Celebrating Punjabi Language in Canada
Surrey, Vancouver, January 21, 2013
The year 2013 bodes well for Punjabi language in this province. For the past several years, Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA Canada) has been very active in promoting Punjabi in BC’s public schools, post-secondary institutions and the community. Thus, it was great news when Statistics Canada reported that Punjabi had jumped to third place in 2012 from sixth place in 2006 as the most spoken language in Canada. The census taken in 2011 indicated that there are 460,000 Punjabi speakers in Canada. This is wonderful news for the well- wishers of Punjabi. Punjabi now stands right behind Canada’s two official languages- English and French. It is indeed is a great honour for Punjabi language and Punjabis. In places like Surrey, Abbotsford and Brampton Punjabi is the second most spoken language. Similarly, in Canadian parliament, as well as the provincial legislatures of British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, Punjabi has achieved a prominent place.
In this context, Surrey stands out as a good model. This fastest growing municipality in Canada is also home to a very large segment of people of South Asian heritage. Current estimates place Surrey’s population at about 500,000.Nearly 25% of this – 125,000- Surrey residents are from the Indian sub-continent.
It has been reported that Surrey, in addition to being the second largest city in B.C., is also BC’s largest school district with close to 73,000 students. It has more than 16,000 students of South Asian origin. As such, it is very gratifying to note that currently, Punjabi language classes are in full swing at a number of secondary and elementary schools in Surrey. These include Newton Elementary School, Strawberry Hill Elementary School, Beaver Creek Elementary School as well as Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth, Tamanwis, Enver Creek, Panorama Ridge and L.A. Matheson Secondary Schools. This is a great credit to the Surrey school district, students, teachers and parents. Hopefully, more and more students will begin signing up for Punjabi language classes as time goes on.
Similarly, Punjabi classes are under way in a number of other communities including Vancouver (Walter Moberly), Burnaby (Burnaby South), New Westminster (QMS Middle and Westminster Secondary), three elementary, one middle and one secondary school in Abbotsford. In addition to that, Punjabi is also being taught at the University of British Columbia, Kwantlen Polytechnic University and the University of the Fraser Valley. Thus, close to 4,000 students are enrolled in Punjabi classes in the public schools and post-secondary institutions of British Columbia. Furthermore, nearly 6,000 students are actively engaged in learning Punjabi at the Khalsa schools, private academies and various gurdwaras around the province. Similarly, a large number of students are learning Punjabi in other parts of Canada, especially Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario.
PLEA would like to urge parents and students not only in this province but all over the country to get involved and promote Punjabi at every level-schools, colleges, universities, city halls, hospitals, airports, airlines and the businesses wherever appropriate. There is no doubt that PLEA Canada has been doing this for more than twenty years and has been very successful. However, still a lot more needs to be done in this regard. It can do only so much. Consequently, on behalf of PLEA, I would like to urge parents, teachers, students, Indo-Canadian media and the community to get actively involved in promoting Punjabi at every level.
As speakers and well- wishers of Punjabi, we should be proud of the fact that Punjabi has now become one of the most prominent languages of the world. Out of nearly 6,900 languages recognized worldwide, Punjabi ranks as the tenth most spoken language. Approximately 150 million speakers of Punjabi are prospering in 160 countries around the globe.
Punjabis in areas like Metro Vancouver, Greater Toronto Area, Calgary and Edmonton now comprise a very strong consumer base. Consequently, a large number of businesses, banks, credit unions, police, city halls, hospitals and others prefer prospective employees who are well versed in both English and Punjabi. This makes learning of Punjabi as very relevant, practical and economically beneficial.
Learning another language is always an asset. It makes one more versatile. In children’s case, it enables them to communicate and connect better with their parents, grandparents, extended family and relatives.
Our world has become a global village. Countries like Canada are eager to increase their trade with the Asian countries. In this regard, India offers excellent trading opportunities for Canada. Under these circumstances, knowledge of languages like Punjabi will be a great asset to an individual.
Punjabi is a beautiful language. Also, it is very easy to learn. Furthermore, it will open up a lot of new doors economically, socially and spiritually. It will be of great assistance in connecting one with his/her religion, culture and heritage. Since Punjabi has been recognized as one of the official second languages in British Columbia schools, it offers our children and youth a wonderful opportunity. They can learn it as part of the regular school curriculum and get credit for it.
Amongst various other things, PLEA is trying to create more awareness about Punjabi. As part of this on-going process, PLEA will be hosting the tenth annual International Mother Language Day Celebration on Saturday, February 23. This celebration will be held at the North Delta Recreation Centre, 11415-84 Avenue in North Delta from 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM. On behalf of PLEA, I would like to invite your readers and the public to join us on this special s occasion.
(Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist)