Wakanda is sadly not a real country, but the languages that its residents speak is actually very real. Elite Daily can exclusively reveal a new featurette from the Black Panther DVD, in which stars Danai Gurira and Winston Duke, along with the movie's dialect coach Beth McGuire, explain what languages are used in Black Panther and why they were chosen. Consider this your first course in your Wakandan language credit.
In order to remain true to Wakanda's location in Africa, director Ryan Coogler and dialect coach Beth McGuire decided to incorporate a number of languages from around the continent. Most of the Wakandans speak a version of Xhosa, which is one of the official languages of South Africa. Xhosa is most widely spoken in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province, and it is notable for its heavy use of click consonants. Lupita Nyong'o, who had to learn Xhosa to play Nakia in Black Panther, said that "the clicks are no joke" when it comes to mastering the difficult-to-learn language, and Danai Gurira added that she thought the unique language added a layer of beauty to the movie.
But not everyone in Wakanda speaks Xhosa. When discussion moved to the isolated Jabari Tribe, Coogler and McGuire decided to adapt another African language. Since the Jabari created an entire culture separate from the rest of Wakanda, it made sense for the mountain people to also speak in a separate language. Further denoting their separation from central Wakanda, the Jabari speak in the language of Igbo rather than Xhosa. McGuire said that they wanted something different for the Jabari, and she suggested that they take influence from western Africa rather than the southern cape to denote the pronounced difference between the tribes. Finally, the team landed on Igbo, the principal language of many people in Nigeria. Winston Duke, who played the Jabari leader M'Baku, said that the rhythm of the Igbo language influenced the overall personality of his character.
Check out the full video of the Black Panther cast and dialect coach talking about the languages spoken in Wakanda below:
Another reason the Black Panther team decided on using Xhosa as Wakanda's official language has to do with one of the movie's central actors. John Kani, who plays King T'Chaka in Black Panther, is from South Africa's Easter Cape and a native speaker of Xhosa. Beth McGuire has said that a big reason why they chose to use Xhosa was to honor Kani, who had already previously appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2016's Captain America: Civil War, in which his character was killed. She and Ryan Coogler decided that since the king of Wakanda spoke Xhosa, then it just made sense to have that be the official language of the country.
Another reason why Ryan Coogler wanted to use Xhosa in Black Panther goes back to a trip that the director took ahead of filming. In his Rolling Stone profile, Coogler recounted a trip he took to Gugulethu, which is a town in South Africa. He said that he befriended a number of the people he met there, who were of the Xhosa tribe, and he was struck by how similar their rituals were to some of the things that he does with his own family. This connection that Coogler felt to the Xhosa tribe became an invaluable source of inspiration for Black Panther, and using their language in the movie is a way to pay tribute to that.
This featurette and more like will be available on the Black Panther DVD and Blu-ray, which will be available for fans to purchase on May 15, 2018.