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Living as a Non-speaking English Artist in English Speaking Country Research Paper

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Updated: Feb 14th, 2020


Living as a non- English speaking artist in an English speaking country is a fascinating challenge and an advantage to a nation since aliens in a country are play pivotal role in promoting cultural activities as well as innovation. Empirical and past comparative studies indicate that in the history of civilization and human culture, aliens in any given country have always been known as one major source of social vibrancy since they share local traditions with the local people alongside passing their own cultural values to the local population.

In cases such aliens are quite intimate with the local population. Then it is indefinite that a lot of unprecedented cultural exchange will indeed take place leading to a positive outcome. Brandellero indicates that due to the uniqueness of strangers or immigrants, local milieus dealing with production have developed keen interest of attracting and retaining them for purposes of enhancing growth and sustaining their economies (10).

As this paper analyses, artists are important personalities in any cultural economy bearing in mind that they act as forerunners in harnessing and generating capabilities through their own artistic works. By so doing, they directly contribute towards economic growth of the respective countries they are living in. It is also against this scope that this paper explores non-English speaking artists living in English speaking countries, their impact on the economy and some of the challenges facing them.

Understanding cultural and ethnic diversity

In her publication, Brandellero argues that cultural diversity and its link to the status of an outsider is a factor that creates tension, but has a positive effect towards innovative potential (11). While cultural diversity has myriad of similarities to ethnic diversity, it is prudent to mention that the former is a key driver and a potential source of innovation, creativity and building positive relationships. The latter are essential in enhancing mutual competitiveness.

In their cultural theory, Schwartz and Thompson elaborate that a new entrant into a foreign country may act as an intersection between the local community and outside world largely due to multiple ethnic and spatial ties. To emphasize on this, it is worth noting that contemporary immigrants, English or non-English speakers, are contributing immensely in strengthening of advanced urban economies by enhancing competitive advantages.

Effective understanding of cultural and ethnic differences have become some of the most fundamental requirements which businesses and immigrant artists need today since it assists them in building relationships by fostering understanding of the cultural values of members of different cultures alongside interpreting of their behaviors and actions.

The efficient performance of a non-English speaking artist as well as his or her participation in the growth of the economy of a host English speaking nation is to a larger extent, influenced by cultural differences experienced through complex interaction between the environment and individuals. Brandellero makes a significant contribution related to this argument by pointing out that an understanding of cultural diversity and ethnicity easily affect the degree of satisfaction, motivation results and behavior of individuals (35).

His argument concurs with Hofstede’s model and networking theory that demonstrate how cultural differences impact on the dimensions of an organization in terms of networking, gaining social capital, relationship marketing and development of human resource (Brandellero 54). Additionally, the differences also directly impact on intra organizational communication, problem-solving capabilities and creativity levels.

An artist who is living in the contemporary cultural economy has a greater advantage since the modern global economy has emerged as a thriving market offering colossal employment opportunities in many cities and countries globally.

Brandellero posits that the cultural economy offer potential support for artists of all nation whether English speaking or non- English speaking, and massive opportunities to generate artistic capabilities for productive purposes (20). This is made possible by the spatial manifestations created by the cultural economy, which play a pivotal role of attracting substantial and significant attention, which is an important playing field in the revolution of culture in a new economy.

Living as a non-English speaking artist

Living as a non-English artist in another country as opposed to one’s own native land is a major challenge brought about by the diverse changes that are mainly structural, of global proportion and that continuously alter and impact on experiences. Research studies clearly indicate that living and working in a foreign country may affect a worker’s private realms and social life due to issues such as industrial capitalism and rational forms.

Scholars on modern sociology point out that a lot of transformations involving cultural, political, economic and social processes happen differently in diverse nations and result in the emergence, development and flourishing of new structures of social life that may affect an immigrant worker.

Brandellero argues that non-English speakers migrating to other English speaking nations in order to work ought to understand the culture of the country they are going to live in bearing in mind that this will shape how they relate with the locals and enhance their business performance (14).

