My Life with Chilean Spanish – A Primer

I want to spend some time talking to you about my language.  Here in Chile, we speak Spanish, like most of the countries in South America.  But it’s not just any kind of Spanish.  You see, people that come here to stay for a while, usually try to learn at least a little of the language at home,  or even sign up for lessons.  Then,  you learn how to understand and probably speak  a little Spanish.

But you may end up ready to go to Spain or Mexico, but not Chile. Most foreigners complain about the same thing when they come here: they don’t understand shit of what we say!!.  So welcome to the Chilean-Spanish jungle!

We are considered  the worst Spanish speakers in South America by many visitors.   (I don’t agree but I’m a local, so what do I know?)   I really don’t think it’s that bad, but the thing is, here we speak really fast, most of the time forgetting to add some final syllables to the words, not articulating that much, and overall, just shamelessly inventing words that aren’t used anywhere else,  but only we know what they mean.

And by saying “invented” words, I mean 80% of those words are for swearing. yes!, that’s the other wonderful thing here!  We swear ALL THE TIME.  Especially when you hang out with friends or not formal environments. You see, here the same curse word can be used as an insult,  or as  a “hello!”  It all depends on the context.  It can be really aggressive, or a word to break the ice in a conversation.

Friendly Swearing

So if you wanna come here and stay for a while, you better start forgetting your “Spanish” lessons, and start learning “Chilean-Spanish”. Most important: learn how to swear correctly, learn friendly swearing, and try to get used to the dark sense of humour Chileans have.

By the way,  my relationship with languages and music are very tied together.  I think music is the main reason why I started to be interested in learning English.  I’ve been a fan of some local bands and music styles that are big here, but I’ve always found myself listening to things in other languages.   Especially in English, or as people call it here “Anglo-music”.

During my teenage years, I started watching MTV and, saw rock bands that I really liked at the time, like Marilyn Manson and Korn. For some time, I went really crazy
about them too,  along with Queen.  I remember trying to translate the lyrics of the songs or looking them up on the Internet, where it wasn’t that easy to find them at that time.  Especially if you weren’t an English speaker.

So at first, I spent a lot of time reading and researching music- related stuff that was only written in English. Nowadays, you can find most of that kind of thing written in  any language, and if you don’t find it,  you can always use Google Translator to help yourself. But at that time, I found that the Internet was pretty much an English-speakers tool. There wasn’t much info about the things I was interested in available in Spanish.

So I had no choice.   I just started reading and looking for info on the bands I liked, searched for lyrics, pictures, chords and so on.   All in the English language.  Eventually,  I moved from just looking for info and reading it, to starting to  look to meet people from other countries.   But that’s another story for later…

When my brain is about to explode I turn into Arnold.

So ladies and gentlemen, those are some of the things that I have to work with here!   I love the small details of my language.  I think they are lovely really!  You just need a good guide and advice, so you won’t get lost in this “Chilean jungle”.

And so I say to you:   every time I write or say something to you, remember  that I’m trying my best to translate all those made-up words into  the comprehensive English language.  (I think my brain is gonna explode any time!)   Wanna see me trying harder??.

Well,  stay tuned for the rest of my stories,  brought to you from the “unknown” and beautiful land called Chile.
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