Fri, Feb 14, 2014 - Page 5 News List

Tatung man keeps Atayal culture alive with weekend class

By Shih Chih-ju and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Wang Yung-hsiung, left, an Atayal from Yilan County’s Tatung Township, poses with some of his students on Thursday last week in Taipei. Wang teaches schoolchildren Atayal ceremonies, dances and language on weekends.

Photo: Shih Chih-ju, Taipei Times

A manager at a technology company uses his weekends to teach schoolchildren of all ages Atayal ceremonies, dances and language.

Over the past 12 years, Wang Yung-hsiung (王永雄) — an Atayal from Tatung Township’s (大同) Sungluo community in Yilan County — has taught hundreds of students in northern Taiwan.

Having grown up in an Atayal community, Wang is fluent in that Aboriginal language. He moved to Taipei to find work after finishing junior-high school.

When he turned 40, Wang learned the Wade-Giles system for writing romanized Chinese and used the system to help him pass the Atayal language proficiency certification test. He became a registered teacher of the language after taking additional training courses.

“It is very embarrassing to hear others wondering why an Aboriginal cannot speak their own language,” Wang said.

Recognizing that Aboriginal children growing up in the cities lack the environment in which to learn their native language, Wang, who lives in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Xindian District (新店), started driving around Taipei and New Taipei City on weekends to teach Aboriginal children the language.

Wang teaches using games, or by visiting the children’s families to introduce them to Atayal traditions and dances.

He also helped form basketball teams for girls in an effort to bring the people together, he said.

Wang said he had considered tatooing his face — as was customary for an adult Atayal — but his wife talked him out of it.

Wang said his wife initially had also been against his running around so much, complaining that he spent too little time with his family.

“She did not understand at the time,” Wang said.

However, as a compromise, he brought her along to classes on the weekends, he said.

Wang said he encourages his own children to use the Atayal language.

He said that upon his retirement in two years time, he would like to focus all his work on preserving Atayal traditions.

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