Needless to say, cultural understanding in a foreign land is of great essence if an artist is to reap the optimum benefits out of his or her artistic work. It is also prudent to underscore the fact that should cultural differences between artists and locals clash at any given point, then the expected benefits either to the artist or host country will be null and void.

Importance of effective understanding of cultural differences by non-English speaking artists

National culture is a phenomenon that distinguishes one group from another. Therefore, different nations have unique cultures that affect or largely determine how they run their affairs. A country may express its culture through conceptual elements such as arts, rituals or beliefs. For non-English speaking artists living in English speaking countries, it is definite that they indeed encounter myriad of challenges brought about by national culture.

Besides, when employed, they serve, co-work and interact with workers and customers from different cultural backgrounds who manifest various gender, ethnic, regional and national beliefs. This calls for an effective understanding of the local or national culture of a host nation and development of coping strategies in order to be productive. Most importantly, the barrier posed by language differences may not be eluded in most cases since an artist may not be a multilingual speaker.

According to Brandellero, for individuals or companies to perform successful business ventures in countries different from their own, they must have an effective understanding of different cultures (12). Besides, they must apply knowledge in management as tactics which are important for success.

It is imperative to mention that non-English speaking artists have to be flexible and keep changing their strategies to meet the needs and challenges a new cultural environment presents. Those intending to innovate or invest in the cultural economy must incorporate knowledge in management with the strategies they have devised. With globalization taking rapidly taking effect, these artists must come up with ways to overcome organizational and national cultures and the diverse challenges posed by the same.

Using Hofstede’s model, it is important to note that special cultures of diverse nations are based on different independent dimensions that include short term or long term orientation, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity or femininity, individualism or collectivism and power distance (Brandellero 62).

Understanding of the different independent dimensions will greatly assist a non-English speaking artist to predict how societies or nations that host them culturally operate. It is imperative to note that the culture of a given society is the sum of its assumptions, beliefs and values.

The man-made part of the culture of a society is influenced by the perceptions individuals have of their social environment. As such, a prescribed behavior of a particular society is shaped by those shared perceptions (Brandellero 43). An artist may not be able to directly observe culture, but can easily infer it from verbal exchanges and daily societal activities.

Knowledge of different cultures enhances networking

According to Pettigrew Whipp’s model of dimensions of change, effective understanding of different cultures assists business owner to develop their social networking behaviors (Brandellero 18). This argument clearly indicates that a non-English speaking artist who intends to succeed in his or her operations in an English speaking host country must possess or develop positive patterns of behavior necessary for social networking.

Indeed, many businesses today are operated with an intention of growth and maximization of profits. Positive networking behaviors should be enhanced by the non-English speaking artists as will not only aid them to effectively understand the cultures of the environment they are situated and build good relationship, but will also assist them to acquire scarce resources for business growth.

The effective understanding of factors such as masculinity and femininity cultures in a host country will enhance a positive networking behavior that will improve an artist’s relationship with the different cultures and aid it in obtaining external resources necessary to drive up arts business (Brandellero 19).

Brandellero supports the above notion and points out that effective understanding of different ethnic cultures of a host nation is a means of success for business owners who have developed networking skills (35). In fact, it is a common denominator underlying a business agenda and is suitable for establishing a higher networking behavior.

Mourkogiannis contributes to Brandellero’s argument by indicating in his moral purpose model that entrepreneurs, and in this case non-English speaking artists, should effectively and efficiently include social spheres in expanding their networks with a bid to develop a competitive advantage in a host nation (Brandellero 20). An artist can achieve this by raising his or her social status via vertical social mobility and learning the local language.

Additionally, studies have indicated that effective understanding of different cultures by a business creates for it a dyadic and interconnected relationship that has diverse ties such as influence, exchange and information. It is imperative to note that the aforementioned ties are part of a business’ assets that legitimizes the business, enables it to access resources and provides it with information.

