Chilean Spanish

I’m heading to Chile in 3 weeks and I’m trying to find a website that can assist me with some of the differences between the Spanish I can speak (North American/Mexican/Spanglish) and what is spoken in Chile.

I know the accent will be much different, but what I’m most concerned with is knowing two things:

  1. the major differences in grammar. Is Chile a country that uses the second person familiar form (which is rarely taught in the U.S.)
  2. the names of various foods, which I think have a fairly wide variation throughout the Spanish-speaking world and can lead to some unfortunate consequences, especially since one of my travelling party shuns red meat.

I’ve not been to Chile, but Colombia, and I believe, several other S. A. countries use Castilian spanish, if that helps.

Well I have been to Chile, but since I don’t speak Spanish I can’t help either.

You really do mean second personal plural familiar, right? I can’t speak specifically for Chile, but I’ve never, ever heard the use of this form except from movies from Spain, and in the Bible. Everything I’ve ever been taught indicates that Latin- and South-America don’t use the second person plural familiar.

On the other hand, even if they do use it in Chile, it won’t really hurt you to say ustedes to everyone anyway.

Of course if you mean they don’t teach second person singular familiar in the US, then what the hell kind of Spanish are they teaching?

Yep, left out “plural” there. That would have made more sense.

But no, it is not usually taught in U.S. schools. Most text books here will list verb forms in this way

soy somos
eres (sois)
es son

Also, I came across this sentence on a Chilean observatory’s website:

While this site isn’t too official, it seems to be fairly well made. It also has a guide to Chilean foods.

Chilean Spanish Guide

Chileans and some other South Americans call their language “Castillian” (a perfectly valid name for Spanish in general). This doesn’t mean they use the same Castillian accent as in Spain. Chilean is actually more like Andalusian. In fact, to a superficial listener (someone like me who isn’t completely fluent). Chilean sounds quite a bit like some of the Caribbean Spanish dialects, because the “s” before other consonants and at the end of words is aspirated or even absent.

This can make it hard for someone used to Mexican Spanish.

Thanks, this looks great.

I can just tell from starters that since the word Chileans use for pen is the word that Mexicans use for pencil, I’m in for an interesting time.

It is the bit that I bolded that led to your question? ‘os’ is a typo, nothing to do with vosotros. It should read ‘los visitantes’.

Chilean Spanish is one of the clearer varieties of Spanish, and therefore easier to understand, IMO.

It was just a typo! :smack:

I’ll just be polite to everybody because that way I know I won’t make any mistakes!

Just as long as the word that Mexicans use for pen isn’t the one that Chileans use for penis . . . :smiley:

Note: I spent 2 years in Chile as a Mormon missionary, speaking Spanish (“Castellano”). I returned in January 1995, so it has been a few years.

Which part of Chile will you be in? There are three general regions: North, Central (including Santiago and Vina Del Mar) and South. The North and South are similar to each other whereas Central is a little different.

The grammar is pretty standard. The site already mentioned is okay, but fails to mention a few things.

The ‘vos’ form they talk about is limited to the poorer city areas. In Santiago (where I spent almost all of my time) a few areas like La Victoria and Las Flores used this form a lot. The web page describes it as using the vosotros form, and says that the ‘s’ is often asperated. However, when the ‘vos’ form was used, the ‘s’ was always dropped. So instead of saying:

¿Cómo estás?

people say:

¿Cómo estái, loco?

If you’re not in poor areas in Santiago, you’ll probably not see it.

Also there are different words used for common things than in Argentine or European Spanish.

I only found local foods to have odd names.

As far as the accent goes, the double-l is more of a “zh” sound. Ending consanants tend to be aspirated, and the “ado” on the end of a word does tend to turn into “ao”, so “pelado” becomes “pelao” though I didn’t see “ada” turn into “a” often, and this is more common in poor areas. The site mentioned reminded me of the “po” ending which I had forgotten. It’s pretty amusing. Also, the diminuative “ito/a” is often used as emphasis, e.g. “justo” for “right!” and “justito” for “got it on the nose!”.
How long will you be there, and where will you be going?

Thanks for the advice.

I will be flying in to Santiago and then heading north to La Serena and then back down to Vina del Mar and Valparaiso. Then back to Santiago to catch a flight to Easter Island. And then back to Santiago before heading home.

In Santiago we will be staying in the nicer parts of town.

Which reminds me of a favorite mistranslation story, which just happens to involve Chile. Now this may be apocryphal and maybe a Chilean Spanish speaker could confirm or deny the basic facts, but reputedly picos, Spanish for peaks, is slang for ‘prick’ in Chile.

The story goes that the late Indira Ghandi was visting Chile for some reason or another and had to meet with a bunch of ribbon-encrusted generals that used to run the place. Thinking to make a good impression she memorized a little opening speech in Spanish that included several alliterative references to Chile’s magnificent mountain peaks and how they were in so many ways representative of the countries character. She was more than a little perplexed when, during the course of her speech, even by the standards of the normally reserved Chilean brass, her audience were becoming more and more grim and stony-faced as her speech progressed :p.

  • Tamerlane

I hear both of these a lot in Mexico in various socio-economic classes. I don’t know if it’s local variation, or people making fun of foreigners. For example one of my Spanish teachers (college educated dentist [not my wife]) would always pronounce ll or y like you describe – “yzho soy el mero mero.” “Yzhamame mañana.”

And I hear the -ado turned into ao more than rarely. Hell, I even do it myself when speaking just to vary.

Ouch. At least in Chile, only the “ll” gets the ‘zh’ treatment. I remember when I was introducing myself to my Spanish literature class at college after returning from Chile, and my teacher (from Spain) got a kick out of my pronunciation of “alla” as “azha”.

This leads me to a related question. A few years back a Chilean woman gave me her business card. Her last name was Llull.

How would she have pronounced that?

I chickened out and called her by her first name.

Yes, it is. It was one of my Chilean ex-BF’s favorite words (nevermind) along with pendejo (which is not exclusively Chilean spanish) which, I believe, literally translates as “pubic hair”, but is more of an all-purpose insult - loser, idiot, etc.

My funny story: The female “parallel” for pico in Chilean spanish is champa. There used to be a reporter on CNN named Linda Champa, so, translated, her name meant “pretty p***y”.

All those years together and all I learned was the dirty words…

There is a famous medieval Catalan author named Ramón Llull. I think it would simply be pronounced “lul”, as it isn’t a “Castillian” name.

Maybe they use the term “Castellano” in Chile and Argentina since quite a few Catalans, Galicians, and Basques imigrated - and they were more keen on this distinction?