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Sikhs For Change: Language - A barrier for New Sikhs?

Discussion in 'New to Sikhism' started by Lionchild, Jul 5, 2005.

  1. Lionchild

    Lionchild
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    language barrier for new sikhs?
    By Khalsa Starr

    About half a year ago, i converted to sikhism. And even though i don't call myself a sikh yet (not amritdhari yet), i do try to follow as much of the sikh code of conduct to the best of my ability. (thanks to s1ngh!! again)


    However, I have noticed something while going to the local Gurdwara - all of the talking in the temple was in Punjabi, especially in the main hall. The langar room was also a difficult place to navigate and talk with others since very few spoke fluent english. There were those who did speak both, but not very easily understood.

    This made me ask a question: "is there a language barrier for new sikhs?" especially converts?. I asked this question because for new people, we want to learn new things and more about sikh teachings. Converts are usually very eager to learn more about sikhi (like myslef). However, it a little difficult to learn when you can't understand what is being said!

    I'snt a gurdwara supposed to be a place for learning and enlightment? not a place of confusion and isolation?"


    After asking these questions, i then realized that i am probably not the only one who has run into this wall. While i already know some sikh history and the code of conduct, what about those who are just curious? or want more information? So far the internet has been my greatest teacher, but just think about it - isnt the temple and granth sahib supposed to your teacher?

    I asked someone about this, and they said that the granth sahib should only be read and spoken in the "language of the guru's" aka punjabi. Well that's great and all, but to me (and others newbies), the "language of the gurus" is useless and pointless if you dont understand it.

    So to make things even more interesting, the gurudwara doesnt even have any english words on the building or nearby to suggest that this is a sikh place of worship. Where is a curious mind supposed to go? Or the new convert? The internet first? come on, if the sikhims was really meant to be learned on the net, wouldn't the guru's mention it? I think not.

    I decided to pursue this problem and see what can be done about it. Until then i (and others) will continue to sit on the floor in the main hall and langar room and wonder what our "teachers" are saying...


    -khalsa Starr


    If any one is interestied in this issue, I'm currently looking for fellow sikhs who are new (converts, or reborn) and sikhs who are open minded and can think "outside the box". I am thinking about setting up a group for this.
     
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  3. CaramelChocolate

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    Re: Language Barrier for new sikhs

    As an English person who goes to Gurudwara I can tell you I fully back you up on this. Guru Granth Sahib's teachings is NOT for Sikhs, it is for ALL. All Gurudwaras should provide translation throughout the day in western countries to help cater for the minority... or ir maybe an idea to have three halls in Gurudwara, one with Punjabi SGGS, one for functions and other with English SGGS... Keep the English and Punjabi hall open at all times to everyone can get benefit. I know some Gurudwaras translate but I can tell you for a FACT they only do it at the busy times which is useless for someone like me who goes during daytime kirtan or reading or whatever...
    Hopefully there will be a day where there are Gurudwaras like mentioned above of Gurudwaras that have English SGGS.
     
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  4. Lionchild

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    Re: Language Barrier for new sikhs

    One thing i mentioned on another forum, is that there should be english only programs at one part of the day for some of us who dont understand punajabi, or those who are jsut curious. Every gurdwara should hold a copy of SGGS in English or whatever language that is comman outside.

    Also, some english signage should be placed outside to mention that all are welcome and that this place is a sikh place of worship.

    -KS
     
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  5. BaljeetSingh

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    Re: Language Barrier for new sikhs

    Dear Khlasa - As a "traditional" (born and raised as Sikh in India) sikh and now living in USA, I can truely understand your problem.

    The "Global" Sikh is in a emerging phase right now and needs lots of nurturing. This problem is not only faced by newly converts but also by the next generation kids who are born to Sikh immigrants outside India.

    There are few steps being taken by the Sikh Community to handle the problems faced by Global Sikhs.

    As you said, the internet has been the most helpful. There were no Sikh related website 10 years back and now there are tons of them.

    There was only couple of English tralsations of SGGS couple of decades back, and now there are many.

