Are you searching for the ideal city in South Africa where you can learn to speak English? A city that’s less intense than Johannesburg, more affordable than Cape Town and has the best climate all-year round?

Then Pretoria is the place to be.

Known as the Jacaranda city, Pretoria is covered by a blanket of Jacaranda blossoms every October. There’s a tradition at Tuks (University of Pretoria) where students believe that if one of those blossoms fall on your head, you’ll pass the upcoming November exams.

Luckily the students who study at University are probably not searching for English courses and already passed their national certificate and English exams with flying colours . If they are international students, they probably passed an IELTS of TOEFL exam to prove their English language proficiency for university acceptance.

This article is not for them. This article is for students and learners who still need to master the basics of English. Those who come from the small villages all across Africa and South Africa. Those dreamers who are considering the big city as a potential gateway to their dreams.

If English is your second language and want to learn how to speak English comfortably, learn about English grammar or plan to do a bridging certification in English, we’ve got you covered. Let’s discover ESL (English Second Language) studies in Pretoria and how it can help you to get one step closer to your dreams.

Church square
Let your dream to learn English take flight in the streets of Pretoria - Image by Kyle Philip on Unsplash

Pretoria’s Life and Vibe

Nestled in the valleys of the Magaliesberg mountain range, Pretoria’s slightly warmer and more laid back than its intense sister city Johannesburg. Pretoria’s claim to fame for South Africans is the fact that it houses the country’s administrative Government in the iconic Union buildings. Visited by thousands of international tourists every year, a bronze statue of Nelson Mandela symbolizes the welcoming spirit of South Africans as they welcome the world with open arms.

The 2020 population of Pretoria was recorded as 2,566,000, a 3.76% increase from the previous year.

There are plenty of historical sites and other tourist attractions that make Pretoria such an ideal introduction to South Africa’s history and people. Only 40 minutes’ drive OR Thambo International airport and centrally located, it provides easy road- access to other provinces.

Places like The Kruger National Park or the garden route can be visited by purchasing a short local flight or by taking a leisurely road trip. South Africa is a lot larger than most people imagine, but this means it offers a diverse landscape, people, fauna and flora for locals and tourists alike to enjoy.

Kruger National Park
A four hour drive from Pretoria can take you to the Kruger National Park where you can spot lions and the big five - Image by Nima Sarram on Unsplash

What Can ESL Studies do for You?

The most important question when looking for the perfect school or English certification is to ensure it meets your personal goals and requirements. To study English, especially in a city that’s far away from home, takes significant investment.

You’ll not only set aside your time and efforts, you will also require funds to enrol, pay for your studies and cover the costs of living in the city while pursuing your dreams.

For that reason, it’s important to investigate all the possible options to ensure you apply and attend a school or college that offers the best accredited quality education, at a reasonably good price.

Most people who want to learn English as a second language, have some ideas around what they would like to achieve with their English skills. You’ll benefit greatly from English studies at an internationally accredited school if you want to achieve one of the following:

  • Comfortably visit and tour an English-speaking country
  • Master English as you know it is the general language for all international job interviews and offers
  • Improve your English skills for better job opportunities
  • You want to become a language teacher, or want to teach English abroad
  • You require a higher level of English proficiency for acceptance into a degree or qualification towards your dream career
  • You simply have a desire to learn English because you never know when you might need it

English second language speakers who plan to immigrate or further their studies in an English speaking country, will probably request proof of their English proficiency. The most common way of doing this is by writing and achieving good marks in an IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or TOEFL (Test of English as Foreign Language) exam.

During these exams all non-native speakers will be taken through four tests that will assess their reading, listening, speaking and writing skills. Both IELTS and TOEFL offer two types of tests - the first is a general English test, appropriate for immigration or if someone has a job offer, and their alternative Academic exams will enable people to become a teacher or teach abroad.

Learning to speak English fluently, involves a lot more than simply getting the pronunciation right to sound like a native English speaker. English courses usually include the following aspects to their language learning approach:

  • English vocabulary, general English phrases, English idioms or expressions
  • Intonation and speaking practice; when you speak aloud you will hear and memorize sounds to become fluent in your speaking
  • Learn about nouns, verbs and tenses
  • Learn grammar and how to use the language in writing English
Speaking English
Grammar usage and a clear understanding of verbs, nouns and tenses will help you to improve your English speaking - Image by Rica Tejada on Pexels

Study ESL at a Language School

Pretoria, like most South African cities, has a wide range of international and independent language colleges on offer. Your biggest challenge will be to research all these potential schools and find out which best suit your personal requirements.

