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My first month in London, in the summer of 2006, was a total disaster. I came to work as a barmaid in an Irish pub near Finsbury Park (to cover for a friend of mine who was going on holiday). Looking back, I was really lucky that it was only for a month, but boy, what a month it was! I was far from being myself, dreaded every single day, afraid to make eye contact, terrified of speaking and unable to understand the majority of customers in the pub, who were mainly ordering pints of lager. I had problems sleeping, lost weight and showed the first signs of depression. I realised that all those years of learning English, all the money my parents had spent on private English lessons, were totally useless as I could not communicate in English at all. Frustration made things even worse as I couldn’t see any improvement despite living in London. So what the hell was happening?!

You can imagine how happy I was when my friend returned from holiday. I was literally ecstatic. However, summer wasn’t over and I had rent to pay, so I started looking for another job. I found work relatively quickly, this time as a shop assistant in a grocery store in Oakwood. Most of my customers were older people who spoke English rather slowly and that helped me get used to conversational English in a variety of different accents. After a fortnight I was finally able to communicate in English! Success!

You might not realise, but English doesn’t have a ‘standard’ form of pronunciation. I wish everyone could speak with a ‘BBC English’ accent, however that’s impossible. For that reason, listening to different accents is a vital step in the language learning process. Some of you will wonder how on earth you can listen and be exposed to different accents – well that’s easy, provided you have access to the internet and YouTube. Here are some videos and my favourite podcasts that might help you get accustomed to the flow of English spoken by people from different countries e.g.Chinese English, Indian English, Irish English, Russian English.

Hope that helps! Have you had similar experiences? What’s your golden rule when it comes to learning a language?

By the way, do you have similar experiences?  What’s your golden rule when it comes to learning a language?

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