Abstract: Getting used to a new language is never easy, but it is tons of fun! Learning how to speak Chilean Spanish has been just another one of my adventures.
As I told you all before, I grew up speaking both English and Spanish at home. Although I spoke Spanish frequently, I definitely spoke English a lot more often with my friends and siblings. I learned to speak Spanish as a child, but I never learned exactly how to read it or write it. It bugged me that I could speak a language, but I had such a hard time reading or writing in it. This is one of the main reasons I came to Chile to study Spanish.
In Chile I am currently taking a phonetics class that teaches me all about the different sounds in the Spanish language. My professor has also taught my class the parts of our bodies that we use to say each sound. Have you ever thought about how and why each different sound comes out of your mouth? Our brain and our mouth send each other signals that tell each other what we want to say and then work together to produce each sound that we make. Judging by how fast we talk, these signals are probably as fast as the speed of light!
I am also taking a conversation and grammar class. Although many of us struggle with speaking Spanish, these classes push us to read and speak Spanish with other students in order to sharpen up our Spanish skills. Ms. Veronica, our teacher for these two classes, is very helpful and patient with us. She also has a very strong Chilean accent that sounds really cool when she speaks. Chileans naturally speak fast (really fast), but Ms. Veronica really tries her best to slow down so we can understand her. As for the rest of the Chileans, sometimes I have no clue what they are saying because they talk so, so fast.
Besides speaking fast, Chileans tend to “forget” a few of the letters in the alphabet. They like to call it “lazy Spanish” because they leave out some letters that are needed. For example, Chileans don’t mention the letter “s”. Mas is the Spanish word for “more”. Instead of saying “mas”, Chileans say “ma”. It seems as if they swallow each “s” in all their words before they even say them. It was one of the most confusing things I had to deal with at the beginning, but now I can have any casual conversation with a Chilean and understand every single word they are saying.
At first it was a little frustrating because I had to keep asking everyone to slow down when they spoke. Besides speaking fast, Chileans also use a lot of slang words that nobody understands besides them. Slang words are different words or sayings that are said by the local people and not by anyone else. One of the first slang words I heard was ¿cachai?. Just like we say “you know?” or “do you know what I mean?”, Chileans say ¿cachai?. Now I really like how it sounds, but at first I had to ask a million times what ¿cachai? meant because everyone was saying it but I had no clue what it meant.
Now that I have been here for two months I recognize and understand the different slang words Chileans use on a daily basis. I have even caught myself saying ¿cachai? once already! I am also getting better at understanding the Chileans that talk as if they are playing a car race with their sentences. It is very fast, but I can now pick up on what they are saying a lot faster than I could before. Sometimes I will talk to a total Chilean stranger just to test my Spanish skills. I am so proud of how much I have learned.
The struggle with the language and different ways of speaking has taught me to be more patient with myself and with others. Now I take my time to listen to what others are saying and am more careful with the words I choose when I speak. We must always be patient and kind to others who cannot understand us very well or whom we can’t understand because even if it is frustrating at times, there is always a way to communicate. The best part is that you can learn any of the other languages in the world as well. If you could learn any language in the world, which one would you learn?