Chile: Language and People                                     


  • Chileans are often considered the most formal South Americans. Men greet each other with a handshake while women greet each other in an informal setting with a single kiss on a the cheek.


  • Spanish is the official language and is the most widely spoken language in Chile.
  • Other languages that are widely spoken include:
    • Mapudungun
    • Rapa Nui
    • Aymara

Mapudungun (of the Mapuche people)

  • The Mapudungun language is spoken by the Mapuche people who are located in central Chile and west central Argentina (map).
  • Studies vary on the number of speakers of Mapudungun. In the political struggle between the ethnic minority and the Chilean and Argentinean governments, the different groups support different research results. The range is from 240,000-700,000. 

Rapa Nui (of Easter Island)

  • Easter Island is a Polynesian island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeastern most point of the Polynesian triangle (see yellow star on map) with a population of 4,781 (in 2009).


  • Easter Island was annexed as a territory of Chile in 1888.


  • Rapa Nui is a minority language and many of its speakers also speak Spanish. Most Rapa Nui children grow up speaking Spanish and those who do learn Rapa Nui begin learning later in life.


  • Easter Island is known for its 887 extant monumental statues, called moai (photo). The stones were carved from 1100-1680 CE (rectified via radio-carbon dates). Although often identified as "Easter Island heads", the statues are actually complete torsos, the figures kneeling on bent knees with their hands over their stomachs. Some upright moai have become buried up to their necks by shifting soils. Almost all (95%) moai were carved out of distinctive, compressed, easily worked solidified volcanic ash or tuff found at a single site inside the extinct volcano Rano Raraku. The native islanders who carved them used only stone hand chisels. While many teams worked on different statues at the same time, a single moai would take a team of five or six men approximately one year to complete. Each statue represented the deceased head of a lineage.

Aymara (of the Aymara people)

  • The language of the native ethnic group by the same name in the Andes and Altiplano regions of South America (map).


  • It is one of only a handful of Native American languages with over a million speakers.


  • Aymara, along with Quechua and Spanish, is an official language of Peru and Bolivia. 

Introduction to Spanish

Yes                                                           Si

No                                                            No

Please                                                       Por favor

Thank you                                                 Gracias

Thank you very much                                 Muchas gracias

Your welcome                                            De nada

Excuse me                                                 Perdón/Con permiso

Just a second                                             Un momento

Okay                                                         Está Bien/Muy bien

Hello                                                         Hola

Goodbye                                                    Adiós

Good morning                                            Buenos dias

Good afternoon                                          Buenas tardes

Good night/Good evening                           Buenas noches

Sir                                                            Señor

Madam                                                     Señora

Miss                                                         Señorita

See you later                                            Hasta la vista

See you tomorrow                                     Hasta mañana

Do you speak English?                               ¿Habla usted inglés?

I speak a little Spanish                              Hablo un poco español

Do you understand?                                  ¿Comprende usted?

I understand                                             Yo comprendo

I don't understand                                     No comprendo

What did you say?                                     ¿Cómo?

How do you say__in Spanish?                    ¿Cómo se dice__en español?

Where is the bathroom?                            ¿Dónde esta el baño?


Fact: Questions start with an upside down question mark. That way, you know a question is coming up before you read a sentence!