I taught for many years in Korea and while I was there, I noticed that Koreans have a strong preference to learn American English. The institutes, schools and universities often stress in their job advertisements that teachers from The United States or Canadians are preferred. Students are sometimes disappointed on the first day of class when they discover that their teacher is not a North American and some do their best to changes classes so that they can be taught by a teacher with “the correct” accent.
I understand the reasons for this preference but I am not sure if it really makes a difference. Many of the students in my class tried to imitate an American accent when they spoke but ended up sounding ridiculous. Very few second language speakers are capable of imitating a native accent. In my opinion, it is not a problem to speak English with the accent of the student’s country so long as the pronunciation is clear and the intonation more or less correct. If, like most people, you find it difficult to mimic a native accent, don’t worry about it. Just concentrate on good pronunciation. Accents are fine.
Students will soon realise that most or many of the people they need to interact with in education or business do not speak North American English and do not have North American accents. English is the international language and students are more likely to be dealing with someone fromIndia,ChinaorMexicothan a North American. It is vital that students are exposed to a wide rang of accents and different styles of English in order to communicate effectively with people of various nationalities and backgrounds.
Despite what many people believe, I don’t thing there is a huge difference between North American and British English. Often different expressions are used and on occasion the same word has a different meaning in each country but the differences are not so big as to make one style much different from another. A strong North American accent is just as difficult to understand as a strong British accent and likewise a neutral British accent can be understood as easily as a neutral North American accent.
If you are one of those students who believe that American English is the only style worth studying my advice is not to worry. It really isn’t as important as the quality of the teacher and the effectiveness of the methods you chose to study with.