Born and raised in a small village in Punjab, India, Dr. Pinderjeet Kaur Gill was determined to fulfill her parents’ dream of higher education. Regardless of the myriad of challenges, Dr. Gill paved the way and was the first and only member of her extended family to earn MPhil and PhD degrees from Guru Nanak Dev University, India.
"It was one of my dream jobs to teach at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. My parents played a significant role by enabling me to fulfill that dream, and they are incredibly proud to see me land here at Michigan,” says Dr. Gill.
Dr. Gill has taught various levels of Punjabi and Hindi languages, in the department of Asian Languages and Cultures, at the University of Michigan, since 2005. Both are languages she grew up speaking.
Hindi is the third most spoken language in the world, with 615 million speakers, and is natively spoken in many states throughout India and other countries. Punjabi is spoken in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan, with approximately 113 million native speakers, including large populations in the US, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Though Hindi is taught in several universities in the United States, Punjabi is taught only at seven or eight schools.
“Bringing my languages and part of my heritage to students in America is my favorite part of teaching,” adds Dr. Gill. “The opportunity to introduce them to these new languages and cultures is quite rewarding.”
Dr. Gill has created numerous instructional materials to portray her language and culture. Her classes are very interactive and include games, videos, skits, and movies from Bollywood (Hindi) and Pollywood (Punjabi). Students explore various contemporary social issues through project-based learning.
U-M students and the university recognize her passion for teaching and engaging methodology, leading to many accolades and awards. In 2021, she was conferred with a Collegiate Lecturership, the highest honor bestowed upon lecturers in the university, and she received the University Golden Apple Award that same year. The prestigious Golden Apple Award for outstanding teaching is the university’s only teaching award bestowed by students. In 2022, Dr. Gill also was presented with the Sikh Community Appreciation Award by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and she was an invited speaker for International Mother Language Day by the Indian consulate in Chicago.
“It is a privilege to be a teacher,” adds Gill. “My goal is to turn my classrooms into communities and to make learning easier in an inclusive and welcoming space by incorporating project-based learning. I am always grateful for the memories we’ve given each other and what we’ve learned from one another.”
Dr. Gill regularly participates in national conferences and conducts workshops at the University of Michigan to share her work with colleagues. She created a website, Punjabi Audio Conversations, for beginner and intermediate-level students, and her publications include the textbook Conversational Punjabi, a series of conversations and exercises. Some of her projects include Exploring Social and Cultural Themes Through Advertising (2021) and Using Film to Teach Language and Culture for Hindi and Punjabi (2012 and 2013).
Outside of professional interests, Dr. Gill has a penchant for Punjabi folklore, especially folk songs, and Phulkari, a floral embroidery folk art of Punjab.