Punjabis forgetting Punjabi, says Hindustan Times

| Punjab | 22 Feb 2017 | Asia Samachar |
Language department in Jalandhar(Pardeep Pandit/HT Photo)

There are many words that were used in older times, but stand almost extinct today. The words in Punjabi like ‘tarkalan’ (evening), ‘deeva-batti vela’ (evening time), ‘khou pio vela’ (time of having meal), ‘taap’ (fever), ‘jhagga’ (one’s attire), have been lost as present generation is indifferent towards their meanings.

“The language which is one of the widely spoken languages in the world, used in more than 100 countries, is not respected in its own state,” Surjit Patar, who has written umpteen numbers of poems and is a recipient of Padma Shri, tells Hindustan Times.

The newspaper had commissioned an article to look into the status of the Punjabi language in current day scenario on the occasion of International Mother Language Day on Feb 21.

The language is facing challenges, the newspaper reporter found out. See: Punjabis forgetting Punjabi, rich words of language now extinct (Hindustan Times, Aakanksha N Bhardwaj, 21 Feb 2017).

’Mar rahi hai meri bhasha shabd shabd, vak vak’ (my language is dying, word by word, sentence by sentence),” says Patta.

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The report quotes an anecdote given by Pattar.

One of his acquaintances in Australia asked her daughter that she will get to learn Punjabi language once she is in Punjab, as everyone speaks Punjabi there. When they came here and a few months passed, the daughter asked her mother whether they were in Punjab or not, because most of the people here don’t speak Punjabi anymore. “Such is the situation here that Punjabis are not speaking their own language. They feel embarrassed and prefer Hindi or English,” says Patar.

Pattar, who has done his PhD in Punjabi literature, adds: “Irony is people outside the country miss the language and want their children to learn it, but we shy away from speaking it here.”

in Malaysia, many parents struggle to teach their kids to speak in fluent Punjabi. Well, some parents themselves are not conversant in their mother tongue. But efforts are being made, at the community-level, to keep the language alive. For example, the Punjabi Education Trust Malaysia (PETM) is on the verge of opening up its 50th Punjabi Education Centre (PEC), a weekend language school.

Punjabi language seems to be thriving in Canada, for example. Here, it is now the third most spoken language.

One recent report noted that as the community has grown and its language flourished, Punjabi has the become the preferred language of employment. “Police, banks, businesses want to reach out to the fast growing Punjabi community, so they prefer to employ Punjabi-speaking people,’’ it quoted one person.

Back to Punjab. The Hindustan Times article goes on:

In 2008, the Punjab government had enacted the Punjabi Language Act to ensure the mandatory teaching of Punjabi from Class 1 onwards in all schools of the state. But many institutes and schools in the city can be seen discouraging the Punjabispeaking students and asking them to speak in English. The students are charged fine if they speak in Punjabi, it is learnt.

“If the schools start issuing fines to the students speaking Punjabi, it’s an insult to the language,” says Patar.


The language department of Punjab is also lying torpid. Some of the districts like Jalandhar and Kapurthala among others do not even have district language officers and the works department is supposed to undertake, like organising activities related to Punjabi language in schools, are not being done.

When Hindustan Times tried to contact Gursharan Kaur, director of language department, Punjab, she refused to talk.


In the end, Patar says, “We should not believe that this is an end. There is still some hope left.”

“Isnu bachaange gayak, lekhak, vidyak sansthan. Sabde maran de baad hi maregi bhasha” (singers, writers and educational institutes will save Punjabi. The language will perish only after everyone dies), said Patar before signing off.


[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]


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  1. PETM focusses a lot on the exams for Form 3 and Form 5.
    When PETM first started its activities I was one of 2 Vice-Presidents. On more than 1 occasion I had said that we need to focus on the spoken Punjabi and on the ability to read and write Gurmukhi. The focus on exams has meant that a few students actually benefit, in terms of getting an ‘A’. The vast majority wind up still unable to speak Punjabi. This hardly helps the cause of keeping the language alive.
    I have given my views based on what was being done when I was a part of PETM; its possible things have changed. If they’ve not, I reiterate that we focus on spoken Punjabi. If we succeed the rest can fall in place.

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