Spanish is spoken all across Latin America, so there is bound to be some regional varieties, and even our Chilean professor joked that Chileans are known for not being able to speak Spanish. I’ll admit Chilean Spanish is a bit different, but you can catch on quickly. As a native Spanish speaker myself it’s very funny to see the cultural differences that impact a standard language into something more local. Here a few words I found particularly useful to know.
In South America adios is not common. Here you will use “Tchau”, even in Brazil. In my transition out of Brazil and using (or at least trying to use) Portuguese, I figured I would be all set knowing my Spanish and life would be so much easier – and of course It was way easier but little differences still popped up. Just as I was getting ready to drop Tchau from my vocabulary, it came back for me in Chile.
Aji means pepper, but in Mexico pepper is chile – so I was thoroughly confused as to why a country named Chile does not use the word chile, but now I know to ask for aji when I’m in the mood for spicy food. Which, let’s face it – is all the time.
3. Al Tiro
This is a great Chilean expression because it’s such a vague time frame. It can mean “right now”, later or “yeah I might get around to it, but probably not”. It’s a great response for when you’re told you need to clean up your room, “Si al tiro”.
Another confusing word for a food I’m already familiar with. When I want avocados on something, a.k.a always, I ask for aguacate – but not here in Chile! In Chile it’s palta. It’s just as confusing as aji but avocado and spices are what I live for so I’m glad I know both terms.
You have no idea how absolutely disappointed I was to learn taco means traffic, because I was really hoping to eat some tacos. Anyway, being stuck in taco is very common in Santiago, where the traffic isn’t anywhere near as bad as in Sao Paolo – but still pretty horrible.
A fun word to throw in whenever. Just for emphasizes or emotion, “Si po” or “No po”. Growing up in conversation we threw around the word pues, and po is Chile’s pues. For example,
Q:“Did you write your 3 page essay for Chilean Culture class?”
A:”No po! I’ll do it al tiro.”
In our funny Chicano Spanglish we use cachaste which means “Did you catch that?” Here in Chile you will hear Cachai after almost every conversation or story being told. It means the same “Did you catch that?” as cachaste, just using a different grammar form.
Babies! Wawa is a baby, and I think it’s a very awkward word to say since it kind of sounds like baby noises, but that’s just a regular word here in Santiago!
Also wata, which means tummy or stomach. The first time I heard wata I confused it with wawa because sometimes the Chilean accent is so fast I don’t catch every individual word and my host mom’s niece was talking about taking her baby to the doctors because of her stomach, so really it was pretty easy to get super confused pretty quickly.
“Tienes Pololo?”, your host family in Chile will probably ask you this within the first couple days you arrive. It means boyfriend, and novio which is the common Spanish word for boyfriend is term that implies you’re already engaged – so be careful with this one!
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<p>My name is Angie, I'm a junior at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I'm majoring in Sociology and minoring in Linguistics. I love learning about people and cultures around the world through music, art and literature.</p>