In agreement, different scholars have used interactive perspective to link cultural and economic resources to economic opportunity structure in analyzing the effectiveness of businesses understanding diverse cultures. According to them different ethnic groups, depending on the structure of economic opportunities, brings income to a business.

From an interactive perspective, Brandellero points out that effective understanding of cultures helps in distribution of resources through built relationships (42).

Different societies vary in terms of status, power and class. As such a non-English speaking artist in an English speaking host country will be supplied with capital from ethnic networks depending on social relationships and ties built on social obligation and trust. It is imperative to note that customer relationship and ties with a business depend on a cultural enclave the business is in.

Knowledge of culture and relationship marketing

According to neoclassical microeconomic theory, relationship marketing is an important marketing activity that businesses having their operations in different countries carry out for successful establishment and sustenance of relational exchanges (Brandellero 32). An artist in a foreign nation can create a long-term relationship between his business and individuals or groups within a particular host culture in a relational market.

Neoclassical microeconomic theory presents a transactional school of thought that indicates that effective understanding of different cultures by a business will assists it in developing relational exchanges with the locals.

Consequently, this will aid it in the maximization of profits if it is found in a competitive market. Additionally, an artist living in an English speaking host country can develop exchanges with the locals and demonstrate rational behavior that shows a deep understanding of diverse cultures. Consequently, this will cause an artist to fashion his or her products to meet the cultural demands of the host country thereby making the artist to become a utility maximizer and a price taker.

Statistical literature revealing imbalance in art and theater

Past statistical research evidences have indicated that receive neglect in some countries. For instance, a report carried out in the nineties indicated that the Australian media failed to show a reflection of the diversity of the Australian people. Advertisement pictures and other programs conspicuously made exclusions to cultures that are not English speaking while portrayals in comedy only showed stereotypical images of the non-English speaking people.

Current statistics on non-English speaking representation in the media have shown estimations that slightly less than two percent of roles in the acting industry, especially in regards to mainstream drama in television, were directly played by other ethnic communities of Australia and the aboriginals (Bertone, Keating & Mullaly 30), an indication that the level of participation of first-generation Australians of the non-English speaking cultures is extremely low.

This indicates that there is only a small amount of cultural recognition of the non-English speaking Australians in the acting industry. Such low levels of recognition show that either the acting industry is ignorant of the non-English speaking Australians or simply their willingness in participation is relatively low.

Further reports indicated that in any given drama shown on the mainstream Australian televisions, out of the two percent non-English speaking actors, thirty-five percent were Australians while the rest were a collection of all other cultures that are not English speaking. Such figures have been continually used in debates regarding the participation of such low numbers. Authors have argued that such figures represent a “pitifully” low when put into comparison with the more than one-third of the Australian origin.

More arguments have indicated that portrayal of numbers in the media industry is a very vital indicator of commitment and participation in arts. In cultural societies with many cultures, it is obvious that there are also talented individuals in all cultures. They are thus expected to perform specific duties as their talents dictate.

In examination of the Australian culture, such low numbers of representation of other cultures in the theatre industry raise serious concerns about consideration of other cultures in Australian theatre. Being a non-English speaking artist in such a country stands a limited chance of penetration in the theatre industry given the low figures shown in previous reports.

Other measuring dimensions

Bertone, Keating & Mullaly (30) argue that it is not impossible to take measurements in regards to non-English speaking cultures, especially the first and the second generations, participation in the arts industry. They posit that ABS conducts census with details of birthplace, employment and occupation.

But there is omission of such cultures such as the Aborigines. With this consideration, they continue to argue that a report published in the mid-nineties, indicated that there were only ninety-five actors of the first generation out of the total 1506. This represented a mere six percent of the total actors in the acting industry, indicating a slight percentage of first-generation participation of non-English speakers.

These figures, they argue, represent only small fraction of numbers of what would be expected in the theatre industry. The second generation, with one Australian parent composed of eleven percent. The English speaking of Australian origin comprised of more than sixty-four percent of the total actors in theatre while those from English speaking countries comprised of the remaining eight percent. This still shows that consideration of non-English speaking people in Australian theatre industry was still low as reflected in numbers.

