Languages of Chile

Languages of Chile

Republic of Chile is an overwhelmingly Spanish speaking country, with perhaps the exception of Mapudungun, and isolated native and immigrant communities. There are nine living languages, several of which are endangered and seven extinct ones. [ Chile profile] , Ethnologue, retrieved October 10th, 2007]


There were 13,800,000 Spanish speakers in 1995, but the population has increased to nearly 16,000,000 and the number of Hispanophones is probably closer to that figure taking into account the low monolinguacy of non-Spanish speakers and 95-96% literacy rates.

Chilean Spanish is notoriously difficult for foreigners to understand due to the dropping of final syllables and 's' sounds, the very soft pronunciation of some consonants and the high levels of slang employed, particularly in Santiago and the surrounding areas. Chileans also tend to speak much faster than natives of neighboring countries. These factors all contribute to newly arrived visitors to the country, even proficient Spanish speakers, hearing no more than indecipherable mumbles in early encounters with locals. Books have been written (such as 'How to survive in the Chilean Jungle' by John Brennan and Alvaro Taboada) which attempt to detail and explain the difficulties and idiosyncrasies of Chilean Spanish.

English language learning and teaching is popular among students and higher professions, although with varying degrees of success. Even with intensive preparation, culture shock can take a real toll on communication; many words have been absorbed into everyday speech from English, although may be unrecognizable due to non-native pronunciations of English and misuse.wikipedia


There are 928,000 Mapuche indigenous folk in Chile, of which 200,000 about 20% can speak Mapudungun.


*German is spoken throughout Chile by 35,000 speakers, most groups are concentrated in the southern regions of Chile, which received a wave of German immigrants during 19th century.

1,000 speakers+

*Chilean Quechua has 4,563 in the far northeast high planes, it is believed to possibly be identical to South Bolivian Quechua or at the very least highly intelligible with it. []
*Rapa Nui language is spoken 3,392 Polynesian Eastern Islanders and also by some islanders in Viña del Mar-Valparaíso and Santiago de Chile. Easter Island (Isla de Pascua) called Rapa Nui by its indigenous inhabitants is a Polynesian island and a "special territory" of Chile.
*Huilliche or Chesungun has 2,000 speakers in Los Ríos and Los Lagos region; however it is considered a dialect of Mapudungun or a creole due to mixing with Spanish and the original pure dialect is thought by some to now be extinct in this regard.

Less than 1000 speakers

*Central Aymará 899 speakers in Arica and Putre provinces.
*Kawésqar has only 20 remaining speakers.
*Yámana has Cristina Calderón as a sole speaker and will likely become extinct soon.

Extinct languages

Some indigenous languages of Chile now extinct are Diaguita, Kakauhua, Kunza and Selknam.


External links

* [ Ethnologue: Chile]

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