Surrey, Vancouver, Aug. 06, 2008
President, Punjabi Language Education Association
For quite some time, Punjabi language has been gaining prominence
all around. Outside India, countries like Singapore, Australia,
U.K., U.S.A.and Canada have become some of the major centers for
Punjabi language and culture. Even some of the top Bollywood movies
are relying heavily on Punjabi dialogues, songs and culture. Nearly
every successful Bollywood movie has at least one and sometimes
more Punjabi songs. On top of that, there is an occasional sprinkling
of Punjabi language spoken by the main characters and those in
supporting roles. Punjabi songwriters, producers, directors and
singers deserve a lot of credit for this.
It was rather unfortunate that till recently, Punjabi language
wasn’t getting its due recognition in its own home in the
Punjab. However, lately, to its credit, the Punjab government
has taken some concrete steps to give this language its due place
in the state. Making Punjabi language instruction as compulsory,
from grades one to ten, in the state’s public and private
schools, is a commendable move.
Similarly, urging/requiring the state’s top brass to conduct
their business in Punjabi is a very encouraging development.
Historically, there is little doubt that Punjabi has played
a prominent role in the Indian subcontinent for centuries. Till
1947, Punjabi was the dominant language of undivided Punjab. However,
with partition, it continued to be the language of both Punjabs-east
and west . As Punjabis spread to other parts of India, they took
Punjabi with them. Similarly, towards the end of the 19th century,
Punjabis began to migrate to other parts of the world and took
their mother tongue with them. To day there are three Punjabs-
one in India, one in Pakistan and the third overseas (NRI).
The NRI Punjab consists of numerous mini Punjabs spread all
around the globe.
It has been reported that 150 million people spread out in over
150 countries speak Punjabi. Out of a total of 6,000 languages
recognized by the United Nations worldwide, Punjabi is reported
to be the tenth most spoken language. In Canada, in cities like
Surrey, British Columbia and Brampton, Ontario, it is the second
most spoken language. Overall, according to the 2006 census figures,
Punjabi was the sixth most spoken language in Canada with close
to 400,000 speakers. It is likely that after the next census scheduled
for 2011, Punjabi will achieve the fourth place.
In addition to promoting Punjabi at the public school and post
–secondary level,Punjabi Language Education Association
( PLEA Canada) has started the process of encouraging the use
of this language at the broader community level. This initiative
requires a lot of support not only from our businesses but also
from the community. More Punjabi signage, demand for more services
in Punjabi wherever feasible, and overall community thrust in
this regard will go a long way in making Punjabi more popular.
PLEA is also hoping to facilitate co-ordination at the local,
regional, national and international level so far as Punjabi’s
promotion is concerned. Also, we are planning more co-ordination
with the private schools and Gurdwaras teaching Punjabi.
As the Punjabi speaking community grows, so does the need for
more services in Punjabi. This of course should offer good job
opportunities for Punjabi speakers. These tasks are not going
to be easy. For the success of any of these initiatives, PLEA
needs and would welcome any support from the community, businesses
and the Indo-Canadian media in order to make it all a possibility.
(Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community