This article explores misunderstandings identified in an instructional context where
oral communication is the primary form of communication and focuses on the teacher as sender
of the message. Although the misinterpretation of the teacher’s oral message may reside
with the receiver, the speaker’s inaccurate expression may also cause misunderstanding.
Data were collected through video recorded observations of authentic lessons presented by
26 pre-service teachers using English second language as the medium of instruction in the
classroom. Misunderstandings were identified and described in terms of their occurrence, nature
and frequency. Participants’ oral proficiency in English was rated using the International English
Language Testing Score (IELTS). Focus group interviews helped gauge participants’ awareness
of the occurrence of and reasons for misunderstandings. Findings indicated that misunderstandings
chiefly resulted from the student teachers’ poor oral proficiency and inadequate speech act
realisation patterns, indicating a lack of pragmatic awareness. Research to improve practice within
the teaching and learning context needs to be ongoing since pre-service teachers should have a
solid command of the language of instruction prior to embarking on their teaching careers. Teacher
education programmes that focus on offering language support to prospective teachers may limit
misunderstandings in multilingual instructional contexts.