This study aims to describe the language learning backgrounds of Turkish pre-service teachers of English as a foreign language (EFL) with reference to their perceived language competence and satisfaction with perceived speaking ability. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected through a questionnaire that was administered to 365 first-year students studying at English language teaching departments at seven universities, categorised into three groups according to their rankings. The data were analysed through descriptive statistics and the Kruskal-Wallis test. Regardless of the university, participants reported having limited language learning experience because their English classes focused mainly on grammar, vocabulary and reading. They reported feeling least proficient in listening, speaking and vocabulary, which suggested that people enter English language teaching in Turkey with limited oral communication skills in English. This has implications for the EFL teacher education field in Turkey and other monolingual countries where the focus of English classes is limited to teaching structural aspects of the target language.