At Calder School in north Edmonton, the morning rendition of O Canada alternates between English, French, Cree and Arabic.
Almost half of the student population is enrolled in the elementary school's Arabic bilingual program, and embracing other cultures is part of the curriculum. "I like it," said nine-year-old Teeba Al-Shaikhly. "It makes me feel comfortable. Like many of her peers, the Grade 4 student speaks Arabic at home with her family, who are originally from Iraq.
"I practise it with my family, with my teacher, and sometimes with my friends," Al-Shaikhly said. Calder School started offering its Arabic bilingual program six years ago for kindergarten students, at the request of parents.
As the students grew up, so did the program. It's now offered from K to Grade 5, with 130 students enrolled in total. Parents are increasingly recognizing the benefits of knowing several languages, said school principal Cathie Bush.
"They also want that cultural piece, they want their children to be able to speak to relatives who may only speak Arabic," Bush explained.
Most of the children in teacher Hiba Rustom's Grade 4 class knew some Arabic before starting school.
"It starts with the conversational language," explained Rustom, who is a native Arabic speaker from Lebanon.
"Then we incorporate the alphabet, spelling, and pronunciation as the building blocks of the Arabic language."
Rustom also teaches Arabic in gym, health, and social studies classes.
Incorporating different languages at school helps students understand the world around them, said Bush.
Watching her students gain confidence with the language has been a pleasure for Rustom.
"It's not a hassle for them to work on it and try to improve it, given the resources and the atmosphere at the school," said the teacher. "They are very enthusiastic."
Rustom encourages parents to seek out Arabic bilingual programs for their children, even if they don't speak the language themselves.
"It's always great to learn a second language, and since we're given the opportunity and the funding to do that, let's take advantage of it."