‘Black Panther’: How the Language of Wakanda Was ‘Solidified’ by Chadwick Boseman

There are many little details that went into making Black Panther and Wakanda feel real. Chadwick Boseman, who played the titular hero, also helped solidify the world of the movie. Ryan Coogler revealed how Boseman helped make an important decision.

The language of Wakanda was chosen because of John Kani

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John Kani played T’Chaka in Captain America: Civil War. That movie was a turning point for T’Challa because he loses his father. Kani is the original reason why Xhosa was chosen to be the language of Wakanda.

“John Kani is from South Africa and he’s Xhosa, and he’s playing the king of Wakanda,” Black Panther’s dialect coach, Beth McGuire told Slate. “So, Ryan and I went back-and-forth and talked about it, and I said it just makes sense. If that’s who you started with, that’s your king of Wakanda, that’s who it is, that’s the language. And so we did.”

McGuire added, “We chose Xhosa, and it’s a very challenging accent, but it was kind of the kosher thing to do if we’re going to look at the genealogy of who they started with in the Marvel story.”

This decision for ‘Black Panther’ was solidified by Chadwick Boseman

Chadwick Boseman
Chadwick Boseman | John Shearer/Getty Images

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The news of Boseman passing away due to colon cancer took many by surprise. Director, Ryan Coogler wrote a letter in tribute of him and revealed Xhosa was solidified by the actor learning his lines so quickly for Captain America: Civil War.

“I thought to myself, ‘He just learned lines in another language, that day?’ I couldn’t conceive how difficult that must have been, and even though I hadn’t met Chad, I was already in awe of his capacity as an actor,” wrote Coogler.

“The decision to have Xhosa be the official language of Wakanda was solidified by Chad, a native of South Carolina, because he was able to learn his lines in Xhosa, there on the spot. He also advocated for his character to speak with an African accent, so that he could present T’Challa to audiences as an African king, whose dialect had not been conquered by the West,” revealed the director.

There are still other languages in the movie

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Xhosa might be Wakanda’s official language, but Black Panther showed there are multiple groups with their own subcultures. The Jabari tribe speaks Igbo, which is native to Nigeria.

“We wanted something that had its own personality and had its own beauty for my mountain strong people, who have been sequestered,” Winston Duke, who plays M’Baku explained. “In the hills and the mountains, they developed in some degree their own culture up there.”

In the end, the languages of Wakanda was influence by Kani and Boseman. Some of the other characters native to Wakanda still spoke a different language based on their history.