Chile is a great place to improve your Spanish or to start learning from scratch. Chilean Spanish is known for its sweetness and unique pronunciation. Though there are different dialects in the several regions, Chilean Spanish is easy to identify.
Mostly influenced by the dialect spoken in Southern Spain, specifically Andalucía, it’s characterized for the pronunciation of “c” and “z” like “s”, and the use of “ustedes” instead of “vosotros.” Chileans speak fast and it may take you a few days to get used to their dialect, but it is definitely worth it – their Spanish opens the doors to a unique cultural universe that will allow you to master the language and enjoy this magnificent country.
Chile has everything you may wish for. Prosperous metropolis, enchanting towns, impressive deserts, beaches, glaciers, wild nature, the Andes... And warm citizens that will welcome you with open arms and will help you improve your Spanish. Get started by reading our guide and then choosing a program below.
When thinking about studying Spanish in Chile, the problem isn’t finding a language program, the problem is choosing one! As soon as you start looking around you’ll realize there are many different options available. Traditional classes, language study programs combined with internships or volunteer missions.
Don’t get overwhelmed, you can figure it out. The first step, before choosing anything, is deciding what you want. Do you want to be in a big city, or maybe you prefer a small town closer to Chilean traditions and nature? Do you want to learn in a traditional classroom, or maybe you feel like trying something different? Here you have a bit more information to help you making an informed decision.
If you don’t feel confident in your Spanish and your main goal is to improve your language skills, group courses in a language school will probably be the best option for you. The school will place you in a class according to your level and you’ll be able to improve your grammar and syntax with a native teacher.
Some schools will also help you find housing, even introducing you to a host family, and many offer extra-curricular activities to get to know Chile and its culture. You will also be able to make friends in class, but take into consideration that they will probably be foreigners too so you’ll have less chances to practice with native Spanish speakers.
Language Study & Volunteer Combination Programs
But if you are not a fan of being in a classroom or you can’t afford the price of an organized program, you also have the option of going to Chile on your own and live the adventure of your life! Chile is a secure country, and is also the fastest growing economy in Latin America.
Many employers are looking (both for internships and payed jobs) for young people who speak English, since their companies are opening up to the world but most Chileans only speak Spanish. If you think you know enough Spanish to take on this adventure, you will have the possibility of practicing your Spanish in a “real” world environment while definitely giving a boost to your resume.
Language Study & Internship Combination Programs
If you think your syntax and grammar can use some work but you feel confident on your speaking skills, you may find that a mixed program is your best option. Some language schools offer the possibility of taking a language course in a traditional classroom while also (during or after the classes) doing an internship or participating in a volunteer program.
This option offers you the chance of working in your Spanish while also building up your resume or helping to make a better world. An option definitely worth considering!
Most people who travel to Chile to study Spanish usually go either to Santiago or to Valparaíso.
Santiago is the capital of Chile and an amazing metropolis. Its location is spectacular: on one side, the coastal ridges, and on the other, the year-round snowed summits of the Andes. The city hosts the main government structures, like La Moneda, the presidential palace, and many other government buildings and agencies. A part from the jobs directly related to the administration, the rapid economic growth of the country has transformed Santiago into a great economic hub.
Companies from all over the world are opening headquarters in this booming city. But aside from the economic activity Santiago thrives with social movements and art. Its cafes and universities are filled with energy and hope. Though the city center and the financial district lack personality, Santiago’s real colors can be seen in its fine museums and exotic parks. Go to Barrio Brasil, Santiago’s bohemian district, and enjoy Chile’ blossoming cultural life!
Valparaíso, known as Valpo by its citizens, is an exceptional city. Philosophers, writers and poets like the great Pablo Neruda have fallen in love with this unique city. Valparaíso is located in a natural bay and surrounded by hills. Its strategic location in the Pacific Coast has made it an important port since the 18th century. Since then, people from all over the world have visited the city.
These cultural exchanges have made Valparaíso’s citizens open and tolerant people. The city is built right over the hills that surround the bay so Valparaíso is one of the hilliest cities in the continent. But the steep streets didn’t discourage their people. Their houses are painted in bright colors and Valparaíso has a booming nightlife. Lively, Valparaíso is Chile’s cultural center and a must for all those who wish to discover Latin America.
Chile’s visa system is easy to navigate and it’s set to make it easy for visitors to spend some time in the country. It works on a reciprocity basis, so you will be allowed to stay in Chile without a specific visa for the same time a Chilean citizen can stay in your country (for more specific information, visit your country’s embassy site). Most visitors are allowed to stay in Chile up to 90 days.
If you are a citizen of the European Union your won’t have to pay a fee, but if you are a Canadian, Australian or United States citizen you will have to pay when you enter the country, $132, $95 or $160 respectively. After these 90 days you can extend your stay by completing and application and paying a fee (which again varies depending on your nationality) at the Departamento de Extranjería of the Ministerio del Interior, but due to the slow bureaucracy most people just hop to Argentina or Bolivia for a day and then come back in, getting a new 90 days period.
If you work in an unpaid internship you won’t need any special visa, but you will need a new type of visa if you work under a labor contract and get a salary. Contrary to other countries, Chile doesn’t demand the applicants to a work visa to leave the country and do the whole process from home: you can apply in one of the consulates Chile has around the country and you’ll be allowed to stay while your case is being decided.
The cost of living in Chile varies immensely depending on where you will be staying. Prices in the countryside will be extremely cheap compared to any country in the United States or Europe. Living in a city is another story. Chile is the most expensive country in Latin America due to its quick economic growth. It is, though, still cheaper than most big cities in the West. It is possible to break even in Santiago (definitely the most expensive city in Chile) with around $1,000 a month, as this English teacher explains.
Wherever in Chile you move to, though, take into consideration that Chile’s currency, Chilean Pesos, work a bit differently than USD or Euros. For example, most people will agree that a $5,000 is a lot of money. A $5,000 Chilean Pesos aren’t: actually, you wouldn’t be able to pay for a meal in an inexpensive restaurant with that money – you’d need at least 300 pesos more.
Don’t get scared: it’s only the quantities that change, but not the relative value. The average monthly disposable of a Chilean citizen is 500,000 pesos, and you will receive around 523 pesos in exchange for every dollar. Taking that into consideration, a meal in an inexpensive restaurant would be around 7 dollars. Not bad, eh?
- If you are an undergraduate student, you may be eligible for the Phi Kappa Phi Study Abroad Scholarships, the national honor society for foreign language students. It gives awards of a $1,000.
- LIVFund, The Learn, Intern, and Volunteer in Latin America gives $500 dollars to those students in need who plan to study, intern or volunteer in Latin America.
- Travelocity, Travel for Good gives awards to those who participate in volunteer programs abroad.