Does accent matter?

I was teaching Business English the other day and I had some very different students with very different accents – French, Portuguese, Indian – and they were engaged in a meeting. They were negotiating a deal, talking about cost price and profit margins and logistics and whatever happens in international business deals.

No-one in this discussion had a British or American accent but they were communicating quite effectively. And in front of me was a microcosm of our globalised world. People communicating – from different cultures and with different accents, but still communicating – without the idea of having to have a “perfect” accent.

There are fewer than 300 million native English speakers in the world and everyone else has an accent. And within those 300 million native speakers there are hundreds of different accents. Is it realistic for a student to need a perfect accent or should they be happy with just being able to communicate? What do you think?

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