    The Sikh community is gearing up to handle this multiple "translations" (or interpretations) of SGGS and trying to come up with one single Panth approved English translation of SGGS. This is needed to avoid any mis interprations of SGGS teachings by various translators.

    For you, I would suggest, download english translations from internet. I will not recommend/approve any as I have not studied all of them (yet). But, there is enough information on the net.

    And then there are SPN sewadars (including myself) of this forum who will be ready to help you anytime with the best of our humble knowledge.

    Regards
     
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  6. Living Mind

    Living Mind
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    Re: Language Barrier for new sikhs

    Dear Khalsa Ji, Yours is truly a predicament and one which I truly understand and realise. However, let me assure you this is by no means onbly peculiar to 'new converts' or 'born again sikhs'. There are many like me, who were born into Sikhism and married into Sikhism but into an environment where Punjabi was and is not commonly spoken. This has not only resulted in my immediate family now not speaking the language but even not understanding it. The question arises as you have asked, how can we appreciate the services when we do not understand them.

    The mainstream Sikhs have thus far refused to see the need for services to be held in any other language other than the native. Like you, I certainly feel we should look into this matter and enhance the values of Sikhism for one and all, immaterial of language backgrounds. This was the case of some Buddhists here in Singapore and they got to have some Buddhist leader from Australia to help out with English language services and have now expanded to a sizeable number.

    You might not find immediate and big numbers to support you immediately but I guess with the movemnt gaining momentum, you just might be the Piped Piper of Sikhism!

    I would say, go..Go...GO for it!:thumbup: :up:
     
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  7. Jogindar Singh Kaur

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    Re: Language Barrier for new sikhs

    COUNT ME IN! I figure it will take me 4 years of study to get myself to a point where I can understand spoken Punjabi as well as a 7 YO native speaker. Plus the beauty of gurbani transcends language; why not share that beauty? There are so many non-Punjabi people who would be blown away by the SGGS if they encountered it.

    Let's do this, Khalsaji!
     
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  8. Lionchild

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    Re: Language Barrier for new sikhs

    Good, thanks Jogindar Singh, we will set up the group via msn, or perhaps yahoo, or even better tribe.net!

    I'll pm you on this, ok?

    To any one else interested: i will set up a group soon and will include any one interested who wants to discuss this topic and come up with ideas to counter this issue.

    If we get enough ideas and ppl involved, we can then act on our ideas!

    -Khalsa Starr
     
  9. Lionchild

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    Youth and Language barrier?

    This is youth side of the possible language barrier.

    My friend and I had a very deep and informative disucssion on the phone a few day ago, in that conversation we discussed various issues, but mostly on the language topic.

    I found most disturbing was this:

    In our gurdwara, all of the services are in punjabi, and most of the families do sit in the main hall. As i looked around though, it appeared that most of our younger audience looked more interested in the crumbs on the floor than the speaker or singers. It then came to me that some of us didn't know what what going on, i wasn't alone!

    I heard the sound of kids in the hallway, they were playing hide-and-seek. I looked outside, a group of sikh teens were playing basketball. Am i the only one that sees a problem here? I have a good idea that most of these ppl don't spend more time in the main hall cause they don't know what is going on. It turns out, the language issue pops up again.

    I was shocked to learn that many of the younger generations and some of the even the older ppl don't understand punjabi! Not to mention, probably more can't even read gurmakhi.

    Now, isnt our youth supposed to understanding and carrying on the word of sikhism? and isnt the future of our religion in our youth?
    Well how will that be when most of our youth don't even understand or can't read what's is being tought?

    This might be a small factor in why some of our youth find it a little dry or boreing at the temple becasue they don't understand what's going on or what is being said. I even at times found myself being a little tired of listening to something i didn't understand.

    Times are changing, and more ppl will want to be sikhs - ppl who don't neccesarily understand punjabi. We need to start bringing in a few changes if we want to change with the times. I don't honestly like it, however it is for the greater good and it will make going to temple a little bit more enjoyable for some.

