Dozens of parents attending an open house Thursday night supported a proposal for an Arabic language program in a Calgary public school.
Ramia Aljiadi, who has three small children, says she would drive her kids clear across the city every day if it meant they would learn about the Arabic language and culture.
Her children sometimes struggle to understand Arabic when she speaks to them and she fears they are overwhelmed with English.
"Everything like TV, magazines, books, library, schools. Anywhere you go it's English."
Other parents pointed out that Arabic is widely spoken around the world and would be useful for students' future careers, especially in oil and gas.
"The immediate one is they will get to read and write a second language, but when it comes to Arabic, it's a pretty widely spoken language throughout the world," said Alex Poole.
"Down the road when they are having a career – and likely it could be in the oil and gas industry in Alberta – having Arabic as a language that you can communicate with would definitely be an asset for your child."
The Calgary Board of Education proposed an Arabic bilingual program earlier this month.
The school board offers similar programs in Spanish, German, and Mandarin, where some classes, such as gym and math, are taught in the second language.
School board spokesman Richard Peter said such language programs also appeal to parents who don't speak those languages at home.
"Many of the kids that take our Spanish program, for example, have parents who may have worked in Spanish countries, including Latin America. They come back and have some Spanish and they want to continue. So similarly kids who don't have an Arabic culture may be interested in learning this language."
If enough parents are interested, the board would offer a Arabic program for kindergarten and Grade 1 students in September 2012 and expand it by one grade each year.