PLEA AGM May 21st, Surrey, Report by Balwant Sanghera

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BY BALWANT SANGHERA

 THE past year has been a very exciting year for the Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) and well-wishers of Punjabi. Some concerns regarding Punjabi signage at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) were brought to our attention. Consequently, PLEA led a delegation consisting of a number of prominent members of our community and met with YVR officials. They were very receptive to our suggestions. Consequently, Sadhu Binning and I had a very comprehensive tour of YVR including the secure areas .We were accompanied by the YVR officials and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) reps at the airport. Sadhu and I made a number of suggestions for improved Punjabi signage at the airport. The officials agreed to implement those suggestions. It is our understanding that Punjabi signage at YVR has been improved as a result of our lobbying. However, a lot more needs to be done in this regard. PLEA will continue to work on this.

Our efforts in facilitating Punjabi language classes in public schools in Surrey and elsewhere continue. A number of PLEA Board members met with Jordan Tinney, Superintendent of Schools in Surrey, several times and conveyed our concerns about the future of Punjabi, especially at the elementary level. Without our prior knowledge or information, Surrey had declared the three elementary schools – Strawberry Hill, Newton and Beaver Creek – where Punjabi is being offered as district programs. It means that if any student in any other school wants to take Punjabi classes, he / she has to enrol in a class in one of these schools. This is extremely difficult for parents and children. PLEA’s position is that Punjabi classes should be available in any neighbourhood school if there is enough interest.

Chimney Hill elementary school is a case in point. Nearly 40 students have signed up to take Punjabi there. The parents, along with PLEA reps, have met with the school board officials requesting that Punjabi classes should be made available there. PLEA is continuing to work with parents and school district administration in this regard.

Recently, Surrey School District has undergone a review of programs like Punjabi. The Punjabi community and PLEA have actively participated in this process. We are hopeful that as a result of this review Punjabi classes will be available in a child’s neighbourhood school. On behalf of PLEA I would like to thank the Surrey School Board and its administration for their continued commitment to Punjabi language in the district. Also, I would like to congratulate Gurpreet (Garry) Thind for his election as Trustee in Surrey. PLEA is very pleased to work with him in promoting Punjabi language instruction in Surrey schools. At the same time, on behalf of PLEA I would like to thank and congratulate parents, students and teachers of Punjabi throughout the Metro Vancouver area for doing an excellent job in promoting our mother language.

Here it may be appropriate to mention that PLEA has been advocating for Punjabi in B.C.’s public schools as a second language. There is some confusion that we may be asking for Punjabi immersion. This needs to be clarified. Our request is for implementation of Punjabi as a second language as laid out in the provincial language policy.

Every year PLEA celebrates International Mother Language Day (IMLD) in February. This year again, IMLD was a great success. More than 200 well-wishers of Punjabi took the time to join in the celebration at North Delta Recreation Centre on February 21. It is hoped that sometime in late October or early November another function focussed on students and organized mainly by teachers with support from PLEA will be held.

In short, a lot has been accomplished in promoting Punjabi at every level. However, still a lot more needs to be done in this regard. It is only possible with community’s support and encouragement.

It is a pleasure for PLEA to note that last year, ICBC started offering its claim services in Punjabi. Similarly, there is a lot of Punjabi signage around Metro Vancouver’s City Halls, hospitals, banks, credit unions and businesses. ‘We Speak Punjabi’ signs at various places make us all proud.

However, there are still a number of challenges ahead of PLEA. These include lack of resources for teachers, lack of appropriate funding especially at the post-secondary level, Punjabi translation and, above all, a lack of pride in our mother language in some quarters in our community. In some cases, there aren’t enough students to start or continue a Punjabi class.

PLEA is also very concerned about Rogers’ decision to discontinue OMNI Punjabi News. This news program has been a great and valuable resource for our community for many years. At the school level, it has been widely used as a teaching tool by the teachers of Punjabi. PLEA fully supports any efforts by the community to lobby Rogers and the CRTC to restore the OMNI Punjabi News as it was prior to May 7 as soon as possible.

