Backlash Over Charlize Theron ‘Dying Language’ Jibe

Johannesburg – The Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) on Friday said it has “noted with concern” the disparaging comments made by South African-born actress, Charlize Theron, wherein she disregards the Afrikaans language as “dying out” and “not very useful” and only spoken by 44 people. 

The internationally acclaimed actress ruffled feathers with her comments about Afrikaans during a SmartLess podcast interview in which she said: “There’s about 44 people still speaking it. It’s definitely a dying language; it’s not a very helpful language.” 

PanSALB said the comments were not only “disheartening but are disturbing as they are inaccurate and misleading”. 

Stats SA’s Community Survey of 2018, indicates that Afrikaans is the third most spoken language in the country making up 12,2% of the population. 

“These comments made by Ms. Theron perpetuate the persistent misconception that Afrikaans is only spoken by white ‘boere’ South Africans, which could not be farther from the truth as 60% of the people that speak the language are black,” said PanSALB.

“Furthermore, Afrikaans maintains its official status in terms of the Constitution and is utilised in several cross-governmental communications and used as a medium of instruction in South African schools. 

“By her own admission, Ms. Theron was taught through our schooling system in her mother tongue, which built the foundation of her rather illustrious career.” 

PanSALB added: “Ms. Theron is held in such high regard by the country of her birth and as the Pan South African Language Board we implore her to pay due regard to the Constitutional imperatives that promote social cohesion and continue the commendable work of using her platform to highlight some of the critical socio-economic issues that affect the continent including the importance of participating in public life using one’s mother tongue.”

Responding to the “dying language” jibe made by the 47-year-old Hollywood star, Afrikaans Language Council chief executive Dr. Conrad Steenkamp said there were about 6.8 million Afrikaans-speaking people in South Africa.