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Nanking University Language School (金陵大學華言學堂), 1918.

On the back, Mrs. Perkins wrote:

"A beautiful building, very sunshiny and pleasant, where chapel is held & new characters for each day given; photo taken by a member of the Camera Club. {OC}"

One-on-one language tutoring with private teachers:

"The way we work with private teachers at the Nanking Language School, 1st year pupils class of 1918. {OC}"


Mr. Gia, Principal of Nanking University Language School (金陵大學華言學堂校长) is seen standing at the front on a platform with a translator (Mr. Keen): 

"The way new characters are presented each morning to the first year class at Nanking Language School. {OC}"

"At Mr. Keen's right, characters on the blackboard were,Nanking University Language School - May 6 of the 7th year of The Republic (金陵大學, 明国七年, 五月六號). {OC}"

At Mr. Gia's left is the Chinese proverb: 'All things are hard at the beginning (百事頭難)'

On the chart is the hymn,'A Charge to keep I have.'{OC}"


Nanking University Language School <南京金陵大學華言學堂>

It is amazing to find that in 1918 foreigners were asked to learn the Chinese language when they intended to work and live in China, and that these westerners would comply.  The year 1918 was merely 18 years after the infamous Eight Nation Alliance (八国联军) trampled through Tientsin (天津), raped and pillaged all the way to Peking (北京). More significantly, the year 1918 was just 6 years after Dr. Sun Yat-Sen (孫中山先生) and his revolutionary counterparts established the first Republic Government in China, which effectively ended the 3,000-year Imperial rule, ushered in the modern China, and took the first steps toward independence and legitimacy.  In contrast, it is noteworthy that some one hundred years later, many western and foreign personnel have no interest in learning the language.  Instead, some would demand Chinese people to communicate solely in English to them – or else; and worse, the fact that such arrogance could be tolerated – such humiliation could be accepted – is disheartening.

There are many sound reasons why an alphabetic language such as English should be designated as an international language.  It is the most widespread, it is phonemic (and not pictographic), and it can be readily digitalized. However, to put things in perspective, the western imperialistic aggression between 17th and 19th Century was the main reason why today English is regarded as the international choice of communication.  One could make an argument that if it weren’t for the Empire of “never setting sun” and her naval prowess, the international language of choice in the 21st Century could have been Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, German, or French for that matter.  Irrespective of today’s economical and technological state in China, should a Chinese be demanding an Englishman speaking Chinese – or else – under a broad daylight on the streets of Kensington, and that his children be forced to learn geometry or biology in Chinese? Of course not – that would be ludicrous (although not a complete impossibility, if one considers an alternative universe in which it was China who sold million kilos of opium and made England a colony in the 19th Century). 

Yes, people from anywhere should learn English now that it is considered as a major international language, and such opportunity should be made available at all levels of educations.  At the same time, there should be a balance between being proficient in a mother language and one that is of need basis; there should always be a balance between venerating one’s own culture and embracing values of a foreign one. The two should not be mutually exclusive but preferably additive.  On that note, we can all agree that when it comes to pride and symbol of any Culture, Her language ranks at the very top.

Returning to the topic at hand, while acquiring the English language as a skill is immeasurably desired, in any given era serving any purposes including that of religious intent, willingness of any foreigner to learn Chinese represents the most genuine indication that he/she is here to respect and help, and not oppress and rule….

Benjamin R. K. Sun (孫賁)

May 24, 2016 (Sitting in the lobby of The Great Wall Hotel in Peking)

Faculty Members of Nanking University Language School (金陵大學華言學堂老师), 1918. Mr. Gia is standing tall at the far left.