Learning the Language: Spanish in Chile- Bethany M.

Bethany M. spent a semester in Chile where she took many Spanish courses for her Language Studies major. After five months of living and studying in South America, this is what she says about the Spanish language:
Vamo a la playa, catchai? (X2) For those of you familiar with Spanish, that question doesn’t seem very recognizable, but I assure you it is Spanish. Well, Chilean-Spanish. Before studying abroad in Chile, I had spent about 2 months living in Spain and a few scattered weeks in other Spanish-speaking countries. While I felt fairly confident in my Spanish abilities, I had heard rumors that the Chilean-Spanish was the worst Spanish of all to understand which left me nervous but excited for my new adventure.
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Just like there are different accents and vernacular in the English language, there are different accents and vernacular in the Spanish language between country and region. I spent 4 months in Chile, a South-American country located on the west coast where they speak their own type of Spanish. One of the more defining qualities of Chilean-Spanish is the deletion of the last syllables in words, especially if that syllable ends with an “s”. Not only does this sound insane for a secondary Spanish-speaker, but it also sounds crazy to primary speakers. Chileans are quick to admit that they speak “bad Spanish” as are most of the other Spanish-speaking countries quick to admit the Chilean-Spanish flaws.
On top the Chileans speaking really quickly and deleting syllables, they also have their own form of “slang”. A lot of their slang terms originate from the Mapuche language, the original natives of Chile. Words like wuawua (baby), charquicán (a stew type dish), and  pololo(a) (boyfriend/girlfriend) all originate from the Mapuche language. Other slang words originate from the English language, like catchai. It comes from our verb “to catch” and translates best to “Do you understand?”. Kind of like “Are you catching what I’m saying?” Other slang words also exist that you learn to be conscious of. For example, “pebre” is a Chilean salsa, something that we would call “pico de gallo”. Unfortunately “pico” is an inappropriate word in Chilean-Spanish. While it may seem daunting to speak a language with so many different slang words and accents, don’t be afraid to try. You’ll be amazed at how “Chilean” you can speak after a few months. Especially for a gringa(o)!
Que vayan bien,
Bethany
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Bethany studied abroad in Chile for the Spring 2017 semester through one of our affiliate companies, CEA. Interested in studying in a Spanish-speaking country? Make an appointment with one of our Study Abroad Advisers to find out your perfect destination!
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