PLEA is also in the process of arranging a meeting with B.C.’s Minister of Education to discuss changes in the provincial language policy. Finally, I would like to thank my fellow board members, the Indo-Canadian media, well-wishers of Punjabi and our community for their on-going support and encouragement.

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PLEA’s 12th IMLD, Feb. 21, 2015. Surrey – report by Balwant Sanghera

PLEA’s 12th IMLD, Feb. 21, 2015. Surrey – report by Balwant Sanghera

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February 25, 2015

International Mother Language Day (IMLD) is celebrated around the globe on February 21. As a result of lobbying by a number of countries led by Bangla Desh, UNESCO had declared February 21 as the IMLD on November17, 1999. Since then, this day is celebrated around the globe with a great deal of enthusiasm by people honouring their mother language.

Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) has been celebrating IMLD for the past twelve years. This year again, PLEA, along with a large number of well-wishers of Punjabi, celebrated this event on Saturday, February 21 at the North Delta Recreation Centre in Delta. The audience included large number students, teachers, writers, journalists, community activists and other prominent members of the community.

PLEA’s Board members Paul Binning, Parvinder Dhariwal, Parabjot Kaur, Jasmilan Lehal, Dayah Johal,Ranbir Johal,Harmohanjit Pandher, Sadhu Binning, Rajinder Pandher and other numerous helpers and volunteers did an excellent job in ensuring that everything went smoothly. Bhupinder Lalli and her family were kind enough to provide tea and mouthwatering refreshments. PLEA’s youngest Board member and Kwantlen Polytechnic University student Parabjot Kaur with guidance from Parvinder Dhariwal and Jasmilan did a great job as the MC. This year, an exciting development worth note was the proclamation of declaring February 21 as the International Mother Language Day by the Lieutenant Governor and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of BC. For this, PLEA is very thankful to the provincial government and hopes that it will also financially support teaching of Punjabi in our public schools.

The program started with two melodious Gurdas Mann songs sung by talented singer Hardeep Virk. I had the honour of welcoming the guests and giving an update about PLEA’s successes and challenges. On the plus side, PLEA, along with the well-wishers of Punjabi ,can be proud of a number of accomplishments over the years. As a result of our efforts, Punjabi classes are under way in various elementary and secondary schools in British Columbia. In addition to that, Punjabi is being taught at the University of British Columbia,Kwantlen Polytechnic University and University of the Fraser Valley. Hopefully, Punjabi classes will also resume at Simon Fraser University before long. In Canada , Punjabi now has the honour of being the third most spoken language after English and French. In cities like Surrey, Abbotsford and Brampton Punjabi is the second most spoken language after English.

Due to a very large consumer base of Punjabis, Punjabi is being embraced not only by various government agencies but also by the corporate sector. It is great to see signs like “We Speak Punjabi” at various hospitals, city halls, public places, businesses and agencies. Our Vancouver International Airport has the unique distinction of having Punjabi signage and providing services in Punjabi . Insurance Corporation of BC’s recently instituted   claim service in Punjabi and OMNI TV’s national hockey broadcast in Punjabi are great developments. PLEA has approached a number of airlines to provide services in Punjabi on their flights from Vancouver,Calgary,Edmonton and Toronto. Hopefully, if enough Punjabi passengers advocate such services the airlines might be able to oblige. Similarly, PLEA is very pleased about increasing signage in Punjabi by the business community.