The use of numbers has been greatly disputed as a general concept of determination of participation of non-English speaking people in the Australian theatre and thus new modes have been developed. Consideration of demographics and economic realities of those involved in the theatre industry has been adopted as a new approach to determination of participation. By consideration of demographics, another report published showed great diversities in regional representations.

The report published by ASB showed that participation of people from outside Australia comprised of only thirteen percent of the total workforce. Out of these, approximately six percent are from Europe and the USSR. Approximately five percent are from South East, North East and Southern Asia regions.

The Oceania region is represented by only a fraction slightly less than one percent. Africa closes as the last in representation with only zero point five percent in the theatre industry. This is a clear indication that regions of origin play a role in determination of participation in the theatre industry (Bertone, Keating & Mullaly 38).


Such statistical evidences provided above have not been directly explained. The cause of the presence of such statistical evidence is yet to be determined. But with surety, there seemed no suggestion or presence of literature that lack of interest in the non-English speaking population was the major cause of such low numbers in theatre participation. There is an attributed presence of attitudes and barriers resulting from the involved institutes.

According to new evidences acquired by the ESB, there is a strong consideration of the view that opportunities available for non-English speaking Australians of the first generation were relative few compared to English speaking ones. This view, coupled with the previous fact of causal indicates that the non-English speaking people are marginalized in the Australian theatre.

Given that they have not failed to show interest in theatre and acting, explanation of such numbers raise serious concerns. Determination of real cause of presence in theatre industry is yet to be achieved.

Such under-representations may be considered invisible within public domain. Since research has revealed that there is a problem with cultural representations, alternation of the situation has failed to commence. Consequently, there has been automatic misrepresentation as multicultural societies are concerned.

This misrepresentation is sending a wrong signal of exclusion to the world with an indication of non-belongingness in the mainstream theatre industry. This thus implies that non- English speaking people are considered stereotypes and thus considered suitable for low and more casual positions such as “Taxi driver, cook and Greengrocer” (Bertone, Keating & Mullaly 76).

Problem of funding

It has also been noted that non-English speaking people undergo problems of funding in areas they participate, especially in regards to art. Bertone, Keating and Mullaly (78) continue to posit that the Non-English speaking in Australia, especially the first generation seem to dominate in areas which are less funded in theatre than areas with well-funded programs.

These areas include youth theatre groups, ethno-specific companies and theatres that are considered to be communal (Bertone, Keating & Mullaly 76). As a matter of fact, funding would be much appreciated, especially in line with acquiring necessary knowledge needed either to fund their investments or acquire higher levels of education to support their works of art.

These areas are not fully commercial and their contents are not of great influence in the media as mainstream contents are. As a result, they do not receive much attention from across English speaking Australians and are thus considered less competitive; hence the presence of a majority of non-English speaking groups. Due to this kind of attraction, there seems to be shunning from mainstream in regard to ethno-specific groups in Australia. As such, no commercial attachment is given.

On the proportionality of funding, there seems to be a disproportional approach to the situation. As revealed from interviews, literature and available evidence from statistics, there is great bias in theatre and art funding from sponsoring bodies. Although there are steps that have been taken to contain the situation, the disparities have not been eliminated.

With the creation of funding workshops and organization of church bodies to sponsor art in Australia, equal funding has not yet been achieved. The national State government has also shown concern to lack of funding in multicultural art. As a result, it has shown great devotion by commitment through a creation of a funding program aimed at funding multicultural art in Australia (Bertone, Keating & Mullaly 58).

Despite these efforts, mainstream related theatrical organizations continue to dominate attraction of funding from willing bodies (Bertone, Keating & Mullaly 62). This has been associated with related profits and achieved from productions related to mainstream. Sponsors have thus put more in mainstream with a view to regain or sell their image to the public. Project-related events have increasingly dominated the mainstream art industry due to organizational perspective.

