TEFL in The South African Context

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TEFL in the
South African Context

Learn more about Cultaral Awareness & South African English and what this means when becoming a TEFL Teacher from SA.

Cultural Awareness

South African cultural norms and how they may differ teaching abroad, Promoting cultural sensitivity in the english classroom

Cultural Awareness TEFL Course

Fostering cultural awareness and sensitivity is essential for TEFL teachers, particularly when teaching students from diverse cultural backgrounds. Here’s how you can address South African cultural norms and promote cultural sensitivity in the classroom, both within South Africa and abroad:

South African Cultural Norms and Differences Abroad

  1. Respect for Elders:
    • In South Africa, respect for elders is highly valued, and it’s common for younger individuals to show deference to older ones.
    • Abroad, students may come from cultures where hierarchical relationships are less emphasized, so they might not exhibit the same level of deference.
  2. Greeting Etiquette:
    • South Africans often greet each other warmly with handshakes, hugs, or cheek kisses, depending on familiarity.
    • Abroad, greeting customs may vary significantly, ranging from formal handshakes to more informal gestures like nods or bows.
  3. Time Perception:
    • In South Africa, punctuality is appreciated, but there is often more flexibility in timekeeping, especially in social settings.
    • In some cultures abroad, punctuality is strictly observed, and being late may be considered disrespectful or rude.
  4. Communication Style:
    • South Africans tend to value direct communication and may use humor and storytelling to convey messages.
    • Abroad, communication styles may vary, with some cultures preferring indirect communication or more formal language.
  5. Cultural Diversity:
    • South Africa is known for its diverse population, including people of various ethnicities, languages, and religions.
    • Abroad, students may come from monocultural or multicultural backgrounds, requiring sensitivity to different cultural perspectives.

Promoting Cultural Sensitivity in the Classroom

  1. Cultural Awareness Activities:
    • Incorporate activities that raise awareness of cultural diversity, such as sharing stories or traditions from different cultures, celebrating cultural holidays, or inviting guest speakers from various backgrounds.
  2. Respectful Language Use:
    • Encourage students to use inclusive language and avoid stereotypes or generalizations about cultures. Model respectful language use in your own interactions and discussions.
  3. Cross-Cultural Communication Skills:
    • Teach students effective cross-cultural communication skills, such as active listening, empathy, and open-mindedness. Provide opportunities for students to practice communicating across cultures in role-play scenarios or group discussions.
  4. Cultural Sensitivity Training:
    • Offer workshops or training sessions on cultural sensitivity and intercultural communication for both teachers and students. These sessions can help participants recognize and navigate cultural differences respectfully.
  5. Create a Safe and Inclusive Environment:
    • Establish ground rules for respectful behavior and communication in the classroom, emphasizing the importance of tolerance, acceptance, and understanding of diverse perspectives.
  6. Address Cultural Misunderstandings:
    • When cultural misunderstandings occur, address them openly and constructively. Use these moments as learning opportunities to explore cultural differences and find common ground.

By addressing South African cultural norms and promoting cultural sensitivity in the classroom, TEFL teachers can create inclusive learning environments where students feel respected, valued, and empowered to engage with diverse perspectives. These efforts not only enhance the educational experience but also foster mutual respect and understanding among students from different cultural backgrounds.

South African English

Varieties of English in South Africa, Influence of indigenous languages on English

South African English TEFL Course

South African English

Varieties of English in South Africa

  1. Standard South African English:
    • Standard South African English is based on British English but has developed its own distinct pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar over time.
    • It is commonly used in formal settings, such as education, business, and government.
  2. Regional Varieties:
    • Cape Town English: Influenced by the multilingual and multicultural nature of Cape Town, this variety of English incorporates elements of Afrikaans and other local languages.
    • Durban English: Reflecting the diverse cultural heritage of Durban, this variety may include Indian, Zulu, and English influences.
    • Johannesburg English: As the economic hub of South Africa, Johannesburg English is characterized by its fast pace and multicultural influences from various ethnic groups and languages.
  3. Ethnic Varieties:
    • Black South African English: Spoken by black South Africans, this variety often incorporates linguistic features from indigenous languages such as isiZulu, isiXhosa, and Sesotho.
    • Coloured South African English: Coloured South Africans, who are of mixed racial heritage, may speak a variety of English influenced by Afrikaans, Khoisan languages, and other local dialects.

Influence of Indigenous Languages on English

  1. Lexicon (Vocabulary):
    • South African English has borrowed numerous words and expressions from indigenous languages. For example:
      • Braai: A barbecue or grill, borrowed from Afrikaans.
      • Ubuntu: Human kindness, compassion, and community, derived from Zulu and Xhosa.
      • Eish: An expression of surprise or frustration, originating from isiZulu and isiXhosa.
  2. Phonology (Pronunciation):
    • The pronunciation of certain English words in South Africa may be influenced by indigenous languages. For instance:
      • Click Sounds: Some speakers may incorporate click sounds from Khoisan languages into their speech.
      • Tonal Patterns: Speakers of South African English may use tonal patterns similar to those found in isiZulu and isiXhosa.
  3. Syntax (Grammar):
    • The syntax of South African English may also be influenced by indigenous languages, particularly in informal speech. This includes word order, sentence structure, and grammatical constructions.
  4. Code-Switching and Code-Mixing:
    • South African English speakers often engage in code-switching (changing languages) and code-mixing (combining languages) in their speech, seamlessly integrating elements of indigenous languages with English.


South African English is a dynamic and diverse variety of English that reflects the country’s rich linguistic heritage and multicultural society. By understanding the varieties of English in South Africa and the influence of indigenous languages, teachers can better appreciate the linguistic diversity of their students and incorporate culturally relevant content into their lessons.


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