I agree with Steve Kaufmann’s statement that wanting to speak like a specific person is very important when trying to achieve a high accent proficiency in any language. However, I do not agree with his statement that learning the IPA is much LESS useful.
I do not simply disagree with it just because I am infatuated with Phonetics-and, in a way I’m biased- but because through the IPA I was able to perceive the difference between similar sounds myself. I remember myself as a freshman, having my first Phonetics classes at the University. As I am a highly visual learner, I can still feel my amazement at looking at two different IPA symbols: the long and short front close vowels. And this was just the beginning of “discovering” new sounds. Sounds which I had heard and maybe studied before, but for the first time, become AWARE of their existence. Therefore in my particular case, I first “saw” the sounds, realized they were two different ones, and started producing them.
There is quite a large amount of highly visual learners out there. They might “see” the symbols as relevant. Since we are all different, and we all learn in a different way and pace, I think we need to focus on discovering what actually works for us. And use it.