Chilean Spanish Slang Essay

¿Cachai? = You know?

You'll probably hear this at the end of every other sentence. It's used informally to engage in conversation, in the same way that you know is used in English.

No lo molestes. Es un hombre muy ocupado,¿cachai?
Don't bother him. He's a very busy man, you know?

Pololo / Polola = Boyfriend / Girlfriend

When in Chile, you’ll inevitably hear the locals refer to their boyfriend or girlfriend as pololo  or polola . And be careful when using novio  or novia ; Chileans still use these words, but they're typically used to refer to one's fiancé or fiancée.

¿Cuánto tiempo has estado saliendo con tupolola? Llevan casi un año juntos, ¿verdad?
How long have you been going out with your girlfriend? You’ve almost been together a year, right?

Al tiro = Right away

Literally meaning at the shot, the phrase altiro  means that something is happening or is going to happen at this exact moment. Make sure you reserve this phrase to describe events that are literally about to unfold, or for yourself if you are in a rush and are about to quickly go from one place to another.

¡Alejandra acaba de ponerse de parto! Nos vamosal tiroal hospital.
Alejandra just went into labor! We’re leaving for the hospital right now.

Flaite = Sketchy

The word flaite  can be used to describe dark alleys, abandoned houses, creepy white vans—you get the idea. You can even use flaite as a noun to describe a person who looks very shady or unsophisticated.

Niño, aléjate de ese edificio en decadencia. Se ve bienflaite.
Kid, get away from that dilapidated building. It looks very sketchy.

Carrete = Party

As opposed to a normal fiesta , Chileans use the word carrete  to refer specifically to a party that serves alcohol. In the same context, you might hear your friends say salir decarrete  or carretear  to mean that they are going out to party.

De ti no sé, pero dudo que sobreviviría salir decarretetres noches seguidas.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d survive going out partying three nights in a row.

¡Sí, po! = Yeah, of course!

In the phrase, ¡Sí,po! , po is an expression that comes from the word pues , meaning well, as in, well, of course! While traveling around Chile, you'll likely hear po—such as in ¡sí, po! or ¡no,po! —just as much as you'll hear cachai .

El otro día Julio me preguntó si me gustaba y si quisiera ser su polola, y respondí, "¡Sí, po!"
The other day, Julio asked me if I liked him and if I would like to be his girlfriend, and I responded, "Yes, of course!"

¡Qué lata! = How boring!

¡Quélata!  is a phrase that’s used to describe something lame, boring, or dreadful. You can say it to a friend when she or he can’t go out, or you might hear children say it when their parents make them pose for yet another photo.

Quiero ir a la cena de tu cumple pero mañana tengo un examen de matemáticas importante. Yo sé,¡qué lata!
I want to go to your birthday dinner but tomorrow I have an important math test. I know, how lame!

Buena onda = Good vibe

Though this phrase literally means good wave, it’s used to describe people that you like. You can say that someone is buenaonda , implying that she or he is likable, or you can say that you have a buena onda with someone. Good vibes, good people. Why would you ever leave Chile?

¿Conoces a Mario? Es muybuena onda.
Do you know Mario? He's really cool.

Fome = Boring

This word is a casual way to say boring and is used among friends and family. You can use fome  to talk about events, books, food, and even people!

Las charlas que dan ese profesor son tanfomes. Cada clase es una lucha de mantenerme despierta.
That professor gives such boring lectures. Each class is a fight to stay awake.

¿Te tinca? = You think?

¿Tetinca?  is a phrase used by Chileans to ask someone’s opinion about something in a casual way. The word tinca  in this phrase actually comes from the English word think.

Quiero llevar este vestido negro al carrete.¿Te tinca?
I want to wear this black dress to the party. What do you think?

¿Vas a Chile altiro?  Now you’re equipped with the vocabulary to travel to Santiago , Valparaíso , or Chillán . Remember to take this list with you on your journey!

Planning a trip to Chile? As you pack your bags and prepare to take in the sights, people, and culture of this amazing country, be sure to consult this list of common slang words and phrases! You’ll be partying with the locals in no time!

So, you’ve been through many years of academic drudgery.

You’ve parroted your teachers’ vocabulary.

You’ve dressed up as Don Quijote (or Sancho, depending on your luck) to “practice” (or reach new heights of cringe-worthy embarrassment).

And you’ve put your language skills to the test by studying abroad in Toledo or Madrid.

You may think you have, at long last, mastered Spanish.

And then you decide to move to Chile.

Chilean Spanish defies any and all reason. Between dropping every other “s” and “d” and adding extra “poh’s” at the end of words, Chileans have concocted their very own breed of incomprehensible Spanish – which even other Spanish speakers admittedly find challenging.

It’s all only made worse by Chilenismos, words and expressions exclusively used in Chile.

But don’t despair: take a last swig of your escudo (a popular type of Chilean beer), pick your head up from your chorillana (Chilean dish consisting of bits of meat and egg over a plate of fries), wipe your tears and buck up for one final lesson.


The Beginner’s Guide to Chilean Slang

Understanding and Using Chilean Verb Conjugations

One of the first things you’ll notice when speaking with Chileans is the inordinate amount of “ay” sounds in their speech. This is because the second singular person  (you) is frequently conjugated with an “i” at the end of the verb.

You’ll likely hear “¿Cómo estai?” soon after arriving to Chile, which is simply the Chilean version of asking “¿Cómo estás?” (How are you?).

