Despite the contemporary policy rhetoric of global citizenry and the importance of languages and intercultural capabilities, language learning in Australian schools struggles for recognition and support. The curriculum marginalisation of languages, however, is uneven, affecting some school sectors more than others. In this article, we examine the provision of languages in two government comprehensive high schools, both low socio-economic status, located in urban areas in New South Wales, Australia's largest state. They are termed 'residual' high schools because they cater for the students remaining in the local schools while others attend either private or selective government high schools. We provide a qualitative picture of language provision in these two schools from the perspectives of key stakeholders - school principals, teachers, students and parents. We also draw on observational data of language classes. The aim is to provide, within a largely social class framework, an understanding of the state of language provision in these schools. We argue that currently students in these schools are experiencing unequal access to the linguistic and cultural capital associated with language learning relative to students in more privileged communities and schools.