There are issues with English that are particular to English learners from different cultures. The Chinese students seem to have the most difficulty. English and Chinese are very different from each other.English:
Is a phonetic language, but each of our letters--vowels especially--has many, many sounds. Spanish has five different vowel sounds while English has something like fourteen.
Our writing system is based loosely on the sounds that the words make.
Verbs are used in English to tell about the time frame as well as the person performing the action. I walk, I will walk, I walked, I have walked, she walks ...
We use a lot of articles (the, a, an), but not every noun needs an article.
There are many words in English that are said the same, but have different meanings. Reign, rain, and rein, for example. There are other words that are spelled the same and still have different meanings ... could you present the birthday girl with the present? The excuse was invalid because the person wasn't an invalid. The soldier said he'd desert in the desert. Tough stuff!Chinese:
Chinese is a tonal language. Slight dips and rises in the tone of a sound change the meaning. English is not.
The Chinese system of writing is logographic--the symbols don't represent sounds, but words/concepts.
I don't believe that the verbs are conjugated in Chinese. Can you imagine how much easier that would be?
There are no articles in Chinese.
Of course, these are just some of the differences. I have noticed that the Chinese students here especially struggle with verbs (tense and agreement) and articles. Verbs would take a long time to master, but learning when to and when not to use an article should be a little easier.
There are over a hundred million words in a dictionary.
My huge, unabridged dictionary has 450,000 words. Many of those are obsolete or scientific/specialized in nature.
Do native speakers meet with new words when reading, with new phrases when communicating that they cannot be understood?
Yes, but not very often. There is rarely a word I don't know on television, in the movies, or in regular conversation where the language is more common. I sometimes run into a word I don't know while I am reading. This is more likely to happen if I am reading a classic text.
Reading what kind of material can I have an access to more of these native usage of language to improve my writing ability?
You need an English-speaking lover. A patient one. *grin* English is used differently in speech and writing--especially formal writing. Let the people around you, especially those who are English speakers, know that you are open and inviting of corrections.
What does our English look like in native speaker's view?
It is usually pretty easy for me to tell the native language of the writer by the types of mistakes. The Chinese students are likely to leave out articles or use the wrong verb tense. Sometimes the words will be just slightly off from the way an English speaker would normally phrase things. For example, we'd usually say, "What does our English look like to a native speaker?" Or, "How does our English look to a native speaker?"
Is it full of mistakes?
Yes. There are varying degrees of course, but the errors are usually numerous. I have read some essays here where there are only one or two errors per paragraph and others where there are four or five per sentence. Some of the differences come across as cute little quirks while other errors obscure the meaning the sentence. I am sometimes intimidated by helping the English learners here. I don't want to offend. I also don't want to make corrections without saying why
I'd correct a certain thing, but I don't know how much the person will understand.
My family has hosted a lot of exchange students from around the globe. We had two girls from Taiwan live with us for a while. They were very young--twelve and thirteen--and had been studying English with a native speaker for quite sometime. Their English was very good. They had the grammar down pat and were working on improving their vocabulary. I think that their early start and instruction from a native speaker helped them tremendously.
We have had several students from Japan. We used to host students from a particular high school for a month every summer. These students spoke very little English and even their teacher wasn't what I would call proficient. I know that Japanese and Chinese are different, but some of the same hurdles exist.
Learning another language is daunting! I wish you the best.