What language is spoken in Santiago?

Answers from Our Experts (1)

Gabriel O’Rorke

Spanish is the official language in Chile... although some Spanish speakers may struggle to pick it up at first.

Fourteen million of Chile's 16 million population speak Spanish as their first language. A few communities have their own indigenous languages: the Mapuche people speak Mapudungun; the people of Easter Island speak Rapa Nui; and in the far north, Quechua is spoken.

Chilean Spanish is fast, furious and the end syllables are often missed off. To my ear, it sounds like the Chileans are eating their words.

After a few weeks, however, you acclimatize to the new lilt and words start to form in the air around you.

One additional element that may take you by surprise are the Mapuche words that have worked their way into the nation's dialect. You'll first come across these in place names, like Manquehue Metro station in Las Condes ('manquehue' means 'place of condors'). 

Many people, especially in the cities, speak English, but best get ahold of a phrase book so you know a few words when you arrive.

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