Voytek wrote: The first step for improving your pronunciation is to be aware of the foreign sounds in the target language and learning how to distinguish them if necessary. Toying with minimal pairs is really helpful here (unless there aren't any, then I suppose only a tutor and mimicking may help). Then it's only about learning how to produce those foreign sounds, keep listening (and practicing production if you really feel you need it). I've improved my English pronunciation massively just by being aware of the all native sounds and reading while listening to the audio at the same time. I never cared about my prosody which is obviously non native, but I've been mistaken for a native English speaker (by some natives too) and many people from the UK have told me my pronunciation was very clear and nice to listen to.
Therefore I consider a strong emphasize on learning pronunciation/prosody as something I could call "purism" or "parroting" if it lacks strong foundation and a deep understanding and mastery of the language. So you're right making yourself effortless to listen to is very important (we want people to listen to us eagerly) but trying to go beyond it is an individual matter and sometimes it's just vanity and a childish need to impress other people which may be harmful to other language learners who are struggling with their first foreign language acquisition.
When I was at a level C1 my pronunciation was bad though I could get by and I've seen/listened to a lot of non native English speakers who were advanced students but listening to them was just... unpleasant. I really advocate improving pronunciation to the level which makes listening to you at least painless.
I think this is where Hashimi and I agree and you disagree. You never cared about your prosody, whereas Hashimi and I believe that it is an important part of language learning. Many "polyglots" seem to have this idea that (1) achieving native prosody is impossible; or (2) working on your prosody is just "parroting" or something that does not belong to "real language learning." They seem to resent the fact that people who "don't really speak the language" get the credit only because they "sound" like a native.
Hashimi was only pointing out how biased this perspective is. I too believe that it is an important part of learning any language. For example, I had a classmate who was much more diligent in Hindi, learnt more words and spent more time perfecting her grammar but just would not give up her Korean girl's prosody when speaking Hindi. She got distinctions between all the minimal pairs correct, and her knowledge of Indic languages was far superior to mine, because she was a Sanskritist. However, when it really came to using the language and speaking it with Indian people, everyone thought that I was better at Hindi than she was, only because I had a more native-like prosody - and that made all the difference. This was only because I spent a lot of time shadowing or "parroting" native speakers' intonations and prosody.
Obviously, my perspective is also biased, and this is mostly because of my musical background as an amateur singer/instrumentalist. The way I practise my speaking is very similar to the way I practise music-making. There is no "perfect" interpretation of Handel's Messiah, but I must know how to manipulate my voice or my instrument to produce the effect I want. You can hit all the right notes in perfect rhythm, but you won't be making "music" if you don't you learn how to express through the soundscape you create - and you will be guided by the composer's notes and conductor's directions on how you can achieve the optimal expression.
Similarly, yes, I agree that there is no one "perfect" accent or intonation, since even native speakers have their verbal idiosycracies. However, as a language learner, I can learn how native speakers make use of different rhythm patters, prosodies and intonations to create the soundscape of their own language. You can get all the right consonants and vowels and perfectly distinguish similar sounding phonemes, but unless you use them in the way native speakers's parlance "directs" you, you won't be "speaking" their language. I think of it as playing the Erhu as you would play a violin, without really respecting the sound aesthetics of Erhu and the music it was meant to play. I understand that it can be difficult for some people, but then there are those who don't even try to change their accent in a foreign language and claim that they can speak it.
I don't think we will be reaching any agreement here. You are free to think of me and other learners as "parrots" who are trying to "scam" other people into believing that I am fluent. I just find it ironic that the very people who strive to achieve perfect grammar and vocabulary are happy to "get by" when it comes to prosody and intonation. Some of those people even believe you shouldn't be satisfied with "getting understood" with broken grammar and poor circumvention. It just feels like people are over-valuing what they think they are capable of doing, and belittling what they think they are not able to achieve. Sour grapes. खट्टे अंगूर।