Charlize Theron criticsed for saying Afrikaans is ‘dying language’

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Hollywood star Charlize Theron has been called out for saying her mother tongue Afrikaans is a “dying language”.

The South African-American actor and producer diminished the language on the Smartless podcast earier this week.

She grew up in South Africa speaking only Afrikaans before learning English aged 19, which is why she speaks it with an American accent, she explained.

She joked that it was spoken by “about 44 people” and was “not very helpful”.

Her comments have been condemned by Afrikaans speakers.

Afrikaans is one out of 11 official languages in South Africa and is spoken by about 8.4 million people worldwide.

South African actor and producer Tim Theron left a comment on Instagram after listening to the podcast: “As South Africans, we’re extremely proud of Charlize and everything she has achieved…but we’re also very proud of our diversity and our amazing and beautiful official languages, of which Afrikaans is one.

“It’s not a ‘dying language’, and it’s not only spoken by 44 people. It’s spoken by millions of people; there are new songs and poems being written every day, movies made etc. It’s a language with its roots in several languages and cultures, including Dutch, Malay, Indonesian and our indigenous San languages. Just FYI.”

A lawmaker from the opposition radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party tweeted in support of Theron’s remarks, but the Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus), a small rightwing and predominantly white Afrikaner party, said she was misguided.

“She is not up to date with what is going on in her country of birth,” it said in a statement.

Theron was born in Benoni, a suburb 40km (25 miles) east of Johannesburg, and moved to the US almost 30 years ago.

Laws imposing Afrikaans played a role in the oppression of black citizens during the apartheid era, and the language remains controversial in some sectors of society today.

Afrikaans is descended from Dutch spoken by settlers who began to arrive in South Africa in the mid-17th century.

Its centuries-long history in South Africa has sparked debate as to whether it should be considered an indigenous or imported language.

It is the country’s third most spoken language after Zulu, which is used by around 25 percent of the population, and Xhosa, spoken by nearly 15 percent, according to official statistics.