Jul 14, 7 years ago

Top 10 best Chilean phrases for the young traveler to know

http://blog.ailolalatino.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/chilean-flag.jpgTop 10 best Chilean phrases for the young traveler to know

A source of national pride is the language, which is very different from traditional Spanish.

Chileans do a good job of setting themselves apart from the rest of South America. Chile’s architecture, its 9-to-5-commuter-corporate attitude and its fashion, among other things, seem to create a boundary from the rest of its neighboring countries as tall and tangible as the Andes.

Probably the most noticeable of these separations is the language. Chileans have transformed their Spanish into an almost undecipherable dialect; in fact, it would seem that they are trying to form a new language altogether. The rapid speech, modified verb tenses and odd pronunciation confound even native speakers from other South American countries.

Whether you’re already fluent, learning the language, or just passing through the country with a guidebook, here are a few of the more common phrases and conjugations to know.

1. ¿Como estai?

It is truly unfortunate that one of the first and most common phrases you will hear in this country includes a Chilean twist. ¿Como estai? means ¿Como estás? (how are you?). The singular “you” structure in Chilean Spanish is often conjugated informally with “i.” This new conjugation is pronounced with the long I: Komo Est-I.

2. ¿Cachai?

From the verb cachar meaning “to catch,” this roughly translates to, “do you catch?” It is often peppered throughout speech to mean, “you know?” or “you got it?” As seen above, it is conjugated with the new singular-you form ending in -i.

3. ¿Qué onda?

A versatile phrase, ¿qué onda? can be used in many situations depending on tone and context. Most commonly it is used in a friendly informal way to mean, “what’s going on?” or “how’s it going?” With a little more emphasis and a bit of indignation, ¿qué onda? can mean, “what’s wrong with you?” or “what’s your deal?”

4. Sipo

Sipo can be broken down into and po. Po is derived from pues, which means “well.” (Example: Well, I don’t know.) But sipo doesn’t necessarily mean “Yes, well.” It is now simply added out of sheer habit and common use. You may also hear nopo.

5. Weon

As diverse as a certain 4-letter English word that starts with “F,” Weon comes from the word, huevo or “egg.” It is typically used to refer to a man in a derrogatory sense, such as “idiot” or “jackass.” Weona refers to a woman in the same derrogatory sense. Among friends, it is a term of endearment and used without offense. Be careful not to say this in mixed company, as it can be disrespectful.

6. Completo

If you’re headed home from the bar on a Friday or Saturday night (or a Thursday, or even a Wednesday) in Chile, and you have the drunk munchies, stop for a completo. This delicious Chilean specialty is nothing more than a grilled hotdog smothered in avocado, chopped tomatoes, and mayonnaise. If you ask for a choripan, you will receive an Italian sausage instead.

Eating completos

CC Image courtesy or kjdozzi on Flickr

 7. Carretear

Ready for your new favorite phrase? Carretear means “to party!” This phrase is not intended for a 5-year-old’s birthday party; instead, it is reserved for all-night drinking benders, bar-hops and barbeques. Carrete refers to the party itself.

8. Picada

A particularly helpful word for travelers in Santiago, a picada refers to famous traditional place or restaurant. There is also the connotation that this spot has a certain, how shall we say?, hole-in-the-wall quality.

9. Pololo

If you find yourself talking to another person’s pololo or polola, be prepared for a good old fashioned bar fight. The term for “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” is adapted from piulliu, the Mapucho word for black fly, after the way flies circle around fruit. The verb pololear means “to date.”

10. Fome and Bakan

Pronounced “foh mey,” this Chilenismo translates best to “lame.” (Example: this party is lame.) The exact opposite is bakan, pronounced “bak án,” meaning “awesome” or “cool.”

Cover photo: CC Image courtesy of kjdozzi on flickr


Katy is currently an English teacher and freelance writer in Santiago, Chile. She enjoys traveling on the weekends and eating empanadas.

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