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Help a total bike dummy fix her bike!

I have a second hand, 18-speed, index shifting bike that I use for getting back and forth to school and running some errands. I've been having trouble shifting gears on it. The right gear shifter works fine, but the left one is struggling. When I twist the shifter into a new gear, the actual gear doesn't change. It will however randomly clunk into a new gear when I'm riding and haven't recently changed gears.

I've attached a photo showing the back gears. Let me know if something different would be more helpful!

I really now nothing about bikes except for how to ride mine around town, so any gentle advice with lots of layman's terms would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!!
Is this a mirror image? I have not seen a derailleur equipped bicycle with the chain on the left side.

The problem sounds like the shifter cable need adjustment. Typically there is a barrel adjuster on the shifter to take care of this. If there is not enough travel left, it will require screwing the adjuster all the way in, then pulling a bit of cable thru on the front derailleur.

See: How to Adjust Your Front Derailleur above.
A little hard to see in the photo. But the front derailleur either looks bent to me or maybe it is the wrong style for this bike. Either might explain the shifting problems. Was it working ok before and then got bad? Or was it always bad? Any crashes or impacts? A better phone of the crank area would help.
I will try to get a better photo today. it's actually my boyfriend's that I am using right now. It's been away in storage since November and I'm just using it now. I asked him and it sounds like there had been some problems with the gear shifting before. I'm actually planning on getting my own bike when finances allow, but until then, thought I'd try to make this one work for me.
I agree that the front derailleur does seem to not be correctly aligned, but you could have more than one problem. If the derailleur shifting late is when you are going down to a smaller chainring (front gears, rotating the shifter forward) then the cable is not moving smoothly due to lack of lubrication, rust or a kink. If you have a bike co-op locally they can probably help.

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