Generations of teachers in mainstream Australian classrooms have worked on a daily basis with learners who are learning English in addition to their first language/s. Yet these first languages are rarely tapped into in meaningful ways as a vehicle for learning in the classroom. This chapter seeks to offer insights into this problem by first, making sense of the terms often used interchangeably in the discourses of second-language education, terms such as bilingualism, multilingualism, plurilingualism and diversity, and second, through an examination of language teacher practice.

Drawing on research with teachers in secondary school classrooms, we argue that while teachers agree strongly with the rhetoric of inclusion, many struggle with ways to address a languages education agenda in their everyday practice. To address these classroom conundrums, we first explicate key terms in order to make visible their implications in practice. By drawing on students' languages knowledge, teachers can legitimise learners' use and knowledge of the languages they bring to the classroom. This legitimation is crucial for social inclusion and participation; it is also highly beneficial in promoting learning and building the academic resources of students to help them succeed in the new educational setting.