Black Panther … speaks!

But how, exactly?

As the hero king of Wakanda makes his leap from the comic book pages to the big screen in Captain America: Civil War, the question wasn’t so much what he would say, but which words he should use.

Apart from a handful of terms, T’Challa’s fictional African nation had no differentiated language in the Marvel canon. But its people wouldn’t exactly be speaking English, since part of Wakanda’s lore was that the technologically advanced land had never been conquered.

Chadwick Boseman’s character does speak English throughout the movie to other English-speakers, of course. He’s a statesman, and presumably knows many other languages, too. But for intimate scenes between T’Challa, the prince of Wakanda, and his father, King T’Chaka, directors Joe and Anthony Russo felt the two men should communicate in a native tongue, one that rose up from the continent itself, free of interference from outsiders.

“The language we used for Wakandan is called Xhosa,” Joe Russo tells EW. “John Kani, the actor who plays T’Challa’s father in the movie, speaks the language and taught it to Chadwick. It’s spoken by 7.6 million people in South Africa.”

Xhosa just clicked.

Literally — it’s known as “the clicking language” for its assortment of verbal pops. The name “Xhosa” itself begins with what’s known as the “x click,” or the “horse-riding click,” as explained here:

One of the language’s most noteworthy native speakers was Nelson Mandela, a descendant of the Thembu tribe of the Xhosa people. That means now one of Africa’s most beloved make-believe leaders will forever communicate in the language of one of its most historic real-life ones.

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Captain America: Civil War
  • Movie
  • 146 minutes