"They read a newspaper."
Translation:Sie lesen eine Zeitung.
I am not entirely sure how to tell the genders but it doesn't depend on the object it is referring to. Sometimes it does, for example Mann is masc, and Frau is fem. However Madchen (girl) is not fem, it is in-fact neuter.
If there is a way to work out the genders without just knowing that that word it masc, fem or neuter i would love to know!
I have no idea what a soft "i" sound is supposed to mean.
But lesen has one pure vowel in each syllable; there are no diphthongs or semivowels or other combinations of two vowel sounds.
The German "long E" sound doesn't exist in English. In the International Phonetic Alphabet, it would be [e:].