Barriers to multicultural art

In most countries with multicultural practices, there is always the problem of balance. In Australia, there seems to be a problem as regards this balance of English speaking and non-English speaking due to several barriers. To begin with, the domination of English cultures and traditions continue to alienate content related to non-English speaking cultures.

Secondly, there is an observed lack of willingness as far as theatrical art is concerned. Attribution of class boundaries has locked out interest of multicultural participation in art. For instance, non-English speaking people are considered working class and thus thought as unsuitable for creation of artistic content suitable for mainstream art industry in Australia (Bertone, Keating & Mullaly 35).

Thirdly, there are discrimination related implications in auditioning processes whereby individuals are given content in a complex language. During funding applications, there is a problem with the application process whereby there is need for clarification of nationality and whether one is English speaking or not. These are aimed at eliminating non-English speakers from English speakers as theatre and art are concerned.

Other problems such as market size and unobservable risk-taking in the industry for non-English speaking additionally added to the problem of limited numbers of non-English speakers in art and theatre. Conservatism has also been identified as one of the leading problems due to the fact that theatre audiences have been thought to be conservative and thus unlikely to accept new content, different from original English.

Philosophical perspectives

There have been diverse views in regards to the multicultural imbalance in art as depicted in Australia. Many philosophers have argued under the perspectives of social just, indicating humanistic approach to the situation. They claim that recognition of different cultures is imperative in a multicultural society.

This creates a society that embraces diversity and respect for all human beings. They have however noted that, success in this regard needs careful planning and production of competent content (Bertone, Keating & Mullaly 50).

From the dimension of laizze fair, arguments such as industrial self-regulation of art and theatre industry should prevail without integration or intervention of external bodies. In either case, there has been proposition of recognition of multicultural practices in a society that has minority cultures that accept majority culture content.


It is evident from the discussion that there is marginalization of non-English speakers as artists in English speaking nations, for example, as apparent in Australia. Of great concern are those who do not understand English language for purposes of understanding the local culture. Although the claims have been arrived at from statistical approach, demographical and economic approaches have also shown correlation to supportive evidences.

The obvious disparities have been attributed to several problems faced in art and theatre industry such as problems of funding, lack of will, discrimination and conservatism. Light from philosophical perspectives have raised attention to the situation. As argued from a social justice dimension, recognition of multicultural environment is important in fostering national unity and achievement of human respect.

In most cases, the challenge posed by traditional and cultural balance has been noted as a growing challenge that needs to be addressed for the sake of assisting artists who may be disadvantage by language barrier. As already mentioned, artists who are non-English speakers may be alienated by the dominant English cultures and works of art that may be dominant compare to those of non-English speakers.

Although both art contents may be relatively similar, it is definite that non-English speakers who practice various works of art may be largely disadvantaged in one way or another. In terms of theatrical art, there seems to be lack of cultural willingness seems to be dominant in most English speaking nations bearing in mind that cultural differences may pose real challenges to non-English speakers. On a final note, it is prudent to mention that societies differ a lot in terms of class, power and class.

While these variations may be welcome in terms of diversity in generating resources both for native and non-English speakers, it is prudent to mention that ethnic differences may adversely play a negative role in alienating non-English speakers. Various factors play unique roles but of great importance are the role played by language in promoting cultural harmony.

From the philosophical point of view, industrial self-regulation of both art and theatre industry ought to take place with proper regulation of the industry by relevant bodies. There are doubts that regulation of artistic works may no be balanced or uniform across the board. As a matter of fact, those who may suffer in this situation are the aliens who are non-English speakers. It is indeed necessary to recognize multicultural practices among different artists from various backgrounds.

Works Cited

Bertone, Santina, Keating, Clare & Mullaly, Jenny. The Taxi driver, the Cook and the Greengrocer: The representation of non-English speaking background people in theatre, film and television. Melbourne: The Australia Council, 2006. Print.

Brandellero, Amanda. Crossing cultural borders? Migrants and ethnic diversity in the cultural industries. London: European Cultural Foundations, 2007. Print.

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