Understanding and working with the complexity of second language learning and use in an intercultural orientation necessitates a re-examination of the different theories of learning that inform the different schools of second language acquisition (SLA). This re-examination takes place in a context where explicitly conceptualizing the nature of learning in SLA has not been sufficiently foregrounded. It also necessitates understanding how language itself, as the substance or object of learning a second language, is conceptualized. Neither the theorization of learning, nor of language on its own is sufficient to provide an adequate account of second language learning for contemporary times. In particular, this paper argues that views of language and learning derived solely from the field of (applied) linguistics are not sufficient to address the complex language learning needs of contemporary times and that a more interdisciplinary approach to language and learning is required. It is this interdisciplinary understanding that provides the basis for views of both language and learning that we consider to be necessary within an intercultural orientation. In particular, the paper will emphasize the interpretative nature of learning and the ways that such a view contributes to our understanding of learning in language education. From this perspective, the process of learning to communicate in a second language can be characterized as involving both a ‘moving between’ linguistic and cultural systems and an acknowledgement of the role of mutual interpretation in exchanging meanings through the acts of both communicating and learning.