    This makes me wonder how many more youth all over the world don't understand what is going on.

    Some thoughts and observations to ponder on.

    Have any ideas or change? Have any gurdwara expriences that areflect this issue? please tell us what you feel on this topic.

    -Khalsa Starr

    BTW, i'm seeting up a internet group for ppl interested more on this issue.
     
    #8 Lionchild, Jul 12, 2005
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 4, 2015
  10. Jogindar Singh Kaur

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    Re: Language Barrier for new sikhs

    We've met on Tribe.Net (I'm Mojave66 over there) but I think that Yahoo Groups gives us a better numerical chance to do some outreach and get the group going.

    GurFateh!
     
  11. jaymelee

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    Re: Language Barrier for new sikhs

    i have a language barrier and its hard for me to post because there are no translations on the posts.i would love to post to more articles but how when i cant understand the language???? im an american whose sikhi husband died and he taught me very little.thank you for reading this.i wish waheguru to bless you all with a silent song in your hearts and have a peaceful day.bye for now,gurujot kaur
     
  12. Neutral Singh

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    Re: Language Barrier for new sikhs

    Well, this is gr8 !! If you all feel comfortable, we can open a new section dedicated to this purpose right here. :) Dear Khalsa Starr, could you be kind enough to chalk out the preliminary requirements of lanching such a group and with the consent of all, we can do it at our website here, that would be wonderful and even if it is not possible to do it here even then SPN can be used as good promotional tool (1,500 like minded members here could be made aware of such an event with a single mouse click and then periodical reminders ;)). Please do not take me as a mean admin but if we could make make something really useful out of SPN that would be gr8 !!

    Best Regards
    Aman Singh
     
  13. drkhalsa

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    Re: Language Barrier for new sikhs

    Dear friends

    I would like to join in and help (if i can of any!!)
    Just like Baljeet singh I am indian (punjab) born and raised but english is my working language so i may be of any help to you

    Jatinder Singh
     
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  14. Arvind

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    Re: Language Barrier for new sikhs

    This is a very practical issue. And I admire author's good intentions about this. Aman veer has suggested a way out by keeping things on SPN. That s great. Discussions may take place here in the same manner as yahoo group would have done it. Just in case, people are not aware of chat functionality here, you may like to discuss your ideas online. I am a fluent speaker of Punjabi and English, and am willing to contribute to this wonderful cause. Please feel free to discuss more.

    Warm Regards, Arvind.
     
  15. Arvind

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    Re: Youth and Language barrier?

    Veer ji,

    Please keep us updated whichever way you like to proceed abt this issue. You may like to utilize my Punjabi and English communication skills towards this.

    Thanks.
     
  16. Jogindar Singh Kaur

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    Re: Language Barrier for new sikhs

    SPN would be *perfect* for this. My apologies for not thinking of the obvious!!!!

    I should/will do more publicity around promoting SPN anyway, wherever and whenever appropriate, including on my new geocache token. :)
     
  17. Arvind

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    Re: Language Barrier for new sikhs

    :)

    What I feel is, it is more important that we get people who are self-driven to do the needful towards the cause. I had been involved in a few projects, but dumped those due to changes in priority. But well, those projects are always unconsciously in my mind, and I firmly believe, right set of committed people can do wonders.

    I urge SPN members to use SPN chat regularly. It is sitting stagnant rt now. Personally, I prefer online chats, instead of forums. and then paste anything relevant in those chats in forums too, which cud hv been of use to other people with similar thoughts.
     
  18. Lionchild

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    Re: Language Barrier for new sikhs

    What a great suggestion! Why start a group on yahoo or tribe, when you can do it on a sikh website! sikh resources and forum is just a page away! This is great, i hope we can work something out Aman (and all the users). I think this new group or "section" would be a good add-on or addition to SPN. I think it would be best if the admin and I talked over how this would actually work, seeing he does control SPN. I think thisn new group and SPN could both benifit if we worked together on this project.

