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Speaking the LanguageBack to top Back to main Skip to menu
Chile - Speaking the Language
About 95 percent of people in Chile speak fluent Spanish. The other five percent comprise of indigenous tribes such as the Mapuche, Quechuea, Aymara and Rapa Nui. Mapuche people are the largest indigenous community and their language, Mapudungun, is the second most widely spoken language in Chile. The Chilean government also try to ensure that the culture and language of indigenous communities are preserved.
Chilean Spanish Generally, Spanish is derived from Latin, which itself is an amalgamation of several other languages. You will find traces of French, Portuguese, Romanian and Italian in the Spanish grammar. In addition, the Spanish vocabulary borrows heavily from languages such as Greek, German and Arabic.
Spoken Chilean Spanish is characterized by long words, sentences and pronunciation. Tenses in verbs can be expressed in multiple ways. Chileans are generally talkative people who enjoy hearty conversations. They love their language and will take every opportunity to throw in some unusual vocabulary just for fun.
As in many other languages, intonation plays an important part in Chilean Spanish. A simple sentence spoken with a smile will have a different meaning than if it was spoken in anger. Chilean people speak Spanish very quickly, meaning it may be difficult to keep up at first. However, with constant exposure and practice, the language becomes easier to master.
Chilean Spanish has a distinct accent that is different from the Spanish spoken in countries such as Venezuela or Argentina. A word like ‘tu’, meaning ‘you’, is replaced with ‘vos’. In day to day conversations, ‘tu’ will be used when speaking with an acquaintance while ‘vos’ is used when conversing with someone you are close to.
Letters like C and Z are pronounced as S. The letter D when used in between vowels is often silent, especially in past participle. You will discover many other disparities when comparing Chilean Spanish to Spanish from other countries. Therefore, it is better to learn the local language by daily interaction with Chilean people.
Learning Spanish In Chile
The fastest way to learn Chilean Spanish is by interacting with the local people. Chilean people are warm and enjoy engaging with other people. Daily interaction with locals will expose you to the language and its vocabulary more quickly than classes or books. The Chilean culture is vibrant, and provides an ample backdrop to learn the Chilean way of life.
Alternatively, you can also learn Spanish before moving to Chile. This will prepare you before you interact with Spanish speakers in Chile. Do remember that Chilean Spanish is different, so it may feel like you are learning the language all over again. Nevertheless, you will grasp the language faster than an expat who is starting from scratch.
Another way to learn speaking the language in Chile is by listening to local radio stations and watching local TV. Local print media in Spanish are also good sources of learning the language. The Chilean government also supports radio stations, TV channels and newspapers that operate in other indigenous languages. As a migrant, this provides an opportunity to familiarize yourself with all the languages spoken locally, especially if you will be moving around the country a lot.
If you live close to a native Spanish community, you can find a language exchange partner to help you with the language. Exchange students benefit from this arrangement when going to school in Chile or preparing to join the local job market. An expat working in Chile can make the same arrangement with one of their colleagues.
Ideally, you can enroll for Spanish classes while studying or working in Chile. There are plenty of language schools in modern cities like Santiago. Smaller towns outside big cities also have Spanish schools, although these may not be as advanced. Some Spanish schools also offer online classes, which may be useful if you have limited time for face to face classes. In addition, online classes allow you to learn at your own pace until you are confident in the local language.
Some expats also chose to get certified in the Spanish language before or after arriving in Chile. Diploma de Espanol Lengua Extranjera (DELE) is the international certificate awarded to non-Spanish speakers when they attain a certain level of fluency in Spanish. This Spanish fluency exam tests all aspects of the language such as speaking and reading skills as well as vocabulary and grammar.
Spanish is taught at two levels, A1 and A2. Anyone who achieves fluency in both levels is awarded the DELE certificate. In Chile, the DELE certification is facilitated by the Cervantes Institute. Cervantes learning centers are available in all major cities in Chile. You can locate a center near via the official Cervantes Institute websites.
Alternatively, there are Spanish teaching schools in Chile allowed to examine students on behalf of Cervantes. Exam papers are submitted to Cervantes officials, who award marks accordingly.
Speaking the language in Chile may be difficult at first. However, practice and consistent exposure to the dialect and way of life of Chileans will get you acquainted quickly. As a migrant moving to Chile for leisure, the chances are you will not require prior knowledge of the local language. Most educated Chileans do speak fluent English, while vendors in the streets know key haggling words.
On the other hand, if you are moving to Chile to work or study, learning Spanish will help you. For expat employees, find out if it is a requirement to learn Spanish for your job. Some employers favor those fluent in Spanish when considering promotions.
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