Charlize Theron‘s comments on Afrikaans, the South African actor’s mother tongue, have landed her in a controversy. Speaking at the Smartless podcast with Jason Batman, Sean Haynes and Will Arnett, the Monster actor said Afrikaans was dying out and hardly has any takers left. 

“There’s about 44 people still speaking it … it’s definitely a dying language, it’s not a very helpful language,” Theron said.

Also read: Elizabeth Holmes sentenced to more than 11 years in prison for Theranos scam

Her comments stirred controversy among South Africans. A radical left politician from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) tweeted in Theron’s favour, while Freedom Front Plus, a right-wing party, found her comments misguided. 

Also read: FIFA World Cup 2022: High-rolling fans will get alcohol at Qatar stadiums

The Pan South African Language Board (PSLB) issued a press release contradicting Theron’s comments, calling them “inaccurate and misleading”.

“According to Stats SA’s Community Survey of 2018, Afrikaans is the 3rd most spoken language in the country making up 12.2% of the population,” read the statement.

The press note ended saying Theron is held in high regard in South Africa but they expected her to “pay due regard to constitutional imperatives that promote social cohesion”.

Also read: Bernd Neuendorf, German football federation chief, slams FIFA over human rights campaign

Afrikaans is a West Germanic language developed from 17th- century Dutch. The language, also referred to as Cape Dutch, was spoken primarily by descendants of European colonists, Indigenous people and Asian and African slaves. It is mainly spoken in South Africa and Namibia while people speaking the language are also found in Zimbabwe and Botswana.

Also read: What is India’s new draft data protection bill?

While the language evolved into one with a substantial literature, it has been controversial as it was enforced during the Apartheid period on non-European populations.  As of now, it is one of the 11 official languages of South Africa. In 2020, a court overturned a decision by University of South Africa to abolish classes taught in Afrikaans.