Australia loves a good acronym, and our education system is renowned for them (and for regularly changing them). If you are a student from a non English speaking background, you would currently be referred to as an EAL/D student — English as an Additional Language or Dialect. Previously, the acronym was ESL (English as a Second Language) but it was thought this did not take into account people with multiple other languages or Indigenous peoples of Australia.

Australia is a popular destination for overseas students who want to learn English or complete a degree in one of our universities. Canberra, the nation's capital, opens the doors of its educational institutions to a surprisingly large number of foreign students each year.

In 2016, over 12,000 students representing 40 different countries, were enrolled in Canberra's tertiary institutions. In addition, there were well over 500 international students enrolled in Canberra primary schools, high schools and colleges.

This is a sizable chunk of total enrolments for a relatively small city. So, why are the English classes Canberra offers so attractive?


Canberra offers great English lessons and more.
Australia's 'bush capital', Canberra is a wonderful place to take English lessons and learn more about Australian culture. (Source: Visualhunt Credit: Jirrupin)

After years of debate, and beating rivals like Albury and Bathurst, Canberra was officially named as the capital of Australia on 12 March 1913. The name is believed to have derived from a local Indigenous language and to mean 'meeting place'.

Known as Ngunnawal country to the original Indigenous custodians of the land, Canberra started as little more than a train station, a hotel and a scattering of houses. Today, it still retains its peaceful bush feel, despite being home to over 400,000 people, thirty per cent of whom were born overseas.

As for studying in Canberra, just look at the rankings — with its low crime rates, sustainable practices and high standard of living, Canberra sits in the top 20 'student-friendly' cities globally.

Now that we've convinced you that Canberra should be on your 'must investigate' list, keep reading to find out about the English classes Canberra has available for every English language level and every budget, whether you want to enrol in a language school or learn English online with private tutors.

For international students, the city is welcoming, with plenty of opportunities that will make their time rewarding and fun.


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A Guide to English Classes in Canberra

It is not only tertiary-level students who flock to Canberra from non English speaking countries. Canberra is home to nearly 80 embassies and high commissions, several international corporations operate out of Canberra and increasing numbers of migrants are moving to the city for the lifestyle. Many of these people have young families, with children who need to enter the compulsory school system, or the parents themselves require assistance to learn English.

English Courses for University-level Students

For non native English speakers, proof of English language skills is a prerequisite to enrol in any tertiary course in Australia. Accepted language proficiency test scores include IELTS, TOEFL, PTE and Cambridge English.

If you do not have the required ranking, the University of Canberra offers ELICOS — an intensive English course designed to help you improve your English, not only to prepare for university but also to increase your employment opportunities.

Private tutors are also a good option to help you increase your fluency, grammar and vocabulary knowledge, and your writing skills in preparation for exams. Many Superprof tutors specialise in IELTS or TOEFL readiness, while others will be able to assist you once you enrol in your chosen course of study.


Do ESL programs operate in all schools?
EAL/D students are supported to study English while also participating in classroom activities in primary and secondary schools. (Source: Visualhunt)

English Lessons for Primary and High School Students

A large number of students move, either temporarily or permanently, to Canberra with their parents who are either working or studying here. Most government schools have a qualified EAL/D or ESL teacher on staff to support new students with building their language skills so they can fully access the Australian curriculum.

Students with minimal English are offered a place in either one of Canberra's five primary IECs (Introductory English Centre) or the Secondary IEC for a period of up to three terms, after which they return to their mainstream school. An IEC provides targeted English classes at the same time as teaching the curriculum so students do not fall behind.

English Classes for Employees

If you have migrated to Australia and moved to Canberra for work purposes, you may find it useful to brush up on your English skills. Several institutions in Canberra cater for second language learners who need specific English writing or reading skills or want to practise speaking English in work-based scenarios.

You may prefer to work one-on-one with a private tutor who can tailor your sessions to work on your English pronunciation, listening skills or reading skills specific to your job. Take a look at the tutor profiles on Superprof.