    As for the preliminary requirments, i'll get them ready for today and should be up in an hour or two. This will be an interestinf and exciting project!

    I think i will do a little donating to help out the work :thumbup:

    -Khalsa Starr
     
  19. Lionchild

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    Re: Youth and Language barrier?

    this addon should be just pasted as another reply in the original thread, seeing it's basically the same topic.
     
  20. Sher Singh

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    Re: Youth and Language barrier?

    WJKK WJKF

    i agree, i think that the youth don't want to go to the Gurdwara because they don't know what's going on. Why do we do Ardas? What's kirtan?, etc. We need to bring a language into the Gurdwara that all the youth can understand... English. I'm not saying that we should stop Punjabi, but when someone is doing Katha or something, use english so that the youth will be interested. I too, jsut like Khalsa_Starr ji look around and see the youth more interested in the Dhal stains in the Langar Hall, or when someone drops some Parshad and it dries up on the carpet that children are more interetsed in that then listening to Kirtan, etc. I think the Granthis should recite Gurbani in both English and Punjabi. Reading the Gurmukhi and then translating it so that both Punjabi speaking and English speaking and understanding youth can understand. This is just my idea.

    WJKK WJKF
     
  21. NamHariKaur

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    Re: Youth and Language barrier?

    Sat Nam!

    I am glad to see your concern about these things. I do not have any answers but wanted to share with you and others here, a bit of my own experience (as a non-punjabi) with Gurbani , because I think you might find it inspiring and refreshing.

    I came to Sikhism only 15 months ago at the age of 55 and was brought in by a transformation that came about from hearing gurbani kirtan from a CD by Snatam Kaur. (Shanti). I had no idea what I was hearing at the time but my heart chakra was opened by just that one hearing of it and I have never been the same since. At the time I was not involved in any spiritual practice nor looking for a path.

    By the Guru's Grace, when I then went to purchase that CD I found that Snatam Kaur lives in the same town I live in (Eugene, Oregon) :shock: and she does Kirtan on Sundays and Wednesdays when she is not on tour. :) :) :)


    I find that my experiences are more intense and inspiring when the Hukham is taken in Gurbani. When the English translation follows that, it is interesting but less powerful for me. Listening to kirtan or the Hukham in Gurbani brings about kundalini energy surges, intense Anand and sometimes "visions" that help me to gain perspective on what is going on in my life. Many times tears still spontaneously fall from my eyes as I listen to the Gurbani while meditating - while not having any specific thoughts or memories of emotional events. I feel that hearing Gurbani continues to be transformational for me.:roll:

    Because of all this I have taught myself to read Gurmukhi over the last four months. :rofl: I want to be able to read the Guru directly myself. I can now read it but only very very slowly. My pronunciations are fairly good for a non-Indian but I do intend to get some help soon improving some of the kh and dh sorts of sounds that are never produced when speaking English. :hmm:

    At this point I know very little vocabulary -and mostly the words from japji - which has been my main practice tool for both pronunciation and reading the script because there are many tapes and CDs of JapJi to listen to and the obvious reason that JapJi is the essence or centerpiece of the Guru's Word. Vocabulary and understanding the meanings of what I am reading are my next goal but I have been very happy to just learn how to read and produce the correct sounds thus far. :eek:ohyeah:

    I have concerns myself about Sikhism or the lifestyle of some who are Sikhs - especially 3HO Sikhism here in America and have begun to watch for others to connect with to brainstorm with about our various issues. I do not want to be specific here in this post but perhaps in another one if there is interest.

    Gurumustuk's Singh Khalsa's Blog accesible through his www.{url not allowed} website mentioned some issues too (in the May or June postings) and I have written to him asking him to help connect me with others having concerns and am waiting to hear back from him. :whisling:

    Thought you might enjoy knowing that the Word of the Guru is alive and well - as evidenced by my own spiritual awakening and transformation. :up:


    I hope the smiley faces are not too distracting from my post!

    Wahe Guru!

    Nam Hari Kaur, Eugene, Oregon, USA
     
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