Here are a few other examples of this odd conjugation:

Tú hablas (You speak) → tú hablai
Tú sabes (You know) → tú sabí
Tú quieres (You want) → tú querí

Above all, you’ll hear the term cachai thrown at the end of virtually every sentence. Don’t be alarmed: this is not a Ninja war cry, but rather a typically Chilean way of saying, “You know?”

Cachar, which comes from the English “to catch” and means “to understand,” literally translates to, “You get me?” Don’t hesitate to sprinkle your speech with this expression to add some extra Chilean flavor to your Spanish communication. You’ll probably startle some locals but will hopefully earn a bit of respect for attempting to go native. Cachai?

Saying “Yes” and “No” in Chile

You thought you’d gotten away with the basics of “yes” and “no”? Wrong again! In Chile, you’ll hardly ever hear the affirmative and negative stand alone. Instead, get used to hearing “si poh” and “no poh.” Poh, which evolved from pues (well), is a common add-on to words and phrases.

Now that you’ve got “yes” and “no” as well as basic conjugation under your belt, let’s explore three areas of Chilean life – dating, nightlife and work – in which you’re likely to hear the most slang… and be tempted to sling some out yourself.

Romantic Chilean Slang to Navigate Chile’s Dating Scene

The first time a taxi driver, intrigued by your foreign accent, asks you the traditional triumvirate of questions – “Where are you from?” “Why are you in Chile?” “Do you have a pololo or polola?” – you’ll be equipped to confidently answer that last one instead of blankly staring and asking “polo-what” as every other uncult foreigner will do.

No, a pololo is not some sort of tropical disease but the Chilean manner of referring to a boyfriend. Novio or novia, the terms used in the rest of the Spanish-speaking world, in Chile refer to highly serious relationships – engagements and marriages, essentially. Anything else, even year-long commitments, are pololo-worthy.

The word itself comes from the Mapudungun (Chile’s indigenous Mapuche Indian tongue) for “fly.” According to Chileans, just as flies hover around fruit, so do pololos around their objects of affection. A charming concept, in an insect kind of way.

You can also use it as a verb, pololear, as in, “Estoy pololeando” (“I am dating”).

The following are a few other terms you’ll find necessary as you dip into the world of Chilean dating:

Engrupir – to flirt or hit on someone, generally successfully
As in, “Me engrupí esa mina” (I got that girl).

Gorrear – to cheat on your significant other
As in, “El gorrea a su polola todo el tiempo” (He always cheats on his girlfriend).

Jote – essentially, the Chilean equivalent of a player
As in, “No está realmente interesado en ti, solo es un jote” (He’s not actually into you, he’s just a player).

Mina – young (usually attractive) woman
As in, “Mira la mina allá” (Check out that girl over there).

Tocar el violin – to be the third wheel
As in, “Toque el violin anoche” (I third wheeled last night).

Cuico / cuica – yuppi or upper class
As in, “Es demasiado cuica para mi” (She’s too yuppi for me).

Pierna peluda – another (rather astounding) way of referring to your (male) significant other that literally translates to “hairy leg.” Female significant others can be called pierna suave which means “smooth leg,” since ladies tend to shave their legs.

As in, “Donde está tu pierna peluda?” (Where’s your boyfriend?).

Or, “Donde está tu pierna suave?” (Where’s your girlfriend?).

Surviving Chile’s Pisco-Soaked Nightlife with Slang

Your first night out in Chile will feel like a right of initiation. From downing your first piscola (the national Chilean cocktail, an ungodly mix of Pisco and Coca Cola) to trying your hand at cumbia (a popular dance some call the salsa of the Southern Cone), you’ll feel like the king or queen of the carrete (party). That is, until the following morning’s caña (hangover).

The following are a few words to help you manage:

Caña – hangover
As in, “Ay, que caña que tengo” (I have the worst hangover).

Carrete – party (noun)
As in, “Vamos a salir de carrete esta noche” (We’re going to party tonight).

Carretear – to party (verb)
As in, “Carretee todo el fin de” (I partied all weekend).

Flaite – trashy
As in, “Que flaite este disco” (This club is so trashy).

Fome – lame
As in, “Anímate, no sea fome” (Come on, don’t be lame).

Bacán – awesome
As in, “El carrete estuvo bacán” (The party was awesome).

Chilean Slang to Use at Work in Chile

As a foreigner in Chile, you may find yourself among the ranks of work visa-less mongrels roaming about in search of pega (a job). The word itself says it all: pega literally translates to “a hit” or “a beating.” You’re likely to hear a weary “Me toca la pega” (I have to go to work) from your Chilean acquaintances.

The following is a handy list of work-related words and expressions:

Taco – from the word trafico, refers to traffic jams. What you’re likely to encounter on your way to work.

Al lote – disorderly, without rules
As in, “El proyecto está al lote” (The project’s a mess).

Al tiro – immediately, right now
As in, “Mi jefa necesita que haga este proyecto al tiro” (My boss needs me to work on this project immediately).

Harto – many
As in, “Hay harta gente en esta oficina” (There are so many people in this office).

Luca – 1000 pesos
Since Chilean money is counted in thousands, an easier way of talking about 10,000 pesos (the rough equivalent of $20 USD) is saying “10 lucas.

And now you’re set to go out into the world. Spread your wings and hablai Chileno.


Oh, and One More Thing…

If you liked learning all this colorful (and incredibly useful) Spanish, then you’ll love FluentU.

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FluentU has a wide variety of videos—topics like soccer, TV shows, business, movies and even magical realism, as you can see here:

FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.

Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s Learn Mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on. Then play some fun, interactive learning games like word matches and fill-in-the-blank.

The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video. 

Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU App for iPad and iPhone from the iTunes store.

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