In a previous study Moodley, Kritzinger and Vinck (2014) found that formal English Additional Language (EAL) instruction contributed significantly better to listening and speaking skills in Grade R learners, than did a play-based approach. The finding in multilingual rural Mpumalanga schools was in agreement with numerous studies elsewhere. Additional extraneous variables such as teachers’ first language, qualifications, age and experience, and learners’ first language and gender may also relate to EAL performance. The aim of the present study has been to determine whether these variables were significantly associated with learners’ EAL performance scores. A matched two group comparison study was conducted, utilising 175 learners and 10 teachers from isiNdebele, isiZulu, Sepedi, siSwati and Xitsonga first language backgrounds. The English Language Proficiency standards assessment tool was used. Learners of IsiNdebele teachers and young qualified teachers performed better than other learners. Learners with isiNdebele as first language performed better than learners from other languages. No association between gender and learner performance was found. The advantage of isiNdebele speaking teachers and learners in EAL teaching and learning may relate to the many borrowed phonemes and words from English. Further research is required to strengthen the evidence.