Thanks to Susanna Zaraysky who sent me this. Time reviews a book, in an article called “How to speak like a native”, about achieving native fluency, which basically seems to concur that this is a futile goal, and which debunks the accent reduction industry at the same time. I think we can get close, if we pay attention, but close is all we should aim for. Some will get closer than others.
I spoke to a lady here in Vancouver, yesterday, who has lived here for 40 years and speaks excellent but heavily accented English. Could she improve? I think so if it really mattered to her. If she really tried to notice the difference between her accent and some model of how she would like to speak. But she has to want to do this, has to choose a model, and has to learn to notice the differences.
Having a model, wanting to speak like that person, listening and repeating, these are all useful activities. Learning the IPA, looking at diagrams of your mouth, and comparing your results to some graph of the sound waves, are, in my view, much much less useful.