Learning a New Language in Chile: Los Chilenismos

IMG_0073Going to Chile, I felt decently comfortable in my grasp of the Spanish language. I knew I didn’t know everything, but I figured I could hold my own. However, once I finally made it to Chile, I realized I had a lot more to learn.

Chileans don’t speak Spanish. I mean, they do. But also they don’t. It seems like everything here has a different word than what I learned in my multiple years of Spanish class in the U.S.! When I ask for clarification, I often get “es un chilenismo,” meaning it is a local term that only Chileans use.

Some Examples:
Palta: Avocado (instead of Aguacate)
Choclo: Corn (instead of Maiz)
Al Tiro: Right Away
Cachaí?: Do you understand?/get it?
Fome: Boring
Pololo(a): Boy/girlfriend

JRust_sandAnother surprise I had: Chileans don’t enunciate. Basically they remove consonants from their words and smooth them all together. So instead of words, all my inexperienced ears hear is a jumbled mess of vowels. Add my past history with theatre, and I get a little frustrated. Enunciation was drilled into my head from the first time I went on stage. You need to make sure your audience understands you. I don’t think that Chileans were taught the same lesson. So when talking to Chileans I’ve learned to pay attention and ask for clarification or for a slower talking speed. Chileans might be slow walkers, but they sure make up for the lost time in talking speed!

Jean Rust, Wichita State University, Veritas in Chile 2013


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