Loosing Battle Of Punjabi Speaking - Need Help

Waheguru ji ka khalsa Waheguru ji ki fateh

Finally I took the plunge and I have been home for almost one and half month now and have been speaking Punjabi with our children 'religiously'....they know how to speak and understand it fully...but they often forget to say things in Punjabi....i am almost tired of repeating myself "punjabi please", "how would you say in Punjabi" "no french please":shock:, "duara ton bolo" "mai nahi suniya":)

Incentives have been tried, priviliges has been withheld....nothing is bringing my kiddos in the Punjabi Speaking mode.........any suggestions to enforce 'just punjabi' at home?

Remember they are 9-13 yrs age group and English has become their primary language of thinking and speaking.......is there any way to retrain the brain of youngsters? Any tips please?

Thank you,


As a 16 year old, all I can say is that immersion is great - but won;t stick unless they have an interest.

It's really either they speak it, or not - forcing them to speak it may or may not help.

On the other hand, you can teach me Punjbai. :wink:

hehe, Only joking. Anyways, it's all about their 'drive' at an age like that.


1947-2014 (Archived)

After the age of 7, learning another language is nearly always a matter of learning a second language. You have to approach it the same way as learning French or Spanish. And in my case, learning Gurmukhi. My comment is based on research on bi-lingualism and bi-lingual education. Children become truly bi-lingual during the ages from birth to about 6 years. This is a critical period. If your children can speak Punjabi, then they are truly bi-lingual

Children who are bilingual learn both languages side by side. Children in figuring out the rules for one language, apply these rules to learning the other language. So a bilingual child is usually better at one language than the other. And uses general language know-how to learn two languages. One study I read described how a toddler learned English, Hindi and Tamil at the same time. Actually they teach themselves. How they do this is partly understood by researchers, partly a matter of having young and flexible thought processes, and partly miraculous. Before the age of 7, the brain is not firmly developed and learning two languages is not a challenge for young children the way it is for us adults.

Using rewards and punishments after the age of 7 will not help. It will create resentment. Too late for that.

You want to communicate your personal enthusiam and love of Punjabi -- make it part of the total environment of your home - Kirtan, Qawwali, books, poetry, videos and cd's, food, everything you can think of. Speak it with family memers. Slide it into conversations. Use Punjabi expressions that can't be translated into English. Have Punjabi speakers to your house -- having a good time, singing, telling stories. You get the picture. Make it a great thing to do.

Don't give up. I learned Italian in my 40's and my family tried to get me to speak it when I was 5. It sounded funny to me. Don't know why, it just did. So I would cry, and have a fit, and run away. Once there was a reason for me to learn Italian, then I went at it, and now I can speak, read and write.

This topic by the way was my area of concentration in graduate school. So be optimistic. They will learn Punjabi when they are ready.

Stay in Chardi Kala.


I know a lot of people don't like it but I tried using bhangra as a tool to help improve the Panjabi of the youth in my family with limited success. They now listen to the songs but hardly seem to know what is being said when asked about it. Which is sad. Hopefully in future they may make more effort. I know I improved my vocabulary in this way when I was growing up.

Ad0002, I don't think the problem is a direct second language acquisition one. The case here (as is common in many Panjabi households) is that the children will already be quite fluent in the language because of their exposure to it (verbally at least). Instead, motivating them to perfect, develop and expand on existing knowledge becomes of central concern. Where they see no real value in this for themselves it become torturous to try and shift them sometimes....lol

Often I also note children will stubbornly refuse, purposefully botching things up, whilst pretending to be trying so the parents will get frustrated and stop.

Keep persisting Prabhjot, until they are conditioned to respond in this way but all the while being careful not to alienate them - as this is easily done with kids.

"she always make us do that!"

If that doesn't work you can always go back to the traditional Panjabi method of "jhootian" and "thapaarh" (Jusk joking ok!!).

Try introducing a couple of new words to them every week and testing them informally from time to time to test acquisition. Sometimes we can just express ourselves so much easier in English because our knowledge of vocab is so much further developed in the language compared to Panjabi. I mean i would find it impossible to say "I am ambivalent about the issue because I find it paradoxical that.......... blah blah blah..."
Thank you Aad0002 and DalSingh Virji for your input. Both of you are partially right in understanding the issue in hand. Yes, they learnt and spoke Punjabi until they stepped in Kindergarten.......it is mere a shift or flipping the button in their brain to remind "communicate in Punjabi" when talking within the family. I do agree that punishments can build resentments, so I do try conciously to teach them with love & with polite reminders. They sure remember to ask for favors in punjabi LOL. As far as knowing the reason why they have to speak Punjabi.........they know VALID reasons for doing so and beleive me it is not to please parents. Last week I had them write any 5 reasons "why should I speak Punjabi?" The older one listed in Gurmukhi and younger ones in English.....if I have time I will scan and post the resonses........they are wonderful kids. Thanks to Waheguru ji. I will sure take advice from DalSingh ji to surround them with the Punjabi enviornment...okay that gives me reason to spend the next summer in India........got to go...time to start training Singh ji in cooking for himself :lol:


ਨਾਮ ਤੇਰੇ ਕੀ ਜੋਤਿ ਲਗਾਈ (Previously namjap)
They sure remember to ask for favors in punjabi LOL

LOL, LOL. Good way though. (Dangling the carrot).

