A popular statistic that there are more English learners in China than English native speakers in the whole world is often bandied around to prove how popular English is. But actually there are probably more English learners in the world than people in China now, it’s predicted that there’ll be nearly 2 billion learners by the year 2020.
So it’s easy to imagine that 80% of interactions in English are between non-native speakers of English. But regular course books and exams still focus on native speech, and especially accents.
This creates a interesting problem for teachers, we know learners have to be exposed to non-native accents, because they will have to deal with them in the real world. But where can we find materials with good quality recordings of non-native speakers speaking English? I was really glad to find Katy Simpson’s website My English Voice, which includes listening activities to get used to other accents speaking English. There’s a great variety there from all over the world.
I strongly recommend if you’re learning English to try listening to voices from other countries, apart from the UK, USA, Canada or Australia. Especially if you’re moving to a big city like London, New York or Los Angeles you’ll hear voices from all over the world.
What do you think? Are there any accents that are really difficult for you? How important is it to learn about non-native English accents?