Charlize Theron sparks a firestorm in South Africa with her controversial remarks

Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron has sparked a firestorm in her native South Africa for suggesting that Afrikaans, a language descended from Dutch settlers, was heading for oblivion.

“There are about 44 people who still speak it, it’s definitely a dying language, it’s not a very useful language,” the 47-year-old actor said Monday on an American podcast, “Smartless “.

On Thursday, South Africans took to Twitter to express their outrage or support.

“Wow what a disrespectful comment to the millions of South Africans of all ages, races… who speak Afrikaans as their first language,” said @Juleanor.

“Thank you Charlize Theron – this… racist language is dying and shouldn’t even be acknowledged,” @SaboSizwe said, however.

One of South Africa’s 11 official languages, Afrikaans is commonly spoken by around 12% of the population of nearly 60 million.

Laws mandating 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.

A female MP from the radical left-wing opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) tweeted in support of Theron’s remarks, but Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus), a small right-wing and predominantly white Afrikaner party, said that she was wrong.

“She is unaware of what is happening in her country of birth,” he said in a statement.

The Hollywood star was born in Benoni, a suburb 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Johannesburg, and moved to the United States nearly 30 years ago.

She said she didn’t speak English until she was 19 because “nobody” in her predominantly Afrikaans neighborhood spoke it.

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

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

It is the third most spoken language in the country after Zulu, which is spoken by around 25% of the population, and Xhosa, spoken by almost 15%, according to official statistics.

In 2020, a court overturned a decision by one of South Africa’s largest universities, the University of South Africa (UNISA), to cut courses taught in Afrikaans…AFP

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