Harsaajan Dhillon loves foreign languages and the cultures they teach


Over the course of his life, freshman Harsaajan Dhillon has visited Punjab in India four times.

“The culture is really amazing,” said Harsaajan. “There’s the food [and] the architecture; it’s really amazing down in Punjab. For example, there’s, you know, your Taj Mahal. It’s not in Punjab, but it’s something that you could see if you go around it.”

But, Harsaajan isn’t just the usual tourist. For Harsaajan, it’s a chance to exercise just one of the three languages that he is well versed in: Punjabi.

While he wouldn’t claim to be fluent, Harsaajan been brought up speaking both Punjabi and English. His parents, who are fluent, raised both Harsaajan and his sister in close quarters to the dialect in an effort to preserve it. 

“It’s great to learn like languages that aren’t really [widely spoken,]” said Harsaajan. “They tend to diminish as generations go on. So, it’s something that my parents wanted me to learn, and I just feel great speaking my mother tongue because that’s what I would want to teach my kids and so on and so on.”

But, Harsaajan’s parents also made sure he has been exposed to other languages and cultures as well, which is something his childhood in Ontario, Canada enabled. 

“[Ontario is] very diverse, for the least,” Harsaajan said. “You will find people from all nationalities. It’s a great place to be, but at the same time, it’s very populated. You see people everywhere you go.”

One of the most prominent cultures and languages in Ontario is French. So, when a new French immersion school was built near their home, Harsaajan was immediately enrolled. 

The program runs from kindergarten all the way to twelfth grade. By the time he made it to middle school, half of all Harsaajan’s classes were completely in French. Like most kids, he has taken math in English as well as an english class, but his science, social studies, geography, and history classes were all in French. 

“It’s kind of difficult being a language that [I] learned third,” Harsaajan said. “It’s kind of intimidating speaking French all the time. So, you kind of just got to get used to it, got to get adjusted.”

Once Harsaajan conquered the initial challenge French presented, he found that he rather enjoyed the push it presented.  

“My favorite thing [about the french immersion program] would be stepping outside of my comfort zone because French where I [lived] in Brampton is not one of those like languages that you would commonly see someone speak on the street,” Harsaajan said.

While knowing Punjabi and French look great on a resume, Harsaajan is also grateful to know both because they allow him to connect with different types of people all over the world. He may have to resort to using Youtube for now, but Harsaajan has big travel aspirations. 

“[Watching videos has] been inspiring to me honestly because there’s so much of the world that you don’t explore,” Harsaajan said. “You basically [have only] discovered a really small percentage of the world. I wouldn’t want to particularly visit famous tourist destinations; there are lots of hidden gems in the world.”

In fact, discovering these hidden gems and understanding the way different people live is why Harsaajan loves language. 

“Languages are actually really fascinating because it teaches you a culture,” Harsajaan said.  “It really demonstrates how the rest of the world works because this is Canada and America, just in North America. There are five different continents that speak different languages. There are hundreds of languages and the more you get to know, it helps in life.”