United Community Effort Bearing Fruit For Advancement Of Punjabi Language

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By Balwant Sanghera

Efforts to promote Punjabi language in Canada in general and BC in particular have been gaining support for quite some time. Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) has been in the forefront for more than twenty years in promoting the third most spoken language in Canada.

Indo-Canadian media- both electronic and print-has also been making a commendable contribution in this regard. As a result of these efforts, Punjabi has now become as one of the most popular languages in this province and country. Information  availability in Punjabi, need for Punjabi speakers by businesses-big and small-and growing need of Punjabi speaking professionals are clear reflections of Punjabi language’s growing influence. Furthermore, popularity and growing clout of Punjabis as well as Punjabi media and recognition of Punjabi at the civic, provincial and federal levels are other indicators of this language’s importance. Another positive attribute seems to be the growing interest among second and third generation Canadians of Indian/South Asian heritage to connect with their roots. Learning the language of their ancestors is the best way to do that.

Despite these gains, all well- wishers of Punjabi, including the Indo-Canadian media as well as the community, need to continue these efforts. On behalf of PLEA I would like to express my thanks and sincere appreciation for all of the Indo-Canadian media-print and electronics and the community for doing an excellent job in promoting Punjabi in this province and Canada. In this context, the recent initiative by Rogers, parent company of OMNI to broadcast Hockey Night in Punjabi, is a commendable development. Certainly, CBC must also be thanked for starting this broadcast in Punjabi. Now Rogers is taking it one step further. This development has made Canada’s top sport as a favourite with the Punjabi community as well. It will go a long way in enhancing integration of the Punjabi community into the Canadian culture. Such gestures are a very positive reflection of Canada’s corporate culture responding to the changing demographics of this nation. PLEA would like to commend Rogers and OMNI Punjabi for this initiative.

It is very encouraging noting that the Punjabi community in Canada has become one of the most resilient, visible, powerful and generous ones. Punjabis are now in the forefront in every area and have achieved prominent positions in politics, business, technology, media, education and sports etc. There are a substantial number of flourishing businesses owned and run by Punjabis. The large number of Punjabis in Canada, around 800,000, has created the demand for more and more Punjabi speakers. Thus, in cities like Surrey, Abbotsford and Brampton, Punjabi has now become the language of employment. This is a very positive development. When a language becomes the language of employment, more and more Punjabis and non-Punjabis tend to get involved in this process. It is also very encouraging to see growing interest in Punjabi by the second and third generation youth and children.

On its part, PLEA continues to work hard in promoting Punjabi language at every level. These efforts include getting more Punjabi signage at Vancouver International Airport (YVR), getting more Punjabi classes under way at the elementary, secondary and post-secondary levels.  In addition to that, PLEA continues to address concerns brought to its attention by the community. These include appropriate signage at public institutions,proper translation from English to Punjabi, training of teachers of Punjabi, and availability of Punjabi speaking crews at certain airlines etc.

One of PLEA’s major objectives is to get our youth involved not only in learning Punjabi but also become its goodwill ambassadors. For this, it holds functions from time to time. This year, most likely at the end of November, PLEA will be holding a creative writing contest in Punjabi for high school and post-secondary students enrolled in Punjabi classes. It will consist of students’ short stories, poems and letter writing. Every participant will be presented with a participation certificates. In addition to that, first and second prizes will be awarded to students in different categories. More information in this regard will be available at a later date.

Finally, on behalf of PLEA, I would like to thank the Indo-Canadian media-both print and electronic- as well as the individuals and community who have been promoting Punjabi. I would like to urge all of the well- wishers of Punjabi to act as ambassadors for this wonderful language. PLEA can do only so much. Your participation in this process is bound to make a big difference.

Balwant Sanghera  is the President, Punjabi Language Education association.