For people who want more formal language courses, education institutions, such as the Canberra Institute of Technology, run certificate level written and spoken English courses. Via the internet, you can find English classes Canberra-based language schools offer in work skills and career transition for non native speakers.


Taxi drivers and other employees should have a good level of English.
Whether you are driving a taxi, or working in the service industry, a fluent level of conversational English is the minimum requirement. (Source: Unsplash Credit: Lexi Ruskell)

Classes for English Learners Who Want to Teach English

Many language teachers from foreign countries are keen to gain in-country experience in English speaking countries.

If this is what you are looking for, you can enrol in either a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) or a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course, giving you the qualifications required to teach English in your native country.

For people who already have language teaching qualifications, joining conversation groups or employing an experienced tutor who is a native English speaker may give you the extra language boost you need to feel confident teaching pronunciation, grammar and idioms, and greatly improve your ability to speak English fluently.

A qualified English language tutor from Superprof would be perfect to help take you to the next level.

Not everyone wants to enrol in formal English lessons, and certainly, there are many who might be unable to afford them. However, Canberra does not leave you without any options.

Free or Low-Cost English Lessons in Canberra

Language and communication impact everything we do in our daily lives — whether it's occupational, social or personal. There are numerous reasons why you might not be able to enrol in formal English classes, but this does not mean you do not need or want some extra help.

The Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services (MARSS) can provide information on English courses. These range from conversational (English for Living) to business English (English for Employment), and also include specialised classes and assistance for English learners who wish to complete Road Ready driver education exams and driving tests.

Your local community centre, public library, church or shopping centre are great places to start looking. English lessons and conversation groups will frequently be advertised on noticeboards in these locations and are often free, or accessible for a nominal donation.

Marketplace platforms, such as Gumtree, often have tutors advertising their services.

The table below details a handful of the English classes Canberra has available at no or minimal cost.

English Class TypeProviderWebsite
ESL English ConversationWoden Community
English Conversation GroupBelconnen Community
English classes and conversationLibraries ACT (various locations)
Daily Essential English for Migrants and RefugeesRed Cross
English for varying purposesVarious (churches, schools, community groups)

Most conversation groups and free English classes are operated by volunteers. These volunteers may be retired English teachers, or have EAL/D or bilingual education training but this will not always be the case. It doesn't matter, though, as the point of the classes is for you to gain confidence with your speaking skills and to have fun.

Learning English and Perfecting Your New Language with a Tutor

Conversation groups and free classes are a fantastic way to build your social circle and engage in natural conversation with native speakers.

Although undoubtedly useful for practising your English skills, these classes may not always be beneficial when it comes to learning English as a beginner. Nor may they be ideal if you are already at an intermediate level and require more advanced learning around English grammar or specialised vocabulary.

In a similar way, you may be enrolled in an intensive English course, but finding you have little time or opportunity to practise your new words and phrases in the real world. Oral skill practice in the classroom environment with other English language learners is a completely different experience to having an unscripted conversation with a native English speaker.

How do I get support learning English?
Learning English can be like learning to ride a bicycle - there are many things to coordinate, but with the support of your tutor, you will get there. (Source: Visualhunt)

Working with a tutor is a perfect way to supplement your learning in both situations, and the advantages are numerous:

  • meet your tutor online or in person, by yourself or with a group
  • ask your tutor to help you with local expressions, real-life scenarios or practical examples of grammar structures covered in class
  • get assistance with written communication
  • receive individualised attention at a fraction of the cost of language schools

Check tutor profiles on Superprof to find the perfect tutor or English class for you.

Look for English courses Sydney? Check Superprof's English tutors profiles to find a tutor who is right for you.

Or looking elsewhere in Australia? Read our guide on finding a private English tutor near you in Australia. We also have guides for personal English courses in Sydney


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Kellie is an editor, a children's writer, blogger and a teacher. Any remaining time she has is spent on a dragon boat.