I am an ESL teacher working in China. During lessons, I am occasional interrupted by students or parents who point out that my pronunciation of some words is incorrect. They then produce a dictionary or text book and point to the IPA guide or pull out a electronic dictionary and play the rather tinny sounding, low quality, usually American, recording of the word.
Usually I am unable to discern any significant difference in pronunciation. If there is a difference, it will be in the vowel sound which in English is highly variable from one region to another. However the student/parent will argue adamantly that their book or dictionary is correct even though I am a native English speaker with an middle class, albeit regionally slanted, accent.
I think the situation is exacerbated in China as they have a concept of Putonghua or 'Proper Speech' in their native tongue. My university students have to take Putonghua exams to show that they can speak Chinese in a correct, standard, style. They thus extend the same concept to English. They know that AmE and BrE are not the same but they fail to understand that within these, there are large variations in accent and that nobody speaks a truly standard accent.
So with that background, on to my question.
I am looking for explanation and/or resources that can assist me in explaining English accents to students and parents who query the correctness, or rather validity, of my pronunciation. Does anyone have any ideas on how to teach students about accent differences within English?