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Punjabi on the Move in Canada

Surrey, Vancouver, Oct. 25, 2009
Balwant Sanghera

Canadas Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney recently remarked that soon Punjabi will become this countrys fourth most spoken language. These comments have received widespread coverage especially in the Indo-Canadian media. The 2006 census figures placed Punjabi as the sixth most spoken language. There was only a small difference of a few thousand between Punjabi speakers and those of German and Italian speakers. If current immigration trends continue Punjabi will definitely become the sixth most spoken language in Canada after English, French and Chinese after the next census slated for 2011. This is very encouraging news for the speakers of Punjabi. In the meantime, efforts by various Gurdwaras, Khalsa schools and other organizations in promoting Punjabi are commendable. In this context, Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA Canada) has been working tirelessly for more than fifteen years.

As a result of our collective efforts, Punjabi classes are under way in various Metro Vancouver schools and other places in Canada. Delta and Burnaby are the latest school districts to offer Punjabi classes at North Delta Secondary and Burnaby South Secondary schools respectively. Punjab is continuing to be offered at three elementary and six secondary schools in Surrey. About 1,000 students are currently enrolled in Punjabi classes in various Surrey schools Also, New Westminster Secondary and Queensborough Middle schools in New Westminster and Walter Moberly elementary school in Vancouver continue to offer Punjabi as part of the regular school curriculum.

In Abbotsford, it is very encouraging to note the progress being made on this front. In this Fraser Valley hub of our community, Punjabi classes are under way in one elementary, three middle and one secondary schools. Close to 400 students are taking advantage of this opportunity.

At the post secondary level, Punjabi classes are in full swing at UBC and Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Hopefully, beginning January 2010, Punjabi 102 and 103 classes will get under way at University of the Fraser Valley as well.
PLEA would like to urge parents and students to lobby for more Punjabi classes wherever feasible in BCs public schools and post secondary institutions. Efforts are already under way to have Punjabi classes in schools like Byrne Creek Secondary in Burnaby and Cindrich Elementary and Frank Hurt Secondary Schools in Surrey. Usually the school requires 25 students to make a class feasible. As a first step in this regard, parents should get to-gether and approach the school principal. PLEA would be pleased to offer any assistance in this regard.

Every year, in order to encourage students taking Punjabi, PLEA holds a student speech contest to celebrate Punjabi in our schools and post secondary institutions. This years competition will be held on Sunday November 8 at Frank Hurt Secondary School (13940-77 Avenue) in Surrey from 1:30 to 4 PM.Participating students will be divided into three levels according to their language ability. These will be beginners, advanced and impromptu. Topics will be very contemporary and relevant. Interested students and parents should see their Punjabi teacher in this regard. PLEA is looking forward to an exciting student speech contest.

On behalf of PLEA I would like to invite your readers and the community to join us in this celebration.



Balwant Sanghera

Balwant Sanghera
President, Punjabi Language Education Association . He is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist in British Columbia ,Canada.