From Robin Clutters’ blog.
So while I may give Chile/Chileans a hard time for lacking a distinct identity, I will say that if Chile has anything that makes it unique, it would be the Spanish they use. Fondly called chileñol by some, Chilean Spanish is really a language in itself.
To be completely frank about Chilean Spanish, it’s a little vulgar. A lot of the words can be insults if used in the wrong context, and a lot of Chilean Spanish is grammatically incorrect. Chileans also speak ridiculously fast and drop the ’s’ from the ends of words. For example, “mas o menos” is pronounced “maaaah o menoooh.” But regardless, I find a lot of words used here help me express myself very well… and a lot of the slang reminds me of slang used by people my age in English.
Chileans also use the vosotros tense– for those of you that have ever studied Spanish, it’s the verb tense they tell you they only use in Spain that you don’t need to know… yeah, those teachers were wrong. While using any of the other verb tenses is perfectly fine too, vosotros is used here is a very informal way. That’s generally why you’ll only hear people say “Como estai?” (How are you?) as opposed to seeing it written in any textbooks or in newspaper articles.
While you won’t generally find me speaking like Chileans (AKA using the vosotros verb tense or dropping the ’s’ from the ends of words), I have adopted some words into my Spanish vocabulary– the only sad thing is that when I return to the US and speak Spanish no one will probably understand me!
But, so that maybe I can use some of these words around those of you reading this blog, I figured I would teach you a little bit of Chilean Spanish:
al tiro = right away: “Me voy al tiro!”: I’m coming right now (at this moment)!
bacán = cool/awesome
cachai? = do you get it?/ you know?: Chileans use cachai very informally, pretty much at the end of every sentence in a conversation… the best translation to help you understand how to use cachai is ‘you know?’. For example, “Es un hombre muy amable, cachai?” – “He’s a nice guy, you know?” Also, for those Spanish speakers out there cachai is the vosotros form of the verb cachar which literally means to catch… cachai?
carretear/carrete = to party/a party. Carreteando (partying) implies alcohol, which is what generally makes it different from the Spanish word most people know, fiesta.
castellano = Spanish. I only ever learned the word Español for Spanish, so the first time I heard castellano I thought I had mistakenly signed up for an abroad program in a place that spoke a different language than I knew– ends up I was right. Just kidding!
copuchenta = a person who is nosy/gossipy… my host mom frequently uses it to describe my ever-curious 11-year-old host sister
cuático= someone who is weird/awkward/bizarre/strange– you get it
cuestión = thing: For those of you Spanish speakers, it means the same thing at cosa (which is also used frequently in conversations when you don’t know what a person is talking about: Que cosa?), except I would say cuestión has more of a negative connotation to it, especially when used to describe people
cuico = snob/upper-class/rich. Cuico is honestly one of my favorite words here. Cuico can be used to describe things like Starbucks, que es muy cuico, or a upper-class neighborhood like Providencia, que es muy cuico, or U. Catolica, which is infamous for being la universidad cuica because of its rich students, and the list goes on and on. I’m a fan of this word, although generally Chileans would describe most people from the US as cuico.
flojo = lazy
flaite = sketchy. This can be used to describe a person who is flaite, or a place that is flaite. For example, a guy at a bar who is creepily trying to pick up women can be called a flaite, or a dark alleyway/bad neighborhood can be considered flaite. This word is very colloquial and popular among people my age, which is why I wouldn’t suggest using it with your grandmother.
fome = boring
Fomingo = fome + domingo (Sunday) = The Chilean description for Sundays… everything is closed and it is typically the most uneventful day of the week
gringa = American. Gringa is not a Chilean word by any means, but is a word used in every Latin American country to describe people from the US.
guagua = baby
guata = stomach
harto = a lot. Tengo harta tarea (I have a lot of homework).
Qué lata = How boring/What a pain/That sucks. My host family loves using this expression, and it’s one of my favorites too. You basically call everything una lata when it sucks… for example: Tengo una prueba en mi clase hoy, qué lata! (I have a quiz in my class today, it sucks).
luca = 1,000 pesos (roughly a little less than $2). Since the quantities of money are so high here, people use the word luca so they don’t have to constantly say things like seis mil pesos (6,000 pesos) when it’s easier to say seis lucas.
mina = girl. Generally used to describe young women, in the teenager to young adult age range (like 16-25).
Buena onda = good vibe. This phrase literally means “good wave” but is used to describe people that you like/get a good vibe from. It generally just means that someone is really nice: Ella es una buena onda (She’s really nice).
Sí, po! = ‘po’ is an expression used that comes from the word ‘pues’ which means “well” (As in, Yes, well I’ll do it tomorrow– or something along those lines). I know I’ve explained the use of po on my blog before, and I will say both “po” and “cachai” win the awards for being the most-used Chilean words. Po is really just used for emphasis when talking. Por ejemplo: Tienes trabajo hoy? Si, po! (Do you have work today? Yeah, of course I do/duh). My goal before I leave Chile is to be able to say both “Si, po” and “cachai?” with a straight face. As of right now, trying to say those phrases still just gives me the giggles.
Pololo/Pololear = boyfriend/to date. I learned quickly not to use the Spanish word I had always learned for boyfriend here, novio, because in Chile, novio means fiancee, while pololo means boyfriend.
la raja = awesome/something really entertaining or fun. You have to be very careful with this expression, which is another one that is VERY informal and again used among people my age. Something is “la raja” or a person can be “la raja” when they’re just all around awesome. But the word “raja” can also mean your behind and can be mistaken for vulgarity which is why it is generally reserved for usage among friends, and again, among people within the 16-25 year old age frame.
Re- = very: “Esta blusa es re-barata” (This blouse is really cheap).
Super- = very: “Carreteando es super-bacan!” (Partying is really cool!). I have also been described as super-gringa, haha.
Taco = the heel of a shoe/traffic jam, depending on the context. No, this does not mean food.
Te tinca = You think?/or it can also mean to like. Tincar actually comes from the English word think, which is why it is generally used when asking someone what they think. For example, “Tengo ganas de ir al mall… te tinca?” (I feel like going to the mall… do you agree/do you like the idea/what do you think?).
weón = actually spelled huevón, but is pronounced weon, this is really where the vulgar Chilean slang comes in. Weon is used in two different contexts: as an insult, and as a term of endearment– and no, I don’t get it either. As an insult, “Oye que eres weon” means ‘Wow, you’re an idiot.’ Among friends (particularly Chilean teenagers), “Que te pasa weon” is the equivalent of ‘What’s up my friend?’ There are alson many variations of weon that include the verb form “we’veando” which in the nicest sense means messing around. Weon and its varieties are really Chilean slang at its best.
So you may think those are a lot of words, but believe me, there are plenty more chilenismos– this is just a list of the basics! And while they may not be so useful in the US, before you plan a trip to Chile you should definitely study these words, and you’ll be a pro at Chileñol in no time!