It is great news for well- wishers of Punjabi that this language has gained a place of prominence at the international level.
Surrey, Vancouver, Jan 05, 2012 According to available information, Punjabi ranks 10th from top out of a total of 6,900 languages recognized internationally by the United Nations. It has been reported that close to 150 million Punjabi speakers are spread out in about 161 countries around the globe.
Nationally, Punjabi stands as the sixth most spoken language in Canada. In the Metro Vancouver area, Punjabi is the third most spoken language after English and Chinese. It is also the case in Metro Toronto where places like Brampton, Springdale and Mississauga have substantially large Punjabi speaking residents. In British Columbia’s cities like Surrey and Abbotsford, Punjabi is second only to English as the most spoken language.
It is a matter of great pride for the Punjabi community that there are eight Punjabi speaking members of parliament in Ottawa and six in the British Columbia legislature. Similarly, in other major cities of Canada like Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Montreal, Punjabi language has made a lot of progress. Punjabi speaking lawmakers as well as in other prominent positions are making their mark not only in Canada but also around the globe. It is very encouraging to note that a lot of non Indo-Canadians are also learning Punjabi.
Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) is very pleased that Punjabi language classes have been progressing very well in a number of public schools and post-secondary institutions in B.C.
Surrey continues to be a great model for others. Punjabi classes have been under way, for many years, in the Surrey School District for grades 5, 6 and 7 in three elementary schools. In addition to that eight high schools are offering Punjabi from grades 8 to 12.Furthermore, Punjabi is being taught in New Westminster, Burnaby, Delta, Vancouver and Abbotsford. Also, University of the Fraser Valley, Kwantlen Polytechnic University and the University of British Columbia are proud to offer Punjabi.
For this year, PLEA is targeting a number of schools where there are good chances of getting Punjabi classes under way. These are: Cougar Creek, North Ridge, Chimney Hill and Cindrich in Surrey, Byrne Creek and Second Street in Burnaby, Cambie and McNair in Richmond and Traditional in Abbotsford. It is good news for our students in New Westminster that the school district is willing to offer Punjabi 9 at New Westminster Secondary if there is enough interest. This school is already offering Punjab 11 and Punjabi 12 classes. PLEA would like to urge students and parents at all of these schools to contact their school principals and urge them to offer Punjabi. Signing up in large numbers will certainly make a big difference in this regard. For any assistance they can contact me at 604-836-8976 or Sadhu Binning at 604-437-9014. Incidentally, usually, the school requires at least 25 students in order to consider offering Punjabi.
At the community level, it is great to see a lot of Punjabi and non-Punjabi businesses have their signage in Punjabi in addition to English. A large number of City Halls, hospitals, banks and credit unions proudly display their signs stating: We Speak Punjabi. Our own Vancouver International Airport has signs welcoming visitors in Punjabi. Even Canada’s national sport of ice hockey is broadcast in Punjabi in addition to English and French. Hopefully, more and more businesses will continue to have their signage in Punjabi in addition to English. Also, it would great if all well wishers of Punjabi have their business cards both in English and Punjabi and consider themselves as ambassadors for our mother tongue.
Our community has been in Canada for 125 years and has made an invaluable contribution to this country’s growth and development. Unfortunately, our mother tongue Punjabi is still considered as a foreign language. PLEA would like to urge the community and our elected representatives to spearhead a campaign to get due recognition at the national level to our mother tongue Punjabi. Well-wishers of Punjabi in Canada and around the globe need to start a movement (Lok Lehar) to promote Punjabi at every level. It is about time to get something like this going.
(Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist)