The youth are usually not enthusiastic to learn Gurmukhi. They learn it only because it is one of the subjects, which they have to study at the camps. Therefore, before I start teaching any group, I spend some time to overcome the reluctance of the trainees to learn Gurmukhi.
I surprised one such group by telling them in the very beginning of the class, "I can arrange for you a dialogue with Guru Nanak." In order to make the students feel serious, I added, "But you have to pay for that." Although doubtful of my statement, they asked, "How much will it cost?" I had a ready reply with me, "Twenty hours."
An interesting dialogue followed after that.
Author : Can you tape record the speech of a person today and hear it later?
Students : Yes.
Author : Can my lecture is recorded today, can you listen to it after I die?
Students : Yes, we can.
Author : So, you can listen to Guru Nanak and other Gurus today if someone had recorded their hymns during their lifetime.
Students : Yes, but nobody did that. The system did not exist during those days.
Author: Yes, the system existed, but you do not know about it. You have to learn that system, before you can listen to the Guru speaking.
Students : Yes, we are willing. Teach us how to listen to the Guru speaking.
Author : Please understand that whatever Guru Nanak spoke was recorded by him, not on a tape recorder, but on paper in ink, in Gurmukhi script. Other Gurus did the same. You have already been told that the fifth Guru, Guru Arjun Dev Ji, compiled all these hymns. He also added to them the contributions of other holy people who realized the Almighty vibrating everywhere and in every human being. All these hand-written Gurbani hymns have been handed down to us by the Gurus and are now available in easily readable printed form.
Dear friends, you need only twenty hours to learn Gurmukhi script and can then talk to the Gurus and other holy people whose hymns are included in the Guru Granth Sahib. Gurbani in the Guru Granth Sahib was actually revealed to the holy persons, it is not poetry written by scholars about the teachings of the Gurus. If you commit yourself to learn Gurmukhi, you may need only 16 to 20 hours to start reading Gurbani. About ten youth have already learnt it during the previous two Sikh youth camps. They, who are serious, can also learn to read Gurbani during this camp. A Sikh is supposed to be able to communicate with his Guru, understand him, and learn the philosophy of life taught by him by reciting Gurbani.
Students : Will it be possible to learn Panjabi in such a short time?
Author : Yes, you only need commitment to learn it. Maybe, some of you can learn it in less time because part of the alphabet is already known to you.
The author has developed a phonetic system of teaching Panjabi to the English speaking youth. Instead of teaching the Panjabi alphabet in the usual order, five to six letters along with one vowel are chosen each day. This helps them to make words the very first day. To help the trainees memorize the letters, associations are told to them. For example, h is like a hook, one can easily remember the H sound. The words taught are only of two letters and are from the English vocabulary to make it easy for the students to understand and learn. For example, iht, hIt, ibt, bIt . This Panjabi Primer for fast Learners is available in the U.K. from the Sikh Missionary Society, 10 Featherstone Road, Southall and in Canada from the Canadian Sikh Study and Teaching Society, #108-1083 East Kent Ave. Vancouver B.C.