This study establishes the multilingual turn as part of a critical movement in education. It highlights the importance we ought to attach to how we understand the concepts of language, the learners and language learning and related terms, as such assumptions determine what language teachers and learners do in the classroom. A thematic decomposition analysis of 21 chapters, contained in two books both with phrase the multilingual turn in their title (Conteh and Meier 2014, The multilingual turn in languages education: Opportunities and challenges. Bristol: Multilingual Matters; May 2014a, The multilingual turn: Implications for SLA, TESOL and Bilingual education. New York: Routledge), confirms that new critical understandings of these concepts have developed in recent years. While there is not total accord, my findings showed that authors, associated with the multilingual turn, conceive languages as a resource for learning and as associated with status and power; the learners as diverse multilingual and social practitioners; and learning as a multilingual social practice based on theoretical pluralism, consistently guided by critical perspectives. While theoretically relatively well established, the multilingual turn faces important challenges that hamper its translation into mainstream practice, namely popularly accepted monolingual norms and a lack of guidance for teachers. The findings combined with previous research inform a framework to reflect on practice, which may, in the long term, help address the challenges identified.