By Balwant Sanghera
VANCOUVER: For the past several years, the Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) has been concentrating its efforts in three areas in promoting Punjabi. These are: the Punjabi community in Canada, the mainstream community and public schools and post- secondary institutions in British Columbia which has the largest concentration of Punjabis in Canada.
The progress in all of these areas is a matter of great pride for the well-wishers of the Punjabi language in Canada. As a result of our joint efforts, Punjabi has now achieved a prominent place in Canada. It is now the third most spoken language in Canada after this country‘s two official languages-English and French.
Signs in Punjabi are visible throughout the Metropolitan areas of Vancouver, Greater Toronto Area as well as in cities like Calgary and Edmonton.
Punjabi has now become prominent not only in the Punjabi community but also in the mainstream community. Most of our city halls, hospitals, banks, credit unions and various other business establishments proudly display their signs “We speak Punjabi”.
In this context, it was great to see the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) launch its claim service in the Punjabi language in British Columbia recently. As one of the invitees at the launch of this programme, I congratulated the ICBC for this historic development. Hopefully, other organizations will also follow the ICBC’s lead in this regard.
On the academic front, it is very gratifying to note that Punjabi classes are under way in a large number of elementary and secondary schools in Metro Vancouver. Other cities such as Calgary, Edmonton, Brampton and Mississauga are also making huge progress in this regard.
In British Columbia, Punjabi classes are now available in four universities: the University of British Columbia, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, the University of the Fraser Valley and Simon Fraser University. Incidentally, all of these universities accept Punjabi as a language requirement for admission to the university.
Simon Fraser University is the latest to offer Punjabi classes at its Surrey campus this fall. In 2014, it will offer Punjabi 148 (Introduction to Punjabi) at the Surrey campus. This is an introductory course designed for those who have little or no previous knowledge of Punjabi. Let’s hope that there is enough interest to make this course a success.
The Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) is working with Simon Fraser University on some long range projects to promote Punjabi language and literature. On behalf of PLEA, I would also like to thank and congratulate the Dhahan family for its initiative to promote Punjabi and Shahmukhi (the script in which Punjabi is written in Pakistan) at the international level by offering very generous financial rewards for writers.
Writers and teachers play a crucial role in promoting Punjabi. Recognizing this, PLEA brought a number of teachers of Punjabi together for networking and sharing of resources at a workshop in Surrey.
PLEA members Parvinder Dhariwal and Ranbir Johal played a key role in this regard. Ranbir has been teaching Punjabi at Kwantlen Polytechnic University for many years. Parvinder has also been involved with Ranbir and is now teaching Punjabi at Simon Fraser University. Both of them are very passionate about teaching and promoting Punjabi. Thus, it was very encouraging to see a number of Punjabi teachers join them for an excellent workshop on Friday, October 25. They learned a lot from each other. At the conclusion of the workshop every participants received a package of resources created by Ranbir Johal.
Overall, PLEA is very pleased with the pace of progress the Punjabi language is making not only in Canada but also around the globe. As well-wishers of Punjabi, each one of us needs to become a goodwill ambassador for our mother tongue. PLEA can do only so much. All of us need to become active participants in promoting our language at every level. Being proud of our mother tongue and creating a sense of pride in our children for it should go a long way in this regard.
(Balwant Sanghera, who has been honoured with the Order of British Columbia, is based in Richmond on the outskirts of Vancouver)