ü", though not quite the same (it's not rounded). IPA (phonetic) symbol [ɨ]. Similar to Polish "y" or Russian "ы".
They explain the vowel sounds in the second part of this lesson, as well: http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/wales/catchphrase/catchphrase1/unit_1.mp3
I've also read/heard that some people in the south of Wales pronounce it more like /ʃʊt/ ("shoot", rhyming with "foot"), even though the letter u is pronounced like i in other contexts. Is that right?
I think this would be a lot more helpful if I knew HOW (no pun intended) to use it in a larger sentence.
It sounds a lot like 'set'. And from what I can tell, Celtic languages are difficult languages to master, even if it's just in Latin alphabetical letters. This might mean that there will be some more words that we will encounter in this language tree.
I'm hearing "sit" like "sit down". How close to or far from correct is that pronunciation?
That's pretty much exactly what it sounds like in South Wales.
In North Wales, the vowel is a little bit further back but still similar.
Wiktionary spells it [sɨ̞t]. So I suppose you're right: lowered [ɨ] is pretty much the same as centralised [ɪ].
And the long version, e.g. in tu "side", Wiktionary spells /tɨː/.
In South Wales, the vowels are written as /ɪ/ and /iː/, pretty similar to the ones in "sit" and "seat" in English.
So in the South, i and u and (in a final syllable) y all have the same pronunciation, while in the north, u and final y are the same as each other but are a bit further back than i.
Ah, so it's a bit more close as well. Gotcha. Thanks.
(Also, I just noticed your similar comment from 3 weeks ago.)
Well, the long version is as close as long /i:/, the short version apparently slightly laxed or slightly more open, similarly to /ɪ/.
So the main differences between the long and short North Wales version seems to be openness; the main differences between the South and North versions seems to be backness.