The present study is part of a research project conducted in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, and financed by the Spanish Ministry, focused on the wellbeing of foreign language teachers in the context of plurilingualism and multicultural classrooms. The aim of this project is that of diagnosing the current situation of language teachers, as well as to determine ways in which this situation may be improved.

Inasmuchas teaching is an extremely demanding profession in which some of the conditions of effectiveness may lie outside the control of practitioners, the psychological wellbeing of teachers is often menaced. In this sense, studies have traditionally referred to the phenomenon of teacher burnout. However, in the last years, the burnout paradigm (focused on emotional exhaustion and diminishing of professional outcomes) has started to be replaced in the academic sphere by an alternative line of research centered upon teacher wellbeing. Such line addresses the factors required to ensure the satisfaction and wellbeing of teachers. Nevertheless, despite the upsurge of general studies on teacher wellbeing, there have been no researches to date attempting to investigate the wellbeing of foreign language teachers in particular, and hardly any on their burnout, hence the pertinence of our study. In this respect, studies on teacher burnout and wellbeing indicate that this condition is subject-dependant.

Following Piechurska-Kuciel (2011) and others, we advocate the need for both theoretical and empirical research on the burnout / wellbeing of FL teachers. Well-established findings pertaining to the unique nature of the very processes of language learning and teaching provide the basis for our rationale. Thus, language learning is conceived as a profoundly unsettling psychological experience that forces the learner to develop a ‘new identity’ and new ways of perceiving and describing the world, likely to threaten the learner self-concept and self-expression (Guiora 1983; Horwitz et al 1986). Accordingly, such a complex process not only requires particular skills, but also involves a great amount of effort and strain on the part of teachers.

The initial part of our paper provides an overview of current approaches to teacher wellbeing. Special attention is devoted to the research carried out by Aelterman et al (2007) in the Flemish context and to the multidimensional model for measuring wellbeing advanced by Horn et al (2004), which have served as the starting point for the devisal of instruments in our research. Next, we delve into language teachers’ distinctiveness, bearing in mind the present status quo. The last section describes the research conducted by our team in the Andalusian context, which purports to elicit the perceptions and views of FL teachers in relation to their own professional being, as well as those of teacher trainers, administrators and other stakeholders, through a combination of qualitative and quantitative instruments, namely narrative analysis, discussion groups, interviews, and questionnaires. We end up by providing the preliminary results of our study.