Punjabi Prospering Worldwide

Punjabi Prospering Worldwide

Surrey, Vancouver, Aug. 06, 2008
Balwant Sanghera
President, Punjabi Language Education Association

For quite some time, Punjabi language has been gaining prominence all around. Outside India, countries like Singapore, Australia, U.K., U.S.A.and Canada have become some of the major centers for Punjabi language and culture. Even some of the top Bollywood movies are relying heavily on Punjabi dialogues, songs and culture. Nearly every successful Bollywood movie has at least one and sometimes more Punjabi songs. On top of that, there is an occasional sprinkling of Punjabi language spoken by the main characters and those in supporting roles. Punjabi songwriters, producers, directors and singers deserve a lot of credit for this.

It was rather unfortunate that till recently, Punjabi language wasn’t getting its due recognition in its own home in the Punjab. However, lately, to its credit, the Punjab government has taken some concrete steps to give this language its due place in the state. Making Punjabi language instruction as compulsory, from grades one to ten, in the state’s public and private schools, is a commendable move.
Similarly, urging/requiring the state’s top brass to conduct their business in Punjabi is a very encouraging development.

Historically, there is little doubt that Punjabi has played a prominent role in the Indian subcontinent for centuries. Till 1947, Punjabi was the dominant language of undivided Punjab. However, with partition, it continued to be the language of both Punjabs-east and west . As Punjabis spread to other parts of India, they took Punjabi with them. Similarly, towards the end of the 19th century, Punjabis began to migrate to other parts of the world and took their mother tongue with them. To day there are three Punjabs- one in India, one in Pakistan and the third overseas (NRI).

The NRI Punjab consists of numerous mini Punjabs spread all around the globe.
It has been reported that 150 million people spread out in over 150 countries speak Punjabi. Out of a total of 6,000 languages recognized by the United Nations worldwide, Punjabi is reported to be the tenth most spoken language. In Canada, in cities like Surrey, British Columbia and Brampton, Ontario, it is the second most spoken language. Overall, according to the 2006 census figures, Punjabi was the sixth most spoken language in Canada with close to 400,000 speakers. It is likely that after the next census scheduled for 2011, Punjabi will achieve the fourth place.

In addition to promoting Punjabi at the public school and post –secondary level,Punjabi Language Education Association ( PLEA Canada) has started the process of encouraging the use of this language at the broader community level. This initiative requires a lot of support not only from our businesses but also from the community. More Punjabi signage, demand for more services in Punjabi wherever feasible, and overall community thrust in this regard will go a long way in making Punjabi more popular.
PLEA is also hoping to facilitate co-ordination at the local, regional, national and international level so far as Punjabi’s promotion is concerned. Also, we are planning more co-ordination with the private schools and Gurdwaras teaching Punjabi.

As the Punjabi speaking community grows, so does the need for more services in Punjabi. This of course should offer good job opportunities for Punjabi speakers. These tasks are not going to be easy. For the success of any of these initiatives, PLEA needs and would welcome any support from the community, businesses and the Indo-Canadian media in order to make it all a possibility.

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