Learning Castellano de Chile

Chilean Spanish, or Castellano de Chile, is different from the Spanish I’ve been learning for the last eight years. It is distinct because of the many modismos, or Chilenismos that are used. Chilenismos are Chilean words and phrases that are only used in Chile. These words are idiosyncratic and it is easy to catch Chileans using them. For example, Chileans use ‘cachai’ when explaining something as a way to say “Do you get it?” or “Do you understand?

Before the Spanish came to Chile, the indigenous Mapuche people lived throughout Chile. As the two cultures mixed, the Spanish adopted Mapuchan words, which are commonly used in conversation. Sometimes students use Mapuchan words in my class and when they do, I become lost in translation.

Another chilenismo is ‘po’ which is included at the end of si(po), no(po), or other words. This chilenismo is a shortened form of the word ‘pues’ and is used to add emphasis to certain words. I can vouch for the Chileans that once you start using ‘po’, you cannot stop.

My favorite Chilenismo is ‘huevon’, but it sounds like ‘weon’. Huevon is the Chilean equivalent of dude or friend, but it is also a term used to describe someone who is mean, rude or strange. It’s pretty entertaining to use, and every time I say it, my Chilean friends laugh, so I’m going to continue to use it.

Before coming to Chile, I had very little knowledge of Castellano de Chile and how it differs from the formal Spanish I’ve been learning. With that said, I really love what I am learning and I am thankful for my Chilean friends and family, who have been teaching me Chilenismos.


Photo taken in Bella Vista. 12.03.2014


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