PLEA was very pleased to have a large number of well-wishers of Punjabi join it for the celebration. Surrey Newton MLA Harry Bains has been one of our strongest supporters . He took the time out of his busy schedule to bring greetings, congratulate PLEA and offer his continued support. Similarly, newly elected member of the Surrey Board of Education , Gurpreet (Garry )Thind assured PLEA of his on-going commitment to promoting Punjabi in the Surrey School District. Students of Punjabi classes , Aionroop Kaur,Navdeep Kooner,Biantveer Dhillon and Mohjeet Chhina, thrilled the packed hall with their beautiful Punjabi poems and songs. OMNI TV’s veteran reporter/anchor Dilbar Kang emphasized the job opportunities in Canada in general and Metro Vancouver in particular for individuals well versed in Punjabi. He stated that at OMNI TV alone there are close to ten journalists who are working there as a result of their command of the Punjabi language as well as their abilities in journalism.

Sadhu Binning briefly described the provincial language policy, its strengths and shortcomings. He was joined by three Surrey teachers-Gurpreet Kaur Bains (LA Matheson) , Amandeep Kaur Chhina(Princess Margaret) and Harmohanjit Singh Pandher(Beaver Creek)to comment on the policy and offer suggestions for improvement. All of them did an excellent job in emphasizing the importance of Punjabi and challenges facing them in schools. They were very optimistic about the future of Punjabi and made a number of very valuable suggestions to promote it.

The formal presentations were followed by a question and answer session. A number of prominent members of the community made excellent suggestions for PLEA and the community. The speakers included poet Mohinderdeep Singh Grewal, Balwinder Singh Chahal, Sukhwant Hundal, Col Hajit Singh Bassi, Brigadier Nasseb Singh Heer, Raj Gill, Barjinder Dhillon and many others.

On behalf of PLEA I would like to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to the Deepak Binning Foundation for its continued support. This year, Khalsa Credit Union(KCU) has also been kind enough to make a substantial financial contribution for this celebration. I would like to offer my thanks to the KCU Board and management for its support. Of course, we are always very thankful to the South Asian media –both electronic and print –for its continued support. All of the Punjabi newspapers as well the community’s English newspapers, have been very generous in conveying PLEA‘s message to the community. Our TV outlets including OMNI Punjabi, Des Pardes, Sur Sagar TV and many others have been very kind in their on-going support. Our radio stations have also done a marvelous job in conveying PLEA’s message to our community. For this we are very thankful to all of them including Radio Red FM 93.1, Mediawaves 1600 AM, Radio KRPI 1550AM, Spice Radio 1200 AM,Sur Sagar Radio Gurbani Channel 91.5 FM , My FM 106.9FM and many others.

PLEA has been actively promoting Punjabi for more than twenty years. During this time, there have been various successes as well as challenges. However, overall, we have come a long way in promoting Punjabi not only in BC’s public schools but also at the post-secondary level and the community-at-large. These efforts have gained wide recognition not only in Canada but also in many other parts of the world including Punjab. This is a great credit to the community. With its limited resources, PLEA can do only so much. However, collectively we can accomplish a lot. In this context, I would like to urge/invite all well-wishers of Punjabi not only in Canada but also around the globe to act as ambassadors for our mother language in promoting it.

 

Balwant Sanghera

President, Punjabi Language Education Association

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PLEA’s 12th Annual International Mother Language Day

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PLEA’s First Writing Contest for Punjabi learners from local Secondary Schools

