Academic journal article Australian Journal of Social Issues

Anglo-Australian and Non-Anglophone Middle Classes: 'Foreign Accent' and Social Inclusion

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Social Issues

Anglo-Australian and Non-Anglophone Middle Classes: 'Foreign Accent' and Social Inclusion

Article excerpt

Introduction

This paper examines social inclusion of a cohort that has made up the largest component of Australian immigration over the past several decades: skilled migrants from non-English-speaking countries proficient in English who aspire to join the ranks of the Australian middle class through employment in occupations commensurate with their skills. (1) Paid employment is considered a key indicator of social inclusion in general (The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia 2013, 88, 95; The Australian Government 2013); for skilled immigrants in Australia, being able to make a successful professional transition following migration is a key aspect of successful settlement (Colic-Peisker 2011b; The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia 2013). Other elements of social inclusion, such as establishing social networks and social capital post-migration are significantly facilitated by gainful employment. In turn, all aspects of social inclusion are dependent on migrants' English language ability, and, as shown by a number of studies, also on having the 'right accent' (Callan & Gallois 1987; Lindemann 2003; Creese 2010; Fraser & Kelly 2012)

This paper builds on a concept of the 'multicultural middle class' (MMC) proposed by Colic-Peisker (2011a). Skilled and professional intakes from non-English speaking countries, a consequence of highly selective skills-focused Australian immigration policy over the past 35 years, are its key component. Apart from skilled and professional migrants from non-Anglophone countries, the MMC also includes the Australian-born 'second immigrant generation' of non-Anglophone origin who work in the white collar and professional sectors (ibid.). Given that we were primarily interested in speakers of English as a foreign/second language and the impact that their 'foreign accent' may have on their professional success and social mobility in Australia, we excluded the second immigrant generation from our sample because this group speaks English with a native Australian accent. (2) At the same time, they cannot be included in our definition of 'Anglo-Australians'. We therefore focus on only one group constitutive of MMC: first-generation immigrants whose first language is not English. In academic literature and policy documents this group has been known as 'NESB' ('non-English-speaking background') and more recently as CALD ('culturally and linguistically diverse'). We use the attribute 'non-Anglophone' for this group, due to our socio-linguistic focus and the inadequacy of the current official designation 'CALD'. (3)

Australia's linguistic diversity is increasing, as is the level of English spoken by non-Anglophones, both of these facts reflecting the expansion of the multicultural middle class. Skilled migrants proficient in English currently account for two-thirds of the planned settler intake (DIAC 2010) and have become a growing and recognisable part of Australian society. To this group, a large and increasing number of those who arrive on a long-stay temporary working visa (457) should be added. (4) As a consequence, people talking with various 'foreign accents', those visibly different from the white majority, and those with non-Anglo names--or any combination of the three--have an increasing presence in the white-collar and professional sectors of the Australian workforce. They are therefore likely to interact regularly with the Anglo-Australian majority in the workplace and, by extension, also in social situations.

We conducted a web-based survey of two groups of informants: 'Anglo-Australians' and 'non-Anglophone immigrants'. For the purpose of this study, 'Anglo-Australians' are defined as people born in Australia who grew up in families/households where only English was spoken and who therefore speak with a native Australian accent. 'Non-Anglophone immigrants' are defined as people who arrived in Australia as adults, having grown up speaking a language other than English (LOTE), and who therefore usually speak English with a 'foreign accent'. …

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