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6 Pronunciation Tips to Speak Chilean Spanish

6 Pronunciation Tips to Speak Chilean SpanishThe following post is an excerpt from my book Speaking Chileno: A Guide to the Spanish of Chile. Launched in Chile in 2010, this book quickly became a bestseller. Now for the first time it is available outside of Chile in paperback and eBook Kindle.

This is the second of three posts on How To Speak Like a Chilean. The first post, 6 Grammar Hints to Speak Chilean Spanish is worth reading before this post. The third and last post of the series is 4 Non-Verbal Chile Spanish Expressions: Gestures To Go Native Chilean.

Again, I only want to point at a couple examples of Chilean pronunciation, to start you on your way as you begin to notice the nuances of the spoken Spanish in Chile. Please keep in mind that pronunciation hints in this section are based on English sounds (with probably a slight American slant).


How To Speak Like a Chilean Part 2 | Chilean Spanish Pronunciation

1. CH as an English SH sound
Some Chileans pronounce all words with ch (including Chile) as if it were an English sh sound (shi-lé to mean Chile).

2. Words ending in a vowel and then -do or -da lose the letter D
Words such as tendido, patada, amasado, and patudo will most often sound like tendío, patá, amasao or patúo where the speaker will drop the D completely. The AO sound is pronounced like OU in ouch or OW in cow. In the case of -ada ending words like patada, one of the vowels is completely eliminated. The result is patá with the accent replacing the missing vowel (be sure to understand the difference in pronunciation between pata and patá).

3. Phrase “para el” or “para la” is shortened
The phrase para el becomes pa’l to create only one word (pronounced like PAL in palm). In the case of para la it remains two words but loses a syllable, to result in pá la. For example, the phrase quedar para la cagada becomes quedar pá la cagá (rule 2 above).

4. A word ending in the letter A immediately followed by another word beginning in the letter D, drops the D
The common phrase a donde la viste becomes a ‘onde la viste, dropping the D. As another example, cabeza de pescado is pronounced as cabeza ‘e pescao.

5. Words ending in -von drop the V
The -vón ending in a word, as in the prevalent word huevón, drops the V and is pronounced hue-ón (way-un).

6. Errors in pronunciation
As in with all languages, you may run across people that mispronounce a word, making it even harder for you to understand the sentence. These common mispronunciations will help you look out for other similar mistakes as you learn Chilean.

Keptchup to say ketchup
Picza or pipza for pizza
Rempujar for empujar
Resfalar for resbalar
Toballa for toalla
Ampoa or ampoha for ampolla

Have you run across any other examples?

Check out these other Chile Spanish Slang Word articles.

Featured photo credit: Espectáculo “Pura energía, puro Chile” by Gobierno de Chile via flickr

  • JaredRomey

    @hyperlingo Thanks for the RT!!

  • nicoletradutora

    @hyperlingo @jaredromey Super! I am saving this for when I find time to get back to my Spanish. Gracias!

  • JaredRomey

    @hyperlingo Thanks for the RT!!

  • nicoletradutora

    @hyperlingo @jaredromey Super! I am saving this for when I find time to get back to my Spanish. Gracias!

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  • Leirbag

    You made a huge mistake. I’m from Chile and I must tell you that here we DO NOT pronounce CH as SH, it is the other way round, we pronounce all the SH as CH. e.g. chow instead of show, choping instead of shopping, etc. If you pronounce all the CH as SH you are going to sound informal and flaite (word used for refering to people not well-educated.)

    • http://www.speakinglatino.com/ Jared

      I disagree. It’s not a mistake. In fact, you pointed it out yourself in your comment that Chileans DO pronounce words that way… as you mention “If you pronounce all the CH as SH you are going to sound informal and
      flaite (word used for referring to people not well-educated.)” This is how many Chileans pronounce the sound, indifferent of what social class or “education” it may sound like. The truth is, if you are in Chile, you WILL hear Chileans pronouncing the CH more as an SH.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment! I love the debate.

      • http://b-paradise.blogspot.com Jon Andres

        I am from Chile and not many ppl pronounces CH as SH. Most popular and usual pronunciation for CH and SH is TCH

        • Gabe S. Morrás

          I’m also Chilean I disagree qith your disagree, the most common way to pronunce CH is as SH, TCH is a high class way to make the diference between classes, that’s become funny even when the “pasado a caca” says “I want to eat TCHUTCHI in a japanese restorant”

          • Diego Valenzuela Ossa

            These baby boys want to show Chile as a “high-class only” Country. Don’t pay attention to them

      • Lucas

        My friend, the use of SH as a normal CH isn’t common in any spanish speaker country, get over it, you’re not the god of pronunciation. The wrong words in number 6 aren’t common either. Of course there’s people who pronounces or says stuff like that, but the title of the post is “tips to speak like a chilean”, not “tips to speak like a uneducated chilean”

      • Diego Valenzuela Ossa

        ‘Sh’ sound is true but not common for educated urban people. Lucas felt insulted because he is a baby boy.

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  • Porca Miseria

    Are you really telling people to say “la huinsha de la shala” instead of “la huincha de la chala”? I totally agree with my fellow countrymen, you should change the title of your book to “how to speak like an uneducated Chilean”. Also, what you call in number 3 “a phrase” it is not a phrase, and even if it was, it is not simply a “shortened phrase”. It is called contraction and it not particularly Chilean, but it is relatively common in most Spanish speaking countries. Your “explanation” is not grammatically sound and appropriate either, as you should not explain this occurrence in absolute terms talking about syllables lost, but in terms of phonetics. As “para la” loses one syllable as you said, but “para el” loses two syllables. Right? If you are Chilean, you may understand what the author meant, even if he is wrong. However, as this article is aimed to someone who is not, they may take this as a serious and accurate linguistic guide, so they need to be warned about its inaccuracy. Even more, if you are planning to visit Chile anytime soon, I strongly suggest not to try to talk like a Chilean, but in a educated informal Latin-american Spanish style. Don’t be afraid, you WILL be understood and nobody will make fun of you, not even uneducated Chileans.

    • Porca Miseria

      BTW, I am Chilean, too, and I have never said “Shile” instead of “Chile”. I am also positive that 95% of the population will say it in this ,too. I think it is fair to let the readers know that they WILL BE the stigmatized and bullied for talking this way, at least, if I were them, I’d like to be warned…

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