The official language of Chile is Spanish and the variant spoken here is referred to as Chilean Spanish. Spanish makes up part of the Indo-European language family and belongs to the Ibero-Romance and Castilian language subgroups. This language utilizes the Latin alphabet, which is the same as that used for the English language. Additionally, Spanish makes use of the letter ñ as well as accent marks over the vowels in certain words. Most of the Spanish spoken in Chile sounds very similar with the exception of the accent in the far north and the far south.

According to researchers, approximately 14 million of the 18 million people living in Chile speak Spanish as their native language. Additionally, Chile is home to at least 7 other indigenous languages, including: Rapa Nui (spoken by 3,400 individuals, the majority of whom live on Easter Island), Huilliche (2,000 speakers in 1982, living in Los Lagos and Los Rios regions), Quechua (8,200 speakers and is believed to be mutually intelligible with the Quechua of Bolivia), and Mapudungun (114,000 speakers).

The pronunciation of Spanish in Chile, known as Chilean Spanish, most resembles Andalusian Spanish. The Chilean accent and use of unique phrases may be difficult for other Spanish speakers to understand. Understanding these words and expressions is an important part of understanding the culture. Bacán, for example, means incredible or awesome. Another unique phrase is: Tiene malas pulgas. This phrase literally translates to “you have bad fleas”, but really means “you are in a bad mood.” Also unique to Chile is “que lata”, literally “what a can”. Instead of its literal translation, however, it can be taken to mean “this is boring.”

Several of the indigenous languages in Chile are spoken by less than 1,000 individuals. These minority indigenous languages include: Yámana (with only 1 living speaker left), Kawésqar (approximately 20 speakers), and Central Aymará (around 935 speakers). Additionally, Chile is home to a number of immigrants, who have maintained their native languages. Around 20,000 individuals of German descent speak German here. They are concentrated in the Los Rios and Los Lagos regions. English is also considered a minority immigrant languages in Chile, although many individuals from higher socio-economic backgrounds use this language for work or school purposes.

This page was last modified on November 22nd, 2017