Starting this month, TOEFL have announced that they will now be including other native-speaker accents to their tests, so test takers will not just hear North American accents (http://www.ets.org/toefl/important_update/english_accents_added) . As a British TOEFL teacher this is great news for me as until now I have felt the test to be too American-centred. I know that the test is most commonly used by American universities and therefore an American accent is important, but I think that by taking this step, ETS, the test organisation, will become more marketable to other countries.
Now, we just need EIKEN to follow suit! At the moment, learners only hear North American accents until they reach pre-1! This is like saying that Japanese learners of English will never meet a non-North American until they are already at a high level of English! Preposterous, if you ask me! (But that’s just my humble opinion!)
I know that differentiating between accents is difficult for English learners anyway, so why not expose them to all sorts of Englishes? After all, the majority of conversations in English are actually between non-native speakers, so let’s bring on World English and face the notion of global English and mutual intelligibility front on.