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The official language of Chile is Spanish, and few Chileans outside of the tourism industry speak more than rudimentary English -- so bone up on a few handy phrases before arriving. Chileans appreciate the effort, and really, part of the fun of traveling is learning the local lingo.

That said, even Spanish speakers have a difficult time understanding singsong, high-pitched Chilean Spanish, which has grown to be known as chilensis for its rapid-fire delivery and heavy use of local phrases and slang. The most notable peculiarity about Chilean Spanish is the merge of the formal vosotros with the casual tu verb forms, which over the centuries has created a verb tense unique to this country. Chileans use "tu estas," or "tu comes," but it's very common to hear instead "tu estai" or "tu comai." This -ai ending is used in very informal settings; most popular is the greeting, "¿Como estai?" Another oddity in Chilean Spanish is "pues," which puts emphasis on a word, and is more commonly shortened to "poh," as in "Sí, poh," meaning "Well yes!" Words that end in -ado or -ido typically drop the "d," so that pelado becomes "pelao." Chileans also drop the "s" in words, so that más becomes "ma."

While some Latin countries such as Argentina have virtually dropped the usted verb form except in the most formal of occasions, Chileans use the usted form habitually. Waiters, doormen, strangers, and any new business associate should be greeted with usted until you become better acquainted.

Chilean Menu Glossary

Lomo -- Beef/steak

Pan -- Bread

Pollo -- Chicken

Postre -- Dessert

Huevos -- Eggs

Pescado -- Fish

Fruta -- Fruit

Cordero -- Lamb

Carne -- Meat

Cerdo/puerco -- Pork

Papas -- Potatoes

Papas fritas -- French fries

Arroz -- Rice

Asado -- Roast

Ensalada -- Salad]

Mariscos -- Seafood

Camarones -- Shrimp

Sopa (chupe) -- Soup

Camote -- Sweet potato

Verduras -- Vegetables

Adobo -- Meat dish in a spicy chili sauce

Alpaca -- Alpaca steak

Anticuchos -- Shish kebab

Cabrito -- Goat

Carne de res -- Beef

Chicharrones -- Fried pork skins

Conejo -- Rabbit

Cordero -- Lamb

Empanada -- Pastry turnover filled with meat, vegetables, fruit, manjar blanco, or sometimes nothing at all

Estofado -- Stew

Lomo asado -- Roast beef

Parrillada -- Grilled meats

Pato -- Duck

Pollo a la brasa -- Spit-roasted chicken

Venado -- Venison

Corvina -- Sea bass

Langosta -- Lobster

Langostinos -- Prawns

Lenguado -- Sole

Mero -- Mediterranean grouper

Paiche -- Large Amazon fish

Tollo -- Spotted dogfish

Cerveza -- Beer

Refresco -- Mixed fruit juice

Jugo -- Juice

Leche -- Milk

Gaseosa -- Soft drink

Agua -- Water

con gas -- carbonated

sin gas -- still

Vino -- Wine

Cóctel/trago -- Cocktail

Some Typical Chilean Words & Phrases

Al tiro -- Right away

¿Cachai? -- You know? Do you get it?

Choro -- Good, as in "Cool!"

Cuico/a -- Wealthy elite, snob

Curado/a -- Drunk

Ene -- A lot

Fome -- Boring

Guagua -- Baby

Harto -- Many, a lot

Huevón/ona -- Idiot, stupid person; can be used as an insult but is peppered innocuously in all Chilean speech, somewhat like "dude"

La Caña -- Hangover

Lucas -- 1,000; used like "bucks" for money

Oye! -- "Listen!"; used to get someone's attention

Paco -- Cop

Pega -- Work, job

Pesado -- Boring, stick in the mud, or an annoying person

Polera -- T-shirt

Pololo/a -- Boyfriend/girlfriend

Por si acaso -- Just in case

Rasca -- Tacky, low class (other common words for this are ordinario or roto)

¿Te fijas? -- Do you see? Do you get it?

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.