Spanish is a very complex and colorful language. More so, when you stop to consider the different dialects that exist in Latin America. Only within Latin America, we encounter over eight types of Spanish that range from Amazonic Spanish and Caribbean Spanish to Mexican Spanish and Chilean Spanish.
These last two are especially interesting as they represent the two poles: Mexico, the most northern country in Latin America, and Chile, the southernmost nation in Latin America. So, it is no surprise that Chilean and Mexican Spanish differ greatly.
When comparing Chilean Spanish to Mexican Spanish, we found key differences in accents, phonology, syntax, grammar, and (of course) vocabulary. Below, we will explain these factors in depth for better understanding:
Chilean Spanish is infamous for its very thick and unusual accent. And given that natives tend to speak truly fast, it has proven to be one of the hardest dialects to understand even for native Spanish speakers. Many consider it to have a “musical” or high-pitched tone.
On the other hand, Mexican Spanish is probably the most common form of Spanish (after Castilian Spanish.) Its accent, although very nasal, is considered by many to be almost “neutral.” Nonetheless, it is tough to generalize this dialect’s accent, given Mexico’s massive territory and large population.
Solely within Mexico, we find many regional variations. These regionalisms have their origins in the pre-independence years, where Castilian Spanish brought by the Spaniards blended with over 63 indigenous dialects spoken by the indigenous natives.
You might have heard people say that Chileans do not pronounce the ‘s’ or the ‘d.’ And the truth is that they do but in a very particular way. In linguistical terms, Chileans aspirate the ‘s’ at the end of words making it sound like an ‘h.’ So, a word like “jugadores” (players) would sound more like “jugadoreh.” The letter ‘d’ also tends to disappear, mainly when found between vowels. As a result, most Chileans will often eliminate the ‘d’ and accentuate the vowel that follows. Hence, a word like “comprado” (purchased) would sound more like “compraó.”
On the other hand, Mexicans tend to pronounce consonants distinctly, making it easier for foreigners to understand the words better.
Thus, we could say that Mexican Spanish is the middle point between the very guttural pronunciation used by Spaniards and the lenition and aspiration done by Chileans.
• Subject Pronouns
Subject pronouns are the words that designate who or what is carrying out the action (verb). In Spanish subject pronouns read as follows:
- Yo (I)
- Tú (You)
- Usted (You)
- Vos (You)
- Ella/El (Her/Him)
- Ustedes (You)
- Vosotros/Vosotras (You)
- Ellos/Ellas (Them)
- Nosotros/Nosotras (We)
As you can see, there are many different ways to address a person in Spanish that don’t necessarily exist in the English language. And to make it even more complicated, there are different uses for all these diverse forms of “You.”
In most Latin American countries, like Mexico, the rule of thumb when it comes to the use of “You” is that “Tú” is used when informally speaking, and “Usted” is reserved for formal usage. “Vosotros” and “Vos,” on the other hand, are rarely used in Mexico.
In Chile, things are a bit less obvious. “Tú” is widely used throughout the country, except for the occasional “Vos” thanks to its proximity to Argentina. However, Chileans conjugate the pronoun “Tú” very differently.
Let’s take, for example, the verb “hablar” (to talk). Instead of saying “tú hablas“, Chileans will say “tú hablai“. The same happens with all verbs ending in “-ar,” “-er,” “-ir.” As a result, the final syllable, when conjugating most verbs, is replaced by an “ai.”
The most evident difference is, of course, the words used in each country. As expected, Chile and Mexico both have a very rich and extensive slang that makes it very hard for non-native speakers to keep up when listening to a regular informal conversation.
Below we share a list of some common words for you to see the difference:
English – Mexican Spanish – Chilean Spanish
• Snack – Botana – Picoteo
• Bathroom sink – Lavatorio – Lavamanos
• Underwear – Calzones – Calzón
• Bus – Camión – Micro/Libre
• Buddy – Cuate – Weón
• Popcorn – Palomitas – Cabritas
• Waiter – Mesero – Garzón
• Straw – Popote – Bombilla
• Pen – Pluma – Lapíz Pasta
• Strawberry – Fresa – Frutilla
• Traffic Jam – Tráfico – Taco
• Stapler – Grapadora – Corchetera
• Soda – Refresco – Bebida
• Pool – Alberca – Piscina
• Hole – Agujero – Hoyo
• Flip Flops – Chancletas – Chalas
• Slippers – Chinelas – Pantuflas
• Gasoline – Gasolina – Bencina
• Toothpick – Palillo – Mondadientes
• Blanket – Sábana – Frazada
• Hangover – Cruda – Caña
As you can see, many everyday words are completely different in Mexican Spanish when compared to Chilean Spanish. And then we have some words that are the same but which convey very different meanings. For instance, the word “torta” in Chile refers to “cake,” but in Mexico, a “torta” is a very typical sandwich, which is usually bathed in sauce.
Another common word is “banqueta,” which in Mexico is used to refer to the sidewalk; in Chile, on the other hand, a “banqueta” is a bench often found in public places. “Coche” is another word that can be confusing. In Mexico, the word “coche” is used to reference cars, and in Chile, “coche” stands for baby stroller.
Therefore, it is safe to say that even though Chilean Spanish and Mexican Spanish come from the same romantic root and are both found in Latin America, they are two very different dialects. So, if you are starting to learn Spanish, you need to be aware of these crucial differences.
By the way, I also have a post about Differences between Mexico’s and Spain’s Spanish.
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