As a non native english speaker, I'm trying to work on my accent. I've taken a lot of bad habits so I'm trying to go back to the fundamentals meaning learning phonetics. But they seem very imprecise to me. For example the word hand.
Here the UK seems to pronounce the æ like it's really a single sound and the USA pronounce it more like two sounds: starting like hen then joing the ~ha sound. With such a big emphasis on the hen sound that if the word were pronounced quicker I think I would have heard it as hen with a d.
Now if I trust what I hear here, the USA seems to be right.
But this pronunciation seems to be very, very inconsistent. The word cat (same phonetics):
Here we have the same kind of pronunciation variation but "reversed". The USA cat is closer to the UK's than the USA hand but we can still hear a little hen sound at the beginning.
Now, worse : trap
Here the UK and the USA are strongly agreeing on disagreeing with the IPA pronunciation of æ pronunciation I linked before.
So, why two clearly different pronunciations have the same phonetics symbols ?
Why the same phonetic symbol can be pronounced so differently from a word to another within the same "accent" ?
Are phonetics simply unreliable and should only be used to know roughly how a word should be pronounced ?
Would the most effective method to be sure I pronounce a word correctly be to search on internet for video or audio samples of people pronoucing them in context ?