Today, nearly 150 million Punjabis have made this language as the 10th most spoken language in the world.
April is a very important month for the South Asian community in general and Sikhs in particular. For them, it is a festive and holy celebration. In India, it is the beginning of the harvesting season. Before starting the season, people celebrate in various ways. According to the Punjabi calendar, the harvesting season begins in the month of Vaisakh. As such, the festival is named Vaisakhi. For the Sikhs, Vaisakhi marks the birth of the Khalsa (the Pure One). Throughout the month of April, Vaisakhi and the birth of the Khalsa is being celebrated around the globe. The festival has become an integral part of many communities. However, for the Punjabi community this festival has very special meaning.
Punjabis are now well-established in more than 170 countries around the globe. Wherever they have settled, they have taken their language Punjabi with them. Consequently, today, nearly 150 million Punjabis have made this language as the 10th most spoken language in the world. U.N.E.S.C.O. has recognized nearly 7,000 languages in the world. In this context, every Punjabi can be proud of this honour. Around the globe in countries like Canada, U.S. U.K. Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia Punjabis and their language Punjabi has achieved a prominent place. Even in some of the countries in the Middle East and Europe, Punjabi language is also flourishing along with its speakers and well-wishers.
On special occasions like Vaisakhi, promoters, well-wishers and lovers of Punjabi need to renew their pledge to become ambassadors for their mother tongue. Let us remember that this language of ours is one of the oldest, simplest and rich languages. It provides us with an excellent opportunity to connect with our heritage. For the younger generations, it serves as a bridge with their parents, grandparents and relatives. In countries like Canada, Punjabi has now become the language of employment (Ruzgar di Bhasha). In areas like Metro Vancouver, Greater Toronto Area, Calgary and Edmonton, thousands of jobs require proficiency in Punjabi. Thus Punjabi has become a major asset in seeking employment. Our hospitals, City Halls, banks, credit unions , businesses as well as government and non-government agencies display signs: “We Speak Punjabi.” Research has shown that learning more than one language is very helpful in enhancing the learner’s cognitive abilities.
British Columbia in general and Metro Vancouver in particular has the honour of having a large number of its schools and universities offering Punjabi classes to its students. Our Vancouver International Airport is proud to welcome visitors to Canada in Punjabi along with some other languages. Certainly as a community, we have achieved a lot. However, a lot more still needs to be done. The upcoming Nagar Kirtans in Vancouver and Surrey and elsewhere provide us with an excellent opportunity to promote Punjabi not only in schools, universities and places of employment but also in our communities. Not only that, let us also make Punjabi as the language of our family (Parivar di Bhasha). Happy Vaisakhi!
Balwant Sanghera is the President of Punjabi Language Education Association.