An Australian Punjabi family living in a rural town in New South Wales shares how they felt after they found ‘welcome’ words written in their own language on a banner outside their local school. They were thrilled to see the banner while dropping off their 5-year-old daughter Gursakhi Kaur for her first day at school.
The Singh family living in Leeton, a town near Griffith in regional New South Wales, has shared their message to strike a balance between learning the mother-language and English.
Jagmohan Singh who migrated from Punjab, India during his early childhood, says his connection with the Punjabi language has become even stronger after his family moved to Australia.
“We are very proud of our language, culture and values. It is something that we want to see flourish from generation to generation,” he said.
Referring to his daughter Gursakhi Kaur's first day at school, Mr Singh said it was a 'pleasant and beautiful' feeling for him and his wife to see a welcome banner with words written in Punjabi.
"It simply came to our notice when we reached the school to drop Gursakhi on the first day. The banner read in Punjabi – Welcome,” he said.
For others, it may be a very small thing but for us, it was a matter of pride as we feel our identity and existence are interlinked with our language.
Mr Singh also talked about Leeton’s demography* and why the Punjabi banner mattered ‘so much’ for his family.
"Approximately 150 Punjabi community members live in this town and there are around 10 Punjabi children studying in this school," he said.
Anything that is associated with our language’s presence in the wider community attracts us and we take it as a matter of pride.
“I often get to meet many teachers and childcare staff who believe that is very important for a child to learn the mother-language. I personally feel knowing two or three languages makes a child more competent."
Mr Singh said that he feels sad to find that when countries like Australia encourage children to develop language skills other than English there are schools in Punjab, India where speaking the native language attracts punishment and heavy fines.
"I feel learning your mother tongue or even other languages does not hold you back," he said.
People must not lose confidence if they only know one language. But they should make a consistent effort to learn their language of necessity, which is English in our case."
Mr Singh also appealed to parents to play their role in providing a Punjabi-speaking environment to their children at home.
Mr Singh’s family had moved to Australia from New Zealand about twenty years ago, and he has spent almost his entire life outside of India.
Click on the audio button on the photo above to hear their migration story....
* Leeton is a town located in the Riverina region of southern New South Wales. It has a population of 11,602.
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