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Promoting Punjabi in Canada

A new school year has just begun. Now is a good time to instill amongst our children interest in learning the Punjabi language. British Columbia in particular and Canada in general have been graciously recognized worldwide for promotion of Punjabi. It is a great credit to the well-wishers of Punjabi that Metro Vancouver has become a model for this language. Currently, Punjabi classes are under way in various schools, colleges and universities .In addition to that, Punjabi is being taught and promoted by various places of worship, Khalsa schools and other organizations.

It is also very encouraging that a large number of government and non-government organizations like the city halls, hospitals, banks, credit unions and other businesses proudly display signs that read: We Speak Punjabi. On my recent trip to India, I was often complimented about our efforts in promoting Punjabi here. Similarly, when we see any visitors or dignitaries from the Punjab, they always commend us about our efforts in keeping Punjabi upfront. For this, our whole community and the Indo-Canadian media can pat itself on the back. In this context, Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) has been playing a prominent role. Our collective efforts are bearing fruit.

In an attempt to promote Punjabi year round, PLEA undertakes various activities. This includes two major functions each year. The International Mother Language Day is held in February. Also, PLEA has been holding a student speech contest for the past several years. We invite Punjabi students from the Metro Vancouver area to participate. This year again, PLEA will be holding the speech contest in the next few weeks. Once details have been finalized, they will be made available. Hopefully, we will have a large number of students taking part in the contest.

PLEA continues to face a number of challenges. These include lack of enthusiasm amongst some students and parents in learning Punjabi. We need to recognize that learning any language is great. However, learning Punjabi, especially by students of Punjabi heritage, has an added advantage. It helps them stay connected with their roots. Often, grandparents cant communicate well in English and the grandchildren cant do so well in Punjabi. This creates a communication gap between them. Children who can communicate well in Punjabi are also able to connect well with not only their grandparents but also with the rest of the extended family.

Another major benefit of learning Punjabi is economic. The Indo-Canadian community has grown considerably in Canada during the past few years. This has resulted in businesses catering to the Punjabi community. These businesses need employees who can communicate well both in English and Punjabi. It has been reported that in Surrey alone, there are close to 2,000 jobs that require employees who can communicate well both in English and Punjabi. Even at the international level, Punjabi seems to be much in demand especially when it involves trade with countries like India.
On behalf of PLEA, I would like to urge our students and parents to make a sincere effort in learning Punjabi. Usually, it requires 25 students and a well-qualified teacher to get a class going. As a first step in this process, interested parents should talk to each other and then collectively approach the school principal. Once this has been done, I ask them to get in touch with PLEA to support them in this process. We would be pleased to do so.
Finally, PLEA is very thankful to the Indo-Canadian media for getting its message to their listeners, viewers and readers.

Balwant Sanghera
President, Punjabi Language Education Association (Canada)




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