Punjabiyaan (Canadiaan?) di boli

New census figures show that by 2011, Punjabi will step up two places to become the fourth most spoken language in Canada (after English, French, and Chinese). Apparently, not only is the influx of Punjabi immigrants driving these changes, but also a resurgence of Punjabi-learning among Canadian-born Punjabis. While an increasing number of banks and businesses are offering Punjabi-language services, I can’t help but wonder if Canada has similar language-access legislation to the U.S. [Of course, with my Cali-U.S. bias, it’s hard for me to not wonder how these sorts of things compare or relate back]

Within the U.S., federal compliance with Title VI requires that — in areas with “significant” minority language populations (wishy-washy phrasing, I know) –, state agencies must offer translation services. They don’t have to have them on site, but they do have to have ready access to translated government documents, pamphlets, forms, and a spoken translator on reserve. As the Punjabi-speaking community continues to grow in Canada, despite any English capacity, it becomes increasingly important to ensure adequate language access. Two years ago, access to Punjabi translation became central in a government bribery and corruption investigation. How does this trend influence government spending/resources when basic access to services (e.g., shopping, banking, health care) requires accurate and ready translators?


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17 Responses to “Punjabiyaan (Canadiaan?) di boli”

  1. applehead (aka idiot says:

    You know as a child your parents say 'speak in punjabi' and you do it to avoid the wrath of the belna but Punaji is actually a really coarse language, isn't it? Also though perhaps a derivative it's not really the same as Gurmukhi any more. It's sort of a watered down slang form of the beautiful language of Guru Nanak.

    Also all of gurbani is not written in Punjabi. Does anyone know how many languages and dialects Gurbani consists of? (genuine question – I don't know the answer)

    Sorry I'm not suggesting that we stop speaking punjabi – I think it's a really important basis if we are to understand the language of our Guru and probably what I'm saying is that we might think about learning and speaking punjabi properly.

  2. applehead (aka idiot) says:

    You know as a child your parents say ‘speak in punjabi’ and you do it to avoid the wrath of the belna but Punaji is actually a really coarse language, isn’t it? Also though perhaps a derivative it’s not really the same as Gurmukhi any more. It’s sort of a watered down slang form of the beautiful language of Guru Nanak.

    Also all of gurbani is not written in Punjabi. Does anyone know how many languages and dialects Gurbani consists of? (genuine question – I don’t know the answer)

    Sorry I’m not suggesting that we stop speaking punjabi – I think it’s a really important basis if we are to understand the language of our Guru and probably what I’m saying is that we might think about learning and speaking punjabi properly.

  3. Camille says:

    I actually like the sound of Punjabi :) I also like the sound of German, so maybe I'm crazy. I don't know if I have any attachment to "pure" Gurbani-style Gurmukhi anymore than I would to Shakespearean English. I can appreciate what it contains, but I probably wouldn't choose to speak in classical 15th-18th century Punjabi even if I were able to :)

    What do you mean by "learning and speaking Punjabi properly"?

    I can't recall all the languages contained in Gurbani, but in SGGSJi there is Gurmukhi (classic Western Punjabi), Sanskrit, Farsi, and some Hindustani. Readers, can you add to anything missing on that list?

  4. Camille says:

    I actually like the sound of Punjabi :) I also like the sound of German, so maybe I’m crazy. I don’t know if I have any attachment to “pure” Gurbani-style Gurmukhi anymore than I would to Shakespearean English. I can appreciate what it contains, but I probably wouldn’t choose to speak in classical 15th-18th century Punjabi even if I were able to :)

    What do you mean by “learning and speaking Punjabi properly”?

    I can’t recall all the languages contained in Gurbani, but in SGGSJi there is Gurmukhi (classic Western Punjabi), Sanskrit, Farsi, and some Hindustani. Readers, can you add to anything missing on that list?

  5. baingandabhartha says:

    Sebhead above, coarseness is because of the speakers. Chaste punjabi can be quite eloquent. There are coarse versions of every language. This 'coarseness' of punjabi is a self perpetuating myth. I have heard a lot of other ppl spew it out without thinking about it. Clearly Gurbani and Punjabi are heavily influenced by other languages as are a lot of other languages in this world.

  6. baingandabhartha says:

    Sebhead above, coarseness is because of the speakers. Chaste punjabi can be quite eloquent. There are coarse versions of every language. This ‘coarseness’ of punjabi is a self perpetuating myth. I have heard a lot of other ppl spew it out without thinking about it. Clearly Gurbani and Punjabi are heavily influenced by other languages as are a lot of other languages in this world.

