March 2011 issue

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Practical South Africa

Language schools in South Africa report mixed results in 2010 with the high value of the rand against the dollar and high prices associated with hosting the football World Cup taking their toll.

Many language schools in South Africa predicted that being the host nation for the Fifa World Cup in 2010 would have a positive effect on their business, highlighting the country as a desirable destination for tourists and English language learners. And while the international profile of the country was certainly raised, schools report that the event had a negative effect on business also.

Wolfgang Graser from Good Hope Studies in Cape Town says, “Student numbers have increased in the first half of the year but clearly decreased in the second half of 2010. The reason seems to be the soccer World Cup. High flight ticket costs, people trying to avoid the crowds and high accommodation costs [put students off].”

Luanne McCallum from Interlink School of Languages in Cape Town blames the bad publicity at the beginning of 2010, before the World Cup, for the decrease in numbers during the first half of the year. “[There was a] sharp decline in May due to terrible press about the crime in South Africa and the uncertainty of us hosting the World Cup. [We had] much lower numbers over June, July, August and September. Students who would normally book at that time held back, in my opinion, to see what would happen with the World Cup. [There was] a sudden sharp increase of last-minute bookings in September for October, November and December. This can only be attributed to the success of the World Cup and renewed faith in South Africa.”

While the World Cup may have temporarily dampened interest in language schools, many believe that, overall, the event will have boosted interest in South Africa as a language learning destination. “Increased marketing efforts and the fact that South Africa has been brought to the public’s consciousness as a tourist destination due to the World Cup have definitely proved positive in terms of international enrolments at EC Cape Town,“ confirms EC’s Louise Osmond.

Language schools have also had to contend with other challenges in 2010. Trish Cooper from Wits Language School in Johannesburg says that they experienced a small growth in numbers to 577 students. “This was fewer than anticipated but the South African rand was considerably stronger in 2010 than in 2009, which I believe impacted on student registrations as the cost of the course in dollars was significantly more for the second half of the year.”

Manya Bredell from CT School of English in Cape Town agrees that South Africa has become a more expensive place to study. “South Africa is outpricing itself on services like accommodation, food and entertainment. Food is in many cases cheaper in Europe than here.”

Many schools report that the top student nationalities have largely remained the same, although some European students were noticeably missing during the months of July and August. McCallum reports, “Normally we have fairly high numbers of Germans in August due to their summer holidays. This year we had none. They all waited and came in November. Again I think it is because of the World Cup.”

Interest in more academic courses is also changing the nationality mix at some schools. At EC Cape Town, Osmond reports that “the nationality mix is very healthy, with students from Latin America, Korea and Angola topping the list”. She adds, “Currently, EC Cape Town is experiencing an increase in students from other African nations attending English courses, many of whom are participating in further education in Cape Town.”

Efforts to develop innovative new courses are also apparent, even though it might take time for them to become popular. “We added an English plus safari course a couple of years ago but there was very little interest. Now interest in this course seems to have picked up, the prices are very good and students are opting for it more and more,” says McCullum.

Emre Bilge from LAL Cape Town adds, “A very promising course will be the Travelling Classroom where the students are travelling from Cape Town all the way to the Garden Route to Addo Park with their teacher and tour guide where they will have their lessons. The demand is there, especially from agents.”

A more academic approach

Many language schools in South Africa are promoting their academic and exam courses to meet the more serious demands of students. Louise Osmond from EC Cape Town says, “Programmes such as internships and academic programmes remain consistently popular. EC Cape Town’s status as a Cambridge Esol testing centre also ensures exam preparation courses are extremely well subscribed to.”

At Wits Language School in Johannesburg, Trish Cooper too has noticed an increase in demand for academic and exam-oriented courses. “We have extended our Ielts preparation classes and offer workshops as well as short courses in preparation for the Ielts exam,” she relates. “These courses have grown considerably in popularity as 76 students enrolled [in 2010], as opposed to 36 in 2009.”

Evidence that South Africa is becoming a more typical destination of choice for those pursuing teaching qualifications can also be seen at Good Hope Studies in Cape Town. “We’ve rather decreased our range of language plus programmes over the years,” says Wolfgang Graser at the school. “These products look great and many people react profitably but the truth is that they don’t sell well enough in South Africa to run them at a profit. We’ve increased our Celta courses to six a year and have become a Delta teacher training centre as well.”

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The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of Language Travel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send.






English Australia  
International House
      World Organisation  
Languages Canada/
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MEI Ireland  
Perth Education
Quality English

Cambridge Esol 

Dr. Walter GmbH  
Student Guard

Malta Tourism

Twin Group  

English Australia  
Perth Education

Ceran Lingua

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Algonquin College  
Banff Education
Bow Valley College  
East Coast School
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English School of
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Niagara College  
School District
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Student Guard
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Vancouver English

Bell International  
Bright World
Brooke House
Bury Language
CMT Learning  
International House
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Kaplan International
Language Studies
Link School  
London School of
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London School of
Malvern House
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King's Colleges  
Quality English  
Rishworth School
Sedbergh School
St Giles Colleges
Study Group
University of
      Essex -
St Michaels

Accent Francais  
Alpha B -
     Institut Linguistique  
College International
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Ecole PERL  
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Langue Onze
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Lyon Bleu
Paris Langues /
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inlingua Berlin  
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Media Langues


      House Dublin  
MEI Ireland  

      Language School  
EC English
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EAC Language
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EC Cape Town  
      Cape Town  
Good Hope
inlingua Language
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Interlink School
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International House
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Kurus English
LAL Cape Town

Escuela La Ola
International House -
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Malaca Instituto -
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Malaga Si  

EF Language
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International House
      New York  
ELS Language
New York
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University of
Zoni Language

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