See, everyone has a different opinion of what English language should sound like. Not even mention the different spellings in the different continents.
I’ve had friends who didn’t understand me at all, and others that tell me I’m the only person they get when speaking with people. I remember this experience watching at the UK parliament session once where everyone was ‘fighting’ because they didn’t understand each other. And there were many interpreters whom where helping out. So far I understood, this happens every time they meet… so it got me thinking and I found out even more crazy things.
Every English speaking person will consider himself as the one who is speaking the proper way (I used to be one of them… until I met more people of each country) and the real fact is that there’s no such thing as “the correct English”. Well, there are rules and grammar (don’t confuse this), but the evolution of the language is updated every day.
This is the language that has taken fancy words from other languages. Such words common used as ‘bon appetite’ from French, ‘solo’ from Spanish, ‘Sayonara’ from Japanese… yes, that’s no English but now they belong to the culture. Got to blame Hollywood for that…
I find it very entertaining when people try to persuade non-native speakers that the correct way to say something is ‘this way’ only.
I remember this guy who never heard the joke ‘Potato –Potato’ and he was insisting in the first ‘correct way ‘ of saying it. There’s nothing wrong on having such an argument, but the joke exists because either in American, British or Australian English… the word is the same and sounds comprehensible.
Why am I saying all this?
Because you may be one of these people who get discouraged when having such comments over the way they speak. But let me tell you, the basic thing is (trying) to communicate; once you have let go of the fear, then is just matter of practicing, adapting and continue walking forward.
You shouldn’t feel afraid of people’s corrections; instead appreciate them. And if for some reason you feel that you can’t handle their feedback, just tell them (nicely) that you don’t like it and be honest, if you feel it blocks you, just tell them how uncomfortable it makes you feel.
I personally have high respect for people speaking with accents, once I heard a great sentence ‘People with accents should be respected even more, because it means that they speak more than one language’. Touché! Points for you!
And have you seen how many sources you have online?! Now you can find tutors, teachers, online-courses, official tests, etc. There are so many options. Not to mention the material; movies, documentaries, music, cartoons, books, audiobooks, the majority of the internet is in English! Somehow, instead of feeling behind the language, you should feel lucky. I wish I found so much material in Russian (for example).
Now, the best way to achieve a good level in English is by memorizing vocabulary and verbs with the good pronunciation, and then tries recognizing it in the newspaper or books. If you feel that you need help, look for it and ask. There’s nothing wrong with that. One thing is that you need to be patient. Specially with native speakers, who will be all telling you how weird you sound, but remember that not all of them are trained teachers and well… humans are humans.
One important tip I would say is that you stop using the translator-dictionary and start using the regular English definitions dictionary; and instead of looking for the translation into your language, looks for the definition in English. This will enhance your vocabulary and comprehension in the language, as well as practicing the cognitive skills. Also, if you heard one person saying it in one way and another saying it on another way, then don’t get confused… is just English! A century ago the language was even more dramatic than now. Teachers used to punished foreigner students when these said the words ‘incorrectly’ (with an accent), and what they didn’t know is that the muscles of their mouth and hearing skills were adapted to certain specific pronunciations. See, the pronunciation of the ‘R’ in Russian is very different from the ‘R’ in English, or in Spanish, French, etc. I even heard once that ‘people were just lazy and that’s why they don’t speak it well’…. Then again, this person doesn’t know the struggle of learning a second, third, fourth language.
And how do I know this? Because I love learning!