The acqulSltlOn of English as a second language is routinely identified by teachers and others as the major hurdle to mainstream integration ofstudents of non-English speaking backgrounds. Although it has long been recognised that language and issues of identity are closely bound together, educational researchers have produced -licele systematic evidence of how migrant students actually construct social identity as they are learning English. In what sense is learning a new language related to the construction of a 'new' identity? To what extent does the construction of identity depend on 'being heard'? This paperfocuses on the relationship between the acquisition of English as a second language by migrant students and the expression of social identity, particularly in the context of school. The paper begins by outlining a simple theoretical model which conceptualises links between issues of language use and identity. Next, data from interviews with three students from non-English speaking backgrounds in Queensland high schools are used to trace the pathways of these students from arrival to full mainstream integration in high school, and to explore the dynamic relationship between discourse and the construction ofidentity. It will be shown that language acquisition and use, institutional contexts and identity work are vitally integrated.