Use a point system where there are only added points; like one point for reciting a sakhi. A point for talking 10 sentences in Punjabi per day. Don't use punishment minus points.
All these points add up to their favourite treats. Make the system seem like a "piece of cake". Don't keep changing the system. So find a system which is based on simple logic. Be very very firm on target limits. At times, it may look difficult to touch the target but children's minds work in an amazing way. To their sub-conscious minds there is no time-limit to achieving the target. By this I mean to say, they go in there into their own little world and start the process of little steps towards achieving the set goal. So if you change the rules too often, they will become confused.

Children often show their frustration outwardly due to physical limitations. Inwardly, they are not limited by anything. Inwardly, they can achieve everything. For example, if you talk about Superman, they will imagine they are superman or superman is their buddy.

I like dealing with children more than adults because there is so much you can learn from them.
Don't use punishment minus points.

Thanks Begum. I do not change the system, but definitely loose track of keeping up with the system once it begins to work...and they go back to being their old self. Last two days have been good and this discussion is helping me focus on positive only and build on that. Thank you all again.



My mother used one of these. I don't think it helps much though.......lol


1947-2014 (Archived)
Yes, the pic is really funny. I can see her in my mind's eye, even though I never met her. My mother used to chase my brother around the house with a dish towel. Very effective indeed.
O Nooooooo.... No Wayyyyy...

sorry Prabjyot ji... couldnt stop laughing :p

DalSingh ji has great sense of humor. LOL...BTW the chappal pic is good

I don't need to run......... but shout a lot to stop them from running after eachother over and around the furniture.......:wink:
i am almost tired of repeating myself "punjabi please",

Now that was not in Punjabi either. It should perhaps have been “ Punjabi wich bolo” or “Tusin ki keha? Mainu samaj nahi laggi– Punjabi wich bolo”

"duara ton bolo" = “Dobara bolo” keep an eye on your pronunciation. Kids will also say it incorrectly.

The best way is to be ignorant of their demands unless spoken in Punjabi. But you must also watch your own self that you are not making khitchedi of your punglish.

Perhaps take them to visit our older generation who do not speak a word of English or forbid them if they do so. As the elders to communicate with them in Punjabi, I am sure they will find this a challenge.

My two pence worth.

Ekmusafir_ajnabii, thank you :) 'Please' and 'thank you' are allowed. I will be glad the day I know that they are 'making effort'......it is just when reminded again and again .....and Pujabi still vanishes suddenly.

Thanks for the suggestion to watch myself....last week we were in a Gurmat Youth Camp...which was english prominent (for the youth).....I am finding myself speaking english again........I agree it is hard to switch; but reminders should work.

Okay, two more weeks of summer...I still have time to try new things. :D


Well all the above mentioned theories are GOOD and may work in certain cases and may not in other cases. Let me REMIND that there shall never be a fool-proof method which may prompt children of this age to accept your VERDICT or should I say DICTAT.
To my mind TO BEGIN WITH those children should be on vacation in Punjab with a purely Punjabi MAHAUL these children should be motivated by their counter-parts in Punjab. Assin Punjabi where ever we are ENGLISH SPEAKING comes as a So-called STATUS SYMBOL, secondly in Punjab even HINDI SPEAKING is considered SO-called STATUS SYMBOL..... Elders naal Punjabi wich gal karna changa lagda hai.
Once these children begin Punjabi speaking in Punjab encourage them with many points discussed very necely above.Outside India when children speak little bit Punjabi here and there ....Unless there is a continuity....they are likely to loose interest....... TRY and always talk about children and their friends in Punjabi deliberately in front of the children in the family at home.....Once there appears to be regular progress in Punjabi Speaking.....they can be prompted to reading/writing Gurmukhi.......Bring home an English-Punjabi Dictionary with Roman-Punjabi......This might help.....Punjabi songs cd/dvd s etc just to develop childrens' interest so on and so forth....


I should have said this before. I had a cousin who years ago refused to speak Punjabi (he was only like 5!). No matter what anyone did, (including thapparh) he refused. Wouldn't even say one word although he understood what was being spoken to him. Then he went to holiday with his mum to Punjab for 4 weeks. When he got back he was speaking it fluently and has been able to ever since.
Thank you Veer jio. I did not expect such wonderful support thinking it was just my problem and people either have their chidlren speak punjabi from childhood or they don't care. But I find every one here is lover of our Punjabi boli........I am sure this little bit of our effort with our children will go a long way as soon as they get the chance to speak with those who know only Punjabi.
In nutshell, we all agree that Punjabi environment is utmost important to keep it going. I will definitely remember that and will make effort to take them to India next year although it seems like a big chore to arrange for India vacation...summer is too hot...winter is too short :(


Prabhjyot ji why are you so worried about your children not speaking punjabi, is french that bad ?
-Anyways punjabi is getting a bad shape these days, becoming a language mostly to swear. Everything dies one day, language is no exception. Some new will evolve, why to worry !


Prabhjyot ji why are you so worried about your children not speaking punjabi, is french that bad ?
-Anyways punjabi is getting a bad shape these days, becoming a language mostly to swear. Everything dies one day, language is no exception. Some new will evolve, why to worry !

All the sikh scriptures are in gurmukhi script so its better for all sikhs to learn punjabi.so they can read it and understand it.also its better to be fluent in their mother tongue.


-Why is it better to be fluent in the mother tongue, anyways the kids are french now - if I'm not wrong, am I? And they will only rarely come to India, if at all they come.

-We don't talk in gurmukhi script, we just talk. Talking in punjabi and learning gurmukhi are totally different tasks. Do you think we used to speak this punjabi,when gurujis were alive, which we speak now. It had a totally different dimension.