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Balwant Sanghera

Punjab language Education Association (PLEA) usually holds two major functions every year. International Mother Language Day is celebrated in the third or last week of February. For a number of years PLEA was also sponsoring Punjabi Jashans in November in collaboration with the teachers of Punjabi in Metro Vancouver. However, due to a number of reasons, it was unable to do so for some time. This year, PLEA is pleased to start this process again. For this, it is very thankful to a number of teachers as well as PLEA members Ranbir Johal and Parvinder Dhariwal for putting on an excellent student focussed program at Princess Margaret Secondary School in Surrey.
On November 27thPLEA held its first Creative Writing contest at Princess Margret Secondary School. The contest was for high school students who are currently learning Punjabi in the Public School System. We were very pleased to receive a range of submissions from over forty students, including, letters, shorts stories and poems. The submissions were judged by Kwantlen Polytechnic’s Punjabi Instructor Ranbir Johal and the contest was hosted by Princess Margret’s Punjabi teacher Amandeep Chhina. The event was organized very well and Prabhjot Sekha did a wonderful job of introducing the students who had won a prizes. The students read out excerpts from their winning submissions and were awarded with cheques (cash prizes) from the Deepak Binning Foundation. Sadhu Binning and I had the honour of presenting the cheques as well as PLEA pens to the winners. Every participant received a certificate of participation/appreciation.
An honorable mention was made for Japreet Singh Lehal an exceptional former student from Princess Margaret who had written a story a few years back. Japreet is also a wonderful singer and he shared a few of his songs with the audience. This young man has an excellent future as a writer and singer. On behalf of PLEA I would like to congratulate Japreet and wish him well.
PLEA would like to take this opportunity to thank the Deepak Binning Foundation for providing the award money to the winners. It would also like to thank and acknowledge all of the teachers and students from Princess Margret, Panorama Ridge, Queen Elizabeth and LA Matheson for participating in this Creative Writing Competition. It is very encouraging to see the young generation take an interest in Punjabi literature and create wonderful marvels of their own. PLEA will host this contest annually and next year hopes to create an anthology of creative works which will include creative writing submissions from students currently learning Punjabi. Also, in February, PLEA will be celebrating the International Mother Language Day. Details will follow early in the New Year.
Winners 2014 Writing Contest
Beginners:
Poem/Letter
“Kyoon Bapu?” Jasdip Gill, Queen Elizabeth Secondary
“Phul” – Gurjot Dhaliwal ,Panorama Ridge Secondary
“Dost” – Rameesha Panorama Ridge Secondary
Story
“Nakal Mardi” – Sukhpreet Shergill , Panorama Ridge Secondary
Advanced
Poem/Letter
“Azaadi” – Kamaljit Singh Bhullar , LA Matheson
“Zindagi Da Ant” – Aainroop Kaur ,Princess Margret
“Navi Soch di Zaroorat” – Kiran Bains , Princess Margret
Story
“Paro” – Satwant Brar ,Panorama Ridge Secondary School

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PLEA’s 11th annual IMLD Celebration

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Punjabi classes at Simon Fraser University’s Surrey Centre Campus

Punjabi classes for this semester got under way yesterday(January 6) at Simon Fraser University’s Surrey Centre Campus. The Course is called Language 148. There are two class times: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 AM to 12:20 and on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4 PM to 6:20 PM. There is still room for more students in both of these sections. I would like to urge all of the well wishers of Punjabi and the Indo-Canadian media to encourage more student participation in both of these classes. Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA Canada ) has worked very hard to get Punjabi classes going at SFU’s Surrey Campus. Let’s now try to make them successful. These classes are aimed at beginners-students who have no or little knowledge of Punjabi. Thanks.

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Teaching and Resource Workshop for Punjabi Teachers

Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA)

Teaching and Resource Workshop for Punjabi Teachers

 

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October 27, 2013 

For the past several years, 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 BC’s public schools and post- secondary institutions. The progress in all of these areas is a matter of great pride for the well-wishers of Punjabi. 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 ICBC launch its claim service in Punjabi in British Columbia recently. As one of the invitees at the launch of this program I congratulated ICBC for this historic development. Hopefully, other organizations will also follow 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. Places like Calgary, Edmonton, Brampton and Mississauga are also making huge progress in this regard. In BC, Punjabi classes are now available in four universities- University of British Columbia, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, 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 the New Year, 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. 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 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 teaching Punjabi conversation classes at Kwantlen for the past few years and is now teaching Introductory Punjabi at SFU. 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 our mother tongue is making not only in Canada but around the globe. As well-wishers of Punjabi each one of us need 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 Singh Sanghera 

President, Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA Canada) 

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