  7. Mewa Singh says:

    Dear Camille,

    Gurmukhi is actually the script, not to be confused with the languages. Gurmukhi is how Sikhs tend to write Punjabi as opposed to in Shahmukhi, as it is written, in West Punjab.

    With regards to the languages in Gurbani, the most common is actually Braj Bhasha. Braj Bhasha was the lingua franca of northern South Asia during the early modern period. Braj Bhasha was used in literature and by religious figures to be able to communicate to masses over a wide geographic expanse.

    With regards to Punjabi, the dialects in the Guru Granth Sahib reflect the greater variation than the more standardized form we find today. While many of us can distinguish between Malwai, Majha, and Doaba dialect, the other dialects are even more distinct. In the Guru Granth Sahib certain Shabads can be found in Lehndi, which is a Southern dialect of Punjabi, centered around Multan.

    I hope this doesn't sound boring, so I will stop there for now.

  8. Mewa Singh says:

    Dear Camille,

    Gurmukhi is actually the script, not to be confused with the languages. Gurmukhi is how Sikhs tend to write Punjabi as opposed to in Shahmukhi, as it is written, in West Punjab.

    With regards to the languages in Gurbani, the most common is actually Braj Bhasha. Braj Bhasha was the lingua franca of northern South Asia during the early modern period. Braj Bhasha was used in literature and by religious figures to be able to communicate to masses over a wide geographic expanse.

    With regards to Punjabi, the dialects in the Guru Granth Sahib reflect the greater variation than the more standardized form we find today. While many of us can distinguish between Malwai, Majha, and Doaba dialect, the other dialects are even more distinct. In the Guru Granth Sahib certain Shabads can be found in Lehndi, which is a Southern dialect of Punjabi, centered around Multan.

    I hope this doesn’t sound boring, so I will stop there for now.

  9. what's in a nam says:

    "but I probably wouldn’t choose to speak in classical 15th-18th century Punjabi even if I were able to"

    I would. I would love to speak a language that connected me to my roots more efficiently.

    I don't like the sound of commonly spoken contemporary punjabi at all – it's so crude but then I don't like the sound of the German language either 😛 :)

  10. what's in a name says:

    “but I probably wouldnt choose to speak in classical 15th-18th century Punjabi even if I were able to”

    I would. I would love to speak a language that connected me to my roots more efficiently.

    I don’t like the sound of commonly spoken contemporary punjabi at all – it’s so crude but then I don’t like the sound of the German language either 😛 :)

  11. Phulkari says:

    I have heard from two people who were raised in Punjab and recently immigrated that when they hear children whose parents immigrated in the late 1960s and 1970s from Punjab speak fluent Punjabi they are amazed at how the language has been maintained. They commented that these children's Punjabi is more "pure" than those in Punjab now (desire to include more English and Hindi words). It's like their parents and grandparents are a time-capsule who taught the 2nd generation the Punjabi they knew, which was less influenced by the need to include more and more English and Hindi words.

    I thought it was a nice compliment to all the hateration the 2nd generation receives on their accents! :)

  12. Phulkari says:

    I have heard from two people who were raised in Punjab and recently immigrated that when they hear children whose parents immigrated in the late 1960s and 1970s from Punjab speak fluent Punjabi they are amazed at how the language has been maintained. They commented that these children’s Punjabi is more “pure” than those in Punjab now (desire to include more English and Hindi words). It’s like their parents and grandparents are a time-capsule who taught the 2nd generation the Punjabi they knew, which was less influenced by the need to include more and more English and Hindi words.

    I thought it was a nice compliment to all the hateration the 2nd generation receives on their accents! :)

  13. Phulkari says:

    Along with Punjabi expected to soon step-up two places to be the fourth most spoken language in Canada. The PLEA (Punjabi Language Education Association) is now approaching the government of Canada to give Punjabi the official status of being a Canadian language.

    The <a href="http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?id=b7a30607-cc44-476e-9872-ea49b075d1ff&ParentID=dbfa395d-ff3c-4087-985f-17519a9c0e8e&MatchID1=4663&TeamID1=5&TeamID2=2&MatchType1=1&SeriesID1=1173&PrimaryID=4663&Headline=Indo-Canadians+want+official+status+for+Punjabi&quot; rel="nofollow">article states:

    PLEA president Balwant Sanghera, who was one of the movers of the resolution at the annual gathering, told IANS: "The whole Indo-Canadian community has extended its support to us to approach the federal government to recognise Punjabi as one of the Canadian languages."

