why does it sound like "sont-aye" instead of "sont-el"?
I think the el is there, but I agree it sounds like ayel. I guess it's just the particular accent - probably posh French. Like the Queen says "We should be getting orf".
does "sont" come from etre? just making sure.
je suis - i am
tu es - you are
il/elle est - he/she is
nous sommes - we are
vous etes - y'all are
ils/elles sont - they are
This is probably a very useful phrase in some parts of Paris...