Hollywood star Charlize Theron faces criticism for her comments about her mother tongue
- Natasha BottiNobol Similan
- BBC News
Hollywood star Charlize Theron is facing a barrage of criticism for calling her native Afrikaans a “dying language”.
The Afrikaans language is a West Germanic language used in South Africa, Namibia and other countries, and its roots go back to the white settlers in South Africa from the Netherlands, France and Germany.
About Afrikaans, Theron joked that it’s spoken by “about 44 people” and isn’t “very useful.”
Theron made those comments on a podcast, saying she grew up in South Africa and only spoke Afrikaans before learning English at the age of 19, which is why she speaks with an American accent.
Some millions of South Africans who speak Afrikaans were not happy with the comments.
Steve Hoffmeyer, who sings in Afrikaans, says the language has some of the best swear words, adding that “we just had our last university taken away”, referring to the University of Stellenbosch, where Afrikaans has recently added English as its main language became the language of instruction after student protests.
South African News 24 quoted another reviewer as saying that the Afrikaans language “is not dying… New songs and poems are being written, films are being made, etc.”
Some commenters on Twitter accused Charlize Theron of “being ashamed of her roots” or seeking acceptance from black people, while others applauded her words because “the Afrikaans language has a strong connection to apartheid” and “was once used to oppress Africans.” . .
The Afrikaans language is highly politicized in South Africa due to its role during decades of white minority rule, or the so-called apartheid era.
“Afrikaans is an African language that originated here in Africa but became a language during apartheid that polarized people,” Professor Petika Ntuli, artist and cultural studies scholar, told the BBC.
The introduction of this language in schools was the main reason for the 1976 Soweto uprising against apartheid, which killed at least 170 people, most of them school children.
It is the native language of 13 percent of South Africa’s population, mostly white descendants of Dutch, German and French settlers who settled in the 17th century.
During apartheid, English, Dutch and Afrikaans were the official languages of the state and indigenous languages were suppressed, but when white minority rule ended in 1994, South Africa adopted 11 official languages.
These languages are Afrikaans, English, Isiulu, Sepedi, Sioto, Setswana and others.
BBC’s Audrey Brown says: “I love this language but I hate the fact that it has been used to oppress us, that it represents oppression and evokes painful memories and experiences.”
Many South Africans today feel that insufficient progress has been made towards true linguistic equality, including students who are pushing for more university courses in African languages.
But that doesn’t mean the Afrikaans language is dying, says Professor Petika Ntuli.
Like Hofmeyr, he likes that it’s expressive and poetic and says, laughing, that it’s also “very good for insults – that’s why it’s so beautiful”.
“Charlize Theron should come back and stay here for a while, that might help her!” Ntuli added.
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