The UAE, which celebrated independence in 1971, is a rapidly changing environment where aspects of traditional Bedouin culture co‐exist with the immense changes being wrought by the forces of globalization and the wealth brought about by the development of the oil industry. Emirati nationals are a minority within the UAE, comprising approximately 20% of the population, and the majority of the schoolteachers are expatriates drawn from other Arabic speaking countries. Within this context, the Higher Colleges of Technology’s Bachelor of Education degree in Teaching English to Young Learners prepares young UAE national women for English language teaching positions in local government schools. The research presented in this paper is drawn from this two‐year study of student teachers and explores the discursive construction of the students’ systems of knowledge and belief. The paper concludes with a critical consideration of the study’s implications and some possible recommendations for teacher education in the UAE that may also have resonance for teacher education programs in other contexts.