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  • Writer's pictureW. Austin Gardner

Learn the language

The propriety of teaching English to the natives, to the exclusion and depreciation of their own vernacular, is still more questionable. I am more and more convinced that English preaching, English teaching, and English periodicals, are the bane of missions at the East.

There are several missionaries,—more, it is true, from Great Britain than from America,—who never acquire the languages, except a mere smattering of them, of the countries to which they are sent, but beguile their time and expend their labours among their own countrymen and the country-born population, under the fallacious idea that through them the Christian religion will gradually reach the masses of the native population.

There are, however, some symptoms of an approaching change in public sentiment throughout the East in regard to the mode of conducting missionary operations. It begins to be found that popular English schools, containing hundreds of pupils, and instructed by great and powerful men, but men ignorant of all native languages, will never convert the millions of the heathen.’

Horatius Bonar, A Missionary of the Apostolic School: Being the Life of Dr. A. Judson of Burmah (London: J. Nisbet & Co., 1871), 360–361.

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