This paper reports the result of a study that aimed to identify the problems with oral English skills of ESL (English as a second language) students at a tertiary teacher training institution in Hong Kong. The study, by way of semi-structured interview, addresses the gap in our understanding of the difficulties ESL students encountered in their oral English development in the context of a Bachelor of Education (English Language) programme. Insufficient opportunities to speak English in lectures and tutorials, lack of a focus on language improvement in the curriculum, and the input-poor environment for spoken communication in English outside class apparently contributed to a range of problems that closely related to the sociocultural, institutional and interpersonal contexts in which individual ESL students found themselves. The results of the study lead us to question the effectiveness of the knowledge- and pedagogy-based ESL teacher training curriculum. They also point to a need to incorporate a sufficiently intensive language improvement component in the current teacher preparation program. Copyright © 2012 Edith Cowan University.