Teaching English First Additional Language in South African Schools

Teaching English as a First Additional Language (EFAL) in South African schools requires a nuanced approach that caters to the diverse linguistic backgrounds of students. This guide provides educators with practical strategies to enhance the learning experience for EFAL students, ensuring they grasp the language effectively and confidently.

Understand Your Learners Diverse Backgrounds: Recognize that EFAL students come from varied linguistic backgrounds. Their challenges in the classroom are often due to language barriers, not a lack of intelligence or effort.

  • Bilingual Benefits: Remember that bilingual students can be dynamic thinkers. Their ability to think in multiple languages can offer unique perspectives and cognitive advantages.

Classroom Strategies for EFAL

  • Dual Instructions: Always provide both written and spoken instructions. This caters to different learning styles and ensures clarity.
  • Contextual Vocabulary: Introduce new words within the context of lessons rather than as isolated lists. This aids in retention and understanding.
  • Extended Glossaries: Offer comprehensive glossaries for new vocabulary, aiding in quick references and better comprehension.
  • Sight Words: Focus on teaching sight words, which form a significant portion of everyday English and aid in reading fluency.

Strategies for Individual EFAL Learners

  • Dictionary Skills: Encourage students to always have a dictionary at hand. Familiarize them with both traditional and electronic versions.
  • Mnemonic Devices: For challenging words, use mnemonic devices or anecdotes that connect the English word to a word in their native language.
  • Contextual Guesswork: Train students to deduce the meanings of unfamiliar words from the context in which they appear.
  • Flashcards: Use flashcards for vocabulary retention, ensuring students encounter new words multiple times.

Reading Techniques for EFAL

  • Pre-reading Activities: Before diving into a text, engage students in pre-reading activities like discussing related images or keywords. This primes their understanding.
  • Skimming and Scanning: Teach students to skim for the general idea and scan for specific information. These skills are invaluable for efficient reading.
  • Graded Readers: Use graded readers that match the student’s language proficiency, ensuring they aren’t overwhelmed by complex texts.

Writing Approaches for EFAL

  • Mind-Maps: Before writing, encourage students to use mind-maps to organize their ideas. This provides a clear structure for their essays or answers.
  • Drafting: Allow students to write first drafts without stressing over grammar or spelling. This ensures they focus on expressing their ideas.
  • Tech Tools: Introduce students to spell-check and grammar tools to refine their written work. This provides immediate feedback and aids in learning.

Collaborative Learning

  • Pairing with Native Speakers: Whenever possible, pair EFAL students with native English speakers. This peer interaction can be invaluable for language acquisition.
  • Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD): Engage students in tasks that are just slightly beyond their current level, ensuring they are challenged but not overwhelmed.


Teaching EFAL in South African schools is a rewarding endeavor. By understanding the unique needs of EFAL students and employing the strategies outlined in this guide, educators can ensure their students not only grasp the English language but also thrive in their academic pursuits. Remember, patience, understanding, and adaptability are key to successful EFAL instruction.