What do Basque students in Teacher Education think about learning through the medium of English?

We were interested in finding out about first year students’ feelings in relation to learning content through the medium of English. These students are bilingual in Basque and Spanish and are exposed to a trilingual curriculum at theuniversity, the third language being English. In year one they cover in English a subject related to Education in Europe. Through the module the students become familiar with different bilingual education systems in Europe, taking into account aspects such as the structure of different bilingual education systems similar to the Basqueone, including a minority and a majority language. They also become aware of the importance of multiculturalism and multilingualism in the particular societies and work on good practice examples that can be found in the systems.To find out about their learning experience, we organized a focus group with a sample of those first year students. Below you will find some of the aspects they highlighted:

-Students’ prior learning experience: Most of them did not find their prior learning experience satisfying because apparently it was not quite practical and so,they were not given the opportunity to use the language. They referred to textbooks and lots of grammar. Here are a couple of examples of their comments:

‘I think that in high school, very little importance was given to practising the language. The focus was on theory’

‘We spent Primary, Secondary and High School working on present simple and present continuous’.


-Learning through the medium of English at university: The students admitted that at university they have a better opportunity to use the languag

‘Now that I am at university, the way of learning is more practical, discussing, writing… and I think that practical approach is more meaningful to learn Englis

-Importance attributed to the learning of English. Some of the students stated that English could be a threat to their own minority language and others considered English useful for instrumental reasons:

‘English has become that important and often we forget other cultures, Basque in our case. If we gave that importance to Basque, our language would be stronger’.

‘I find English useful to travel and meet new people. Having a good language competence is quite convenient’.


To sum up we could say that students feel comfortable studying through the medium of English because they find the approach meaningful. They are given realopportunities for interaction and they are exposed to significant tasks. Nevertheless, they missed similaropportunities when studying at school. However some of them perceived that English could be a threat to their Basque identity.

Pili Sagasta and Nagore Ipiña (BAHI-IALE)





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