Many learners in the South African schooling system do not speak English as their first language. Mother-tongue instruction in schools is offered until Grade 3, after which learners are taught in English. As the country has eleven official languages, it is often challenging to teach learners in English because they lack exposure to English, especially in rural areas. Consequently, learners struggle to overcome their barriers to learning when learning in a second language1. This study is a secondary data analysis study. The purpose was to analyse data collected by previous researchers to gain a better understanding of how rural learners have experienced learning in a second language over the years. The research also aimed to understand the impact of living in rural areas on learners’ learning experiences. The study focused on learners in rural areas, I examined the deep impact that learning in a second language has on learners’ schooling. Schooling consists in learners’ school marks, their grammar, their careers, their expectations for the future, to gain a better understanding of the learners’ language experiences. I used stratified purposive sampling and then analysed the data through thematic analysis. The findings provided evidence-based descriptions of the challenges faced by a sample group of Grade 9 learners from 2012 to 2015. Although they faced challenges, they also possessed protective resources which helped them to deal with various challenges. The findings also indicated the extent to which the learners lacked the skills required to become proficient in a second language. It is recommended that teachers and parents/guardians work together to develop strategies for supporting the learners in rural contexts. Learners’ awareness of their assets and protective resources should be developed. Finally continued professional development for teachers should be made compulsory to ensure teachers are able cope with the demands of their jobs.