Traveling in South America can be frustrating; it can be even more frustrating if you are looking to learn the Spanish language. What you gained in vocabulary in your former South American destination will not work all the time in your current country, or vice versa. Every country has their own richness and variation of Spanish.


Take Chile, for instance. It’s the most isolated country of the continent, cornered by the Pacific Ocean and the Cordillera de Los Andes. As a Chilean, I cannot deny it. We speak fast, full of slang, and if we get too laid back, we even conjugate the verbs differently. But in the end, who doesn't? Unfortunately, our speaking reputation is not the best. We don’t have a sexy Rio de la Plata (Buenos Aires and Uruguay) accent, which people find attractive. Furthermore, we have never claimed to speak the clearest Spanish as Colombians and Peruvians have.


However, Chile is one of the safest countries around, and is a business hub in South America. More and more people are coming over to learn our Spanish and getting to know the country. If you are planning to learn Spanish or even to visit Chile, this article will come in handy and outline some words and phrases you might need during your stay.



1. Weón


You will hear this all the time. It means "dude", "mate", or "friend", but in an aggressive tone of voice. This could mean it's being expressed as an insult. So be careful when embracing this word.


This is very different:


  • Como va weón?
  • How are you pal?




  • ¡Pero, que eres weón. No lo puedo creer!
  • But what an idiot! I can't believe it!


Summing up: be gentle and aware of people's tones. Weón is commonly used.



2. Cachai


You will likely hear this at the end of every sentence. Its purpose is to reaffirming an idea and knowing if your interlocutor is following you or not.


For example:


  • El clima en Chile es océanico, por la presencia del óceano pacifico, cachai? 
  • Chile's weather is oceanic due to the presence of the Pacific ocean, you know what I mean?


It has the same meaning as "you know what I mean" in English, tu vois in French, or entendeu in Brazilian Portuguese. It always comes at the end of a sentence.


It’s one of our coolest slang phrases. Cachai?



3. Conjugation 2nd Person


Normally and during formal occasions, Chileans will conjugate verbs as you learned in the books. However, if the scenario is informal and laid back, it is a different story. I hope you will have the pleasure of getting involved in this common debate / discussion.


For example, when saying hello:


  • Cómo estás? How are you?
  • Como estai? How are you?


Or when referring to something:


  • Que eres linda. You are cute.
  • Que eris linda. You are cute.


We change the ending of the regular conjugation for an i.


  • Estai instead of estar
  • Volai instead of volar
  • Cambiai instead of cambiar


Do not think we are mixing in Italian. It is Chilean Spanish. ¿Cachai?



4. Pololo/Polola


This means boyfriend or girlfriend. Novio is a groom, and novia is a bride in Chile.


We use it so much that it has become a verb.


  • ¿Queris pololear conmigo? 
  • Do you want to be my girlfriend/boyfriend?


It’s a classic situation that every Chilean has faced, whether with a happy or a sad outcome.



5. Hueá


This is commonly used in the other Andes countries such as Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia as huevadas. In Chile we shorten it and pronounce it as hueá. I don’t even have an explanation for the origin of this word. But what I do know is that it’s widely used. It has several meanings, but the most important is “nonsense” or “rubbish”.


For instance:


  • ¿Que estas haciendo? What are you doing?
  • ¿Que hueá? What nonsense?


  • Ayer fui al supermercado y terminé comprando puras hueás.
  • Yesterday I went to the supermarket and ended up buying only rubbish.



6. Voseo


In Chile, quite the opposite of our Argentinian neighbors, we use Tu instead of Vos. Yet, in some scenarios, you will hear something similar: voh.


  • Y tu? And you?
  • Y voh? And you?


We don't pronounce the s, and usually it is not very kind. You will never speak to your polola in that way.


  • Voh queris comer? Do you want to eat?


Just don't use it.



7. Cuico


This refers to a person who comes from the upper class. The Argentineans have their chetos, Mexicans have their fresas, and Ecuadorians their aniñados. We have our cuicos. It's not offensive, as most of them are not going to feel offended for being called cuicos. However, don't overuse the word. You never know whether or not cuico is your interlocutor. As with weón, be aware and use common sense.


I hope these examples can start to break the myth of the difficulty of Chilean Spanish. There are plenty of slang, but that should be covered in another chapter.


¿Cachai o no cachai?


Leave a comment using one of the examples, and let's see how well you have learned it!




Hero image by Sandra Chile (CC0 1.0)