Recent trends in language education have promoted the use of students’ linguistic repertoires in the classroom. However, research is lacking into how languages are actually used in target language instruction. This study contributes new knowledge from lower secondary classrooms in Norway, combining a large data set of video observed English lessons (N = 60) of naturally occurring instruction over time, with a survey of students’ (N = 179) experiences of their teachers’ language practices. The study reports how languages were used and perceived in seven classrooms across Grades 9–10. Findings indicate three main patterns. First, there was considerable variation in language use in these classrooms, which seemed dependent on the teacher rather than students and school. Second, there was hardly any use of languages other than the language of schooling (Norwegian) and the target language (English), but a few references to linguistic repertoires signalled a focus on multilingualism in some classrooms. Third, survey data indicate that students perceived teachers’ use of Norwegian, regardless of amount, helpful. The study demonstrates teachers’ and students’ balancing of target language exposure with the need for other languages, even with extensive variation in the use of English and Norwegian and infrequent references to students’ other linguistic repertoires in most classrooms.
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