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PLEA: sixth International Mother Language Day celebration on Sunday, February 24, 2008


PLEA celebrate "Sixth International Mother Language Day" at Surrey on Feb. 24


Punjabi Language Education Association
Vancouver, Feb 06, 2008
Balwant Sanghera

Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) will be holding its sixth International Mother Language Day celebration on Sunday, February 24 at Haweli Banquet Hall (Scott Road at 82 Ave) in Surrey, beginning at 10 AM. This year’s theme will be a celebration of Punjabi’s 110 years in Canada.

PLEA has been working to promote Punjabi in BC’s public schools and post-secondary institutes for more than thirteen years. Though Punjabi was initially stated in Burnaby, yet Surrey has taken the lead in many ways. This city of approximately 400,000 residents has nearly one quarter of its population of South Asian heritage. Surrey now has the unique distinction of being a great model for Punjabi language instruction in this province. It is a matter of great pride for our community that at present, in addition to six secondary schools, Punjabi classes are also in full swing at three elementary schools- Beaver Creek, Newton and Strawberry Hill. More than 650 students at the secondary level and 250 at the elementary level are enrolled in Punjabi classes throughout Surrey schools.

In addition to Surrey, Punjabi classes are also under way in various other communities including Abbotsford, New Westminster, Vancouver and Richmond. For example, in New Westminster’s Queensborough Middle School, nearly one quarter of total school population is enrolled in Punjabi classes ranging from grades 5 to 8. At the pos-secondary level, UBC continues to offer first, second and third year Punjabi. Also, Kwantlen University College and University College of the Fraser Valley are offering Punjabi classes.

PLEA has been working hard for the past several years in promoting Punjabi at all levels. It has been very successful in this regard. However, it continues to face a number of challenges as well. These include the lack of well-qualified teachers, inadequate resources and the language policy. Also, PLEA would like to get some recognition for Punjabi language at the national level. Hopefully, before long, we will be able to overcome these challenges as well.

For this year, PLEA, in addition to supporting the Punjabi classes already under way, is trying to get it going in Burnaby as well. Currently, course selection is under way in Burnaby’s high schools. Students have a choice of introductory, intermediate and advanced Punjabi. If there is enough interest, we hope to see Punjabi classes under way in a number of high schools in Burnaby. For this, PLEA is very thankful to a number of community activists and elected officials for their campaign and dedication in this regard. On behalf of PLEA, I would like to urge our students at each of Burnaby’s secondary schools to sign up for Punjabi classes in large numbers.

It is a matter of great pride for the promoters and speakers of Punjabi that it is amongst one of the ten most spoken languages out of a total of 6,000 all around the globe. More than 150 million Punjabi speakers are spread out in 150 countries around the world. Mini Punjabs in countries like Canada, USA, U.K, Australia and Singapore are testaments to the popularity and resilience of this language. Here in BC, cities like Surrey and Abbotsford, Punjabi are the second most spoken language after English. In this context, just released census figures by Statistics Canada are quite encouraging.

The 2006 Census indicates that one in five Canadians was born outside Canada. Canada’s population of close to 33 million welcomed people from 153 countries between 2001 and 2006. Next to China’s 41,500 immigrants, India provided the second largest group of immigrants-23, 990- during this time period. This is great news for all Indo-Canadians. This growth in immigration from India has given a big boost to the Punjabi language. The Census shows that by May 2006, the number of people who identified Punjabi as their mother tongue grew to 367,505. This places Punjabi as the sixth most spoken language (after English, French, Chinese, Italian and German) in Canada. The difference between the number of Punjabi speakers and those of German and Italian is very small. Hopefully, by the next census in 2011, Punjabi will overtake them both and place fourth overall.

PLEA is very pleased with the progress it has made over the years. For this, it is very thankful to the students, teachers, parents, Indo-Canadian media and the community. We must continue these efforts.
On behalf of PLEA, I would like to invite your readers to our celebration on Sunday, February 24 in Surrey.

Balwant Sanghera
President, Punjabi Language Education Association






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