Charlize Theron under fire after statement about 'dying African'


NOS News

South African actress Charlize Theron is under fire in her own country after she called Afrikaans a dying language. In a podcast, Theron jokingly said, “There are about 44 people who still speak it. It’s definitely a dying language and it’s not a very helpful language.”

Her remarks sparked angry reactions from South African celebrities. Because the language is inextricably linked to apartheid, discussions about it are very sensitive. Afrikaans is seen by many South Africans as the language of the oppressors. But there is also a part of the population that considers Afrikaans to be part of their history and therefore should not allow it to die out.

The African Language Council immediately demanded that Theron apologize. “As an icon and role model for many young South Africans, Charlize Theron’s ill-informed ‘throwaway’ remarks about Afrikaans touch the language to the heart.”

One of the most famous South African singers who sing mainly in Afrikaans, Steve Hofmeyr, calls it nonsense that Afrikaans is dying out and says that it is very much alive.

Theron said in the podcast that until she was 19 she spoke only Afrikaans and did not communicate in English. She said that nowadays nobody around her spoke Afrikaans anymore.

Dutch words

Afrikaans consists for the most part of originally Dutch words and is mainly spoken in South Africa. A large proportion of the speakers are descendants of Dutch people who settled in the Cape Colony in the 17th century. Over the centuries, Afrikaans was influenced by Portuguese, French and English, among others.

It is one of South Africa’s eleven official languages ​​and is used by about 12 percent of its nearly 60 million population. This makes Afrikaans the third most spoken language in the country.

Official language

In the last century, only English and Afrikaans were officially recognized in the country. Making Afrikaans compulsory in schools was the immediate cause of the 1976 Soweto uprising against the apartheid regime, in which at least 170 people were killed, mostly schoolchildren.

Last June, the airline Ryanair was discredited because all South African passengers who wanted to travel to the United Kingdom had to prove their nationality by passing a knowledge test in Afrikaans. Anyone who failed the test was not allowed on board. After criticism, the company decided to stop the test.

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