    He said representatives of various political parties also assured them that they would take up the issue with the federal government in Ottawa.

    "We have now to work with law makers and legal experts on the issue. It may take some time, but we are now committed to getting the deserving status for Punjabi," Sanghera said.

    Sadhu Binning, who is vice president of PLEA and teaches Punjabi at the University of British Columbia, said Punjabi has been used in Canada for 110 years but it was still not recognised as one of the Canadian languages.

    It was high time it was given an official status like English and French, he said.

    I commend the efforts of PLEA and recognize the importance of such an action, but ask what Canadian Punjabis really hope to gain out of this political action, aside from recognition? What would the community like to do with such a status?

  14. Phulkari says:

    Along with Punjabi expected to soon step-up two places to be the fourth most spoken language in Canada. The PLEA (Punjabi Language Education Association) is now approaching the government of Canada to give Punjabi the official status of being a Canadian language.

    The article states:

    PLEA president Balwant Sanghera, who was one of the movers of the resolution at the annual gathering, told IANS: “The whole Indo-Canadian community has extended its support to us to approach the federal government to recognise Punjabi as one of the Canadian languages.”

    He said representatives of various political parties also assured them that they would take up the issue with the federal government in Ottawa.

    “We have now to work with law makers and legal experts on the issue. It may take some time, but we are now committed to getting the deserving status for Punjabi,” Sanghera said.

    Sadhu Binning, who is vice president of PLEA and teaches Punjabi at the University of British Columbia, said Punjabi has been used in Canada for 110 years but it was still not recognised as one of the Canadian languages.

    It was high time it was given an official status like English and French, he said.

    I commend the efforts of PLEA and recognize the importance of such an action, but ask what Canadian Punjabis really hope to gain out of this political action, aside from recognition? What would the community like to do with such a status?

  15. P.Singh says:

    Phulkari,

    Sadhu Binning was one of my professors at UBC – very passionate about protecting/preserving the Punjabi language. He played no small part in getting Punjabi into certain BC high schools as an elective language.

    This is the first I am hearing of this proposed request for status and am doubtful Punjabi will be accorded such status – French and English have such status because they are 'founder's languages' in Canada. Moreover, Cantonese and/or Mandarin have probably been in Canada even longer than Punjabi.

    That said, recognition is, in and of itself, a pretty significant protection for a language. If Punjabi were accorded official status, I think it would open the door for greater funding for teaching the language, not to mention, greater funding for Punjabi-language related arts. For example, a Punjabi-language film maker, when applying for certain grants (and/or tax breaks) from the federal government, may have an easier time securing such funding.

    With the erosion of the Punjabi language in India and Pakistan, I think it's pretty awesome we have people like Sadhu Binning fighting to preserve the language in North America.

    Heck, with Punjabi in India under assault by Hindi, and Punjabi in Pakistan vanishing under the weight of Urdu – Canada just may be the safe haven the language needs!

  16. P.Singh says:

    Phulkari,

    Sadhu Binning was one of my professors at UBC – very passionate about protecting/preserving the Punjabi language. He played no small part in getting Punjabi into certain BC high schools as an elective language.

    This is the first I am hearing of this proposed request for status and am doubtful Punjabi will be accorded such status – French and English have such status because they are ‘founder’s languages’ in Canada. Moreover, Cantonese and/or Mandarin have probably been in Canada even longer than Punjabi.

    That said, recognition is, in and of itself, a pretty significant protection for a language. If Punjabi were accorded official status, I think it would open the door for greater funding for teaching the language, not to mention, greater funding for Punjabi-language related arts. For example, a Punjabi-language film maker, when applying for certain grants (and/or tax breaks) from the federal government, may have an easier time securing such funding.

    With the erosion of the Punjabi language in India and Pakistan, I think it’s pretty awesome we have people like Sadhu Binning fighting to preserve the language in North America.

    Heck, with Punjabi in India under assault by Hindi, and Punjabi in Pakistan vanishing under the weight of Urdu – Canada just may be the safe haven the language needs!

  17. […] have posted in the past on issues surrounding the preservation of the Panjabi language here, here, and here. Be it anywhere from Panjab to North America, the preservation of the Panjabi language is […]