Learning English is one of the biggest challenges for Syrian refugees coming to Canada — a top priority for schools helping to integrate them into regular classes.

About 80 students from Syria have started classes in the Winnipeg School Division since last November and so far, staff say they're integrating well.

"The biggest thing is gaining their trust and giving them the confidence. As soon as they see they are learning, it gives them the confidence to learn more and they learn quite quickly," said Rosa Messina, an EAL educational assistant at Victoria-Albert School.

"Right now, they have almost zero English and by the end of the school year, they will be able to carry on a full conversation, being understood quite clearly."

Syrian refugee students gain confidence in the classroom1:20

Most of these students have only been here for a few months so they're still learning the basics - colours, numbers, parts of their bodies, and everyday items such as backpacks and play structures.

"My name is Hala," one eight-year-old girl says shyly in English, adding in Arabic that her favourite thing to do is read books - any kind.

"Rather than going from a deficit model, thinking these kids can't speak English, we need to take a step back and change that mindset and say, they actually have some knowledge, some skills and how do I work with those skills and help them learn and integrate into the regular classroom setting?" said Eric Sagenes, the division's EAL consultant.

"The research shows it can take up to two years (to learn a language fluently) but these kids, as long as they have the right attitude, they can learn faster. There's lots of motivation. These kids are very happy. They want to be in school."

Hala Alhariri and her dad Ammar Alhariri

Ammar Alhariri is pleased how quickly his daughter, Hala, is learning English, saying one of his goals in coming to Canada was that his children would get a good education. (CBC)

Hala's father, Ammar Alhariri, said he's very pleased to see the improvement in his daughter's English.

Every day, she comes home with more vocabulary - words she's teaching him as he struggles to learn the language.

"She's happy, she loves the school. From when she was in Jordan, she always loved to be in school," he said through an interpreter.

"I'm very pleased because it was always my goal for my children to get an education. We had a stolen future and I want to start over here in Canada to build my future and my family's future."