Here are a couple of questions to help you determine the best school for your English Second Language studies:

  • What accreditations and certifications do they have?
  • Does the curriculum include reading, writing, comprehension and speaking skills?
  • Does the English certificate or qualification you’re looking at, offer beginner English, Intermediate English or the level fitted to your current experience?
  • Is it an online course, classroom style course or blended learning?
  • What is the duration of the course?
  • What are the fees related to the studies, enrolment, books and other administrative fees?
  • Do they offer accommodation and at what cost?
  • Are they located in a safe area?
  • How employable are students when they leave the school?

Draw up a short-list of schools that meet the core requirements according to you. Contact the admissions counsellor and check whether you meet the minimum admission requirements. You can also use this opportunity to ask any outstanding questions, research alternative study options or find out the best path of study to help you fulfil your career ambitions.

Most institutions require a small fee on application. If possible, we recommend that you apply to your shortlist of two or three institutions. You’ll only make the decision on which one to attend once you’ve been accepted and will lose the application fee paid to the schools you decline.

Schools, colleges and universities only consider students who were accepted for loans, bursaries and scholarships. If you are interested you can research these options and apply once you are accepted. This is an imperative step should you require financial assistance and usually students will go for the best quality school that provides the biggest bursary.

Cost of study
Ensure you include the cost of living when you determine the financial investment to your English studies - Image by Rodnae Productions on Pexels

Distance Learning and Online ESOL Studies

UNISA (University of South Africa) offers some exceptional correspondence courses and bridging certificates which can shorten the path towards your dreams. Correspondence courses will allow you to study wherever you are, you also conduct exams in specifically allocated exam centres in and around your area.

What makes UNISAs English programs so ideal is the fact that you can complete your certifications as a step towards other degree studies, all at the same place. Planning to study towards a degree will certainly influence which institution you select.

We recommend you contact the university you would like to attend as they might have a language course of their own or will be able to guide you in the required steps you need to take towards getting accepted.

Universities are generally more expensive than colleges and school, and the full-time study requirements means that most students cannot work while they study.

The Road to Your Dreams

Once you’ve chosen a great school, it is up to you to make the most of your studies. Your attitude, your dedication and approach to your studies is what ultimately makes a certification a valuable investment. Try to create balance in your life by mixing work and play, varying studies of with something you enjoy.

The most important part when you learn how to speak English, is the practical application thereof. Don’t be afraid to engage in English conversation whenever and wherever you can. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at it.

If you approach English with a keen interest, you’ll also be eager to explore and learn about the more detailed elements like phonetics, pronunciation, grammar and verb usage.

We live in a time where we have a lot of online tools, courses, tips and Youtube tutorials that can already aid you as you start to learn English, so you can start today by trying some of the below English learning methods.

Repeat English Phrases from Movies

You can make the process of learning English a fun one by watching some of your favourite English movies. There are plenty of blockbusters you can sink your teeth into by visiting the nearest cinema or streaming them from Netflix, Showmax or other VoD (Video on Demand) services.

A little trick you can try is to repeat the phrases and sentences the actors say and record yourself while you imitate the exact sounds and phrases. Your family and friends might think you’re a bit strange, but we’ll see who has the last laugh once you speak English like a native speaker or flaunt the American English accent. Listening back to the recordings will also help you to identify where you can fix vowels, consonants, intonation and other phonetic aspects.

Streaming English Movies
You can learn English speaking and improve pronunciation by repeating and recording your English phrases from movies - Image by Pexels on Pixabay

Read English Books and Blogs

Reading English material like books, blogs and news articles will also ensure you expand your English vocabulary while you learn many new English words and phrases. Be sure to google the words you don’t know or get an English dictionary to look them up.

Lastly try and see if you can use those words in conversation over the next couple of days as it will ensure you full comprehension and application.

Make Friends with Native English Speakers

Making friends with English speaking locals in Pretoria will be another added bonus if you choose to do an ESOL course or take English lessons in Pretoria. This will enable you to engage in casual conversation and even though you might feel challenged at first, your friends and peers will respect your courage and will most probably help you as you go.

English Friends
Learning English means listening to the sounds native speakers produce when they speak. See if you can make some English friends as you can learn form them - Image by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels

Above and beyond the fact that the city will allow you slightly more space to breathe, Pretoria is an ideal location if you want to apply your language skills. The majority of South Africans speak English as a second language and it’s certainly the language of choice when studying or working.

We hope you have enough information to take the first steps towards the life you’ve always been dreaming of with the Help of English studies.

Enjoy learning English and don’t forget to smell the purple flowers if you choose to study in Pretoria.

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Writer and qualified yoga instructor, who is passionate about health and well-being.