Planning a trip to Chile anytime soon? You might want to brush up on your Chilean Spanish if so.
Travelling the world is one of life’s great pleasures. There’s nothing quite like discovering different cultures and experiencing other walks of life, first hand. Being able to communicate with the locals is undeniably an advantage, no matter where you go. This is as true for Chile as it is anywhere else.
Certainly, English is widely spoken in most established tourist destinations, so it’s not essential. Visit Santiago, Los Lagos, or tour Chilean wine country and tour guides will speak English. Locals always appreciate when visitors make the effort to speak their language, though. Don’t underestimate the power of a few well-rehearsed words and phrases.
The ability to speak Spanish will take you a long way when visiting most south American countries, including Chile. Be warned, though: They speak Chilean Spanish there. Even fluent Spanish speakers may be surprised to find out that Chilean Spanish is not quite the same, and can find themselves at a loss when trying to converse with the locals.
Luckily, English speakers visiting Chile have nothing to fear. We’ve put together five useful Chilean Spanish phrases that will help you communicate with confidence.
What is Chilean Spanish?
Chilean Spanish is not just one language. The phrase “Chilean Spanish” is used to refer to numerous distinct regional dialects of Spanish that are spoken in different parts of Chile. Depending on which part of the country you visit, the exact dialect of Chilean Spanish will differ. Some regions are almost identical, others seemingly worlds apart. Some follow Spanish very closely, others seem to abandon all rules and conventions.
Don’t worry: The average tourist isn’t expected to understand the nuanced differences between one dialect and another. Unless you’re studying advanced linguistics, you’ll be fine with a handful of everyday Chilean Spanish phrases.
5 Chilean Spanish phrases you need to know
Spanish speakers will be familiar with “¿Como estás?”, meaning “how are you?” In Chilean Spanish, it’s not quite the same, but similar. This is a very versatile greeting, and it never hurts to use it.
Si poh / No poh
Simple, but crucial: “Si poh” means “yes”, and “no poh” means “no”. You’ll use these two phrases constantly, so get comfortably using them.
This literally means “catch?” but in reality, it is Chilean Spanish for “do you understand?” or “do you catch my meaning?” This one can be quite useful indeed and is a quick way to check that you and the other person understand each other. It’s also a handy piece of filler, and you will find that the locals throw this in at the end of many sentences, just as an English speaker might use the phrase “you know?”, you know?
This one is cool – quite literally. Call something “bacán” in Chilean Spanish, and you are declaring it to be awesome, great or cool.
No hablo español
OK, this one isn’t strictly Chilean Spanish, but it’s an important phrase to know when visiting Chile, or any other Spanish-speaking country. Of course, attempting to speak the local language is great, but in case you get stuck: This simply means that you don’t speak Spanish, and (hopefully) the other person will be able to help you in English.