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Where in the World - Teaching in South Africa

Our ‘Where in the World?’ interviews aim to provide you with some insight into the great travel and teaching opportunities that are available to TESOL graduates. In each interview, we speak to past TESOL graduates about their experience of living and working abroad as an English teacher. We hope that you will find these interviews interesting and informative and that they will help to inspire your own English language teaching adventures.

Teaching English as a foreign language in South Africa:

With this newsletter we bring you Nozipho Mahlabane’s accounts of teaching English as a foreign language in South Africa.

Nozi Mahlabane

Hi, my name is Nozi. I am 26 years old. I am from Pretoria, South Africa. I am currently an EFL teacher at the Wits Language School. My love for travel attracted me to the opportunity of teaching. It’s been an interesting few months that I have enjoyed. The challenge of being in class daily is what excites me and keeps me coming back for more. When I’m not working I enjoy outdoor sports and hanging out with friends.

When did you complete the TESOL course?

I completed my TESOL course in May 2014.

What interested you in completing a TESOL qualification and why Wits Language School?

I wanted a change of scenery from my old environment and have always been interested in teaching and travelling. The TESOL course seemed perfect at giving me the chance to do both. I chose Wits because of their outstanding reputation and quality of education. They are respected as one of the leading universities in Africa. Knowing this made it slightly easier to part with my hard earned money.

How did you go about looking for your first teaching job?

Whilst completing the course I noticed a job advert on the School notice board. I took my chances with applying, after I had completed the TESOL course given that I had no experience at all. I was asked to prepare and teach a demo lesson as part of my interview. Before being appointed I was given the opportunity to observe a few of the classes and got first-hand experience of the teachers in action.

Where was your first teaching job?

Wits Language School – English as a Foreign Language Department

How long have you been teaching there for?

I have been teaching at the Wits Language School for approximately 8 months. This includes the training and observations that I was provided with.

Why did you choose to go to stay in South Africa?

To be rather honest I was afraid of the thought of teaching in a foreign land with no experience. I wanted to be sure of my abilities before going abroad and also to gain some experience.

Are you planning on teaching abroad in the future? If yes, where and why?

Yes, but I’m not sure anymore. I want to go either an Asian country (for the competitive salaries), or a South American country (for their fascinating cultures).

What is it like to teach English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) in South Africa?

Awesome. Fun. Every day is different. Every course is challenging and seems new. The students are really kind and so eager and willing to learn. The diversity in the classroom is interesting and I enjoy learning about their cultures without having left the comfort of home. The pay is also good.

What is a typical day like for you teaching English to foreigners in a largely English speaking country?

Well, class begins at 09h00 and ends at 13h00. Lessons are built around speaking and being as communicative as possible. We were taught that a language must be usable to the student. The student must be able to express themselves and talking is encouraged. We also have tons of fun playing games that build on their proficiency skills. Every day is different but the students are young adults, so it is important to incorporate an element of fun that encourages them to use the language and whatever they have learnt in whatever way possible.

How did the TESOL course prepare you for your first job as a language teacher?

The teaching practicals were damn scary at first but once you got used to the methods and templates it made the job much easier.  Doing the course was one of the best decisions I have made in terms of preparing myself for my dream adventures. Looking back I know that I would have seriously regretted not completing the course, I would have cheated myself. Teaching is definitely not an easy job and I can see how difficult my days would be without being prepared. The lesson plans that I hated completing on the course have since become my saviour.

What do you love/hate about teaching in South Africa?

I love everything; it’s home. I am doing what I love, in the country I love.

Would you recommend teaching in South Africa to other EFL teachers?


What advice can you give to EFL teachers thinking of teaching in South Africa?

Be prepared for diversity. South Africa is a diverse nation on its own. Now imagine that diversity with a mixture of individuals from around the world. A classroom could be mixed with students from around the world as well as fellow south Africans whose home language is Zulu. Yes, it is very possible to teach South Africans English. It’s a crazy adventure. Living costs are relative to your salary and there are tons of things to see and do. It’s a great place to be in.

What are your plans for the future?

To teach overseas for a couple of years, mostly for the experience, and then come back home and continue teaching. South Africa can use all the help it can get when it comes to education.