How to Speak Spanish Like a Chilean

Alicia Heiser is a student at Gonzaga University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad and participating in service-learning with ISA in Valparaiso, Chile.

Arguably one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the culture of your host country is to learn the language and the slang of the region. Chilean Spanish is very distinctive in many ways, and it’s been said that if you are able to understand and communicate in Chile, you will be able to speak the Spanish of any other country. There are many aspects that make Chilean Spanish so unique, most notably the distinctive Chilean slang, the use of “vos,” and the Chilean accent.

Chilean Slang or “Chilenismos”:
Chilean slang, also referred to as “chilenismos,” provides a wide and diverse vocabulary to express oneself. To be able to speak like a true Chilean, here are a couple of the most commonly used “chilenismos”:
Bacán: translated as “cool,” bacán can be used in almost any situation to express satisfaction, agreement or approval. Extra points if you abbreviate bacán to “bkn” in your texts.
Cachai: literally translated as “to catch,” Chileans use this word to convey agreement and understanding in conversations. This particular verb tense is conjugated in the “vos” form of the verb, making it a doubly authentic Chilenismo.
Fome or fomingo: translated as “boring,” fome is the perfect word to use to express any mind-numbing experience that is overwhelmingly monotonous. “Fomingo” is a combination of “fome” and “domingo”, expressing how boring Sundays are in Chile because everything is closed.

Use of “vos”:
“Vos,” or the voseo, is used in a variety of different ways across every Latin American country and has its own conjugations. In Chile, “vos” is used quite often between friends as an endearing and personal way to refer to someone. In the present tense, it’s conjugated by dropping the –ar, -er, or –ir from the end of a word and adding “ai” or “í” respectively. If you spend fifteen minutes listening to Chilean conversations, it’s guaranteed that you’ll hear phrases such as “como estai?” or “cachai?” multiple times.

The Chilean Accent:
Arguably the most distinctive and potentially difficult aspect of Chilean Spanish is the Chilean accent. Chileans cut the ending “s” off of words, so “mas o menos” becomes “ma’ o meno’.” Additionally, Chileans, especially young Chileans, speak incredibly fast and throw in a mountain of “chilenismos.” This unique accent makes it difficult to understand Chilean conversations even if you are a native Spanish speaker. Fortunately for students living in Chile, the professors, host families and many other people that you will encounter are used to talking to foreign students and will speak much more clearly than the typical Chilean accent. While some argue that Chilean Spanish is the most difficult Spanish one could learn, I would say that it’s not necessary more difficult than other countries; it’s just very distinct. Students who want to study abroad in Chile should be ready to immerse themselves in one of the most unique and distinctive Spanish accents in the world.

Valparaíso, Chile is covered with beautiful street art around every corner.
Valparaíso, Chile is covered with beautiful street art around every corner.

The world awaits…discover it.


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