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joaquin torres

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I grew up and live in Santiago

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Americas > Chile > Useful Info
Submitted on Aug 06, 2020 Useful Info

What language to use travelling in Chile (Santiago & other cities)

  • The official language of Chile is Spanish. We have our own unique accent even compared to our neighbors in Argentina. I've been told that our accent and some words used is hard to understand by someone who's not fluent in Spanish, so if you're still learning the language you might have trouble understanding it. But don't be afraid to ask us to talk slower!
  • Aside from Spanish, English is the most commonly spoken second language, especially among the upper middle class and upper class people
  • However, "common" is relative. Getting around Chile with English is difficult though not impossible. The vast majority of Chileans don't know more than a few words in English, and nowhere near useful enough to help tourists or have conversation. Compared to our Argentinian neighbors I'd say our general English proficiency level is much lower
  • The majority of the people we have who do speak English are concentrated in the posh neighborhoods of Santiago, which are in the eastern part of the city like Providencia and Las Condes. Santiago is where the offices of multinational companies are based in so English speakers mostly reside here
  • Because of this, it can be difficult to get around Chile in English, especially outside of Santiago. This can make things like using public transportation, ordering food at restaurants, asking for directions, etc. difficult to do. So my recommendation is that you learn some basic Spanish to help you out in these situations
  • Additionally, it's a good idea to have some translator app with you for situations where you need to convey more complex information. Personally I find Google translate to be very useful, just make sure you have a SIM card or some other form of mobile phone data plan
  • But rest assured, most businesses and institutions in tourist-facing industries, including at hotels, airport, tourist attractions, resorts, will have English-speaking staff available
  • Aside from English, there's a small pocket of German speakers in Chile. But they are so few in number and live outside of Santiago that if you're a German speaker you really shouldn't count on encountering anyone that can speak decent German