Chile is a country in South America which is on the bucket list of millions of travellers.
But before visiting, it’s important to learn how to pronounce the name of the country. Chile pronunciation may not be exactly how you have been saying it your whole life.
As a full-time traveller, I am here to provide a guide to teach you how to pronounce “Chile” ready for your trip to the amazing country.
You might have pronounced Chile as chilly or chilli your whole life, but it’s not exactly right. Don’t worry- I pronounced it the same way before planning my trip backpacking South America.
This is the correct pronunciation in English, but if you are heading there, you want your Chile pronunciation to be in Spanish.
The correct way to pronounce Chile is “chee-lay”.
It’s pronounced exactly how it looks. “Chee” is like the start of cheese, and “lay” is the word lay.
Pronouncing Chile is actually really easy and just requires a simple and easy adjustment from the way most people say it in English.
It’s just like pronouncing Ibiza– it just takes a slight adjustment from how you likely already pronounce it.
When in Chile, it’s important to make sure you pronounce it correctly. It shows respect for Chileans and the language and culture of the country.
To summarise, Chile is pronounced “Chee-lay” and not “chilly”.
What Language Do They Speak In Chile?
The official language of Chile is Spanish, like most South American countries.
Spanish has been the main language in Chile since the Spanish colonial period from the 1600s onwards.
Chilean Spanish does have its own unique tweaks, with pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar changes from most Spanish-speaking countries.
Don’t worry, if you speak Spanish, you will be able to understand Chileans. It’s still Spanish, but just with little tweaks. It could be compared to the difference between British English and American English or Australian English.
On top of Spanish as the main language, there are other indigenous languages spoken throughout Chile. The most popular would be Mapudungun which is spoken by about 7% of Chileans.
What Is The Chilean Accent Like?
Spanish speakers will know that the Chilean accent is very distinct and unique, as you might imagine due to the unique changes in dialect.
The Chilean accent emphasises consonants with clear and sharp pronunciations, sounding almost like staccato.
Chileans also put a strong emphasis on the last syllable of a word. The pronunciation of “Chile” itself is the perfect example. “Lay” is emphasised.
Throughout Chile, the accent also varies depending on which part of the country you are in. For example, in northern Chile, near the borders of Peru and Bolivia, there is a distinct use of “j” and “ll” sounds whereas, in southern Chile, there is a more pronounced “r” sound.
But wherever you are in Chile, one key element is the pronunciation of “s” at the end of a word. It’s pronounced as a soft “h” sound which is hard to mimic if you are not native Chilean.
Useful Phrases To Learn Before Visiting Chile
Before visiting a country, it’s best practice to learn some basic useful words and phrases in the local language. Not only is it polite and shows respect, you never know when they could come in handy and help you in a situation.
|¿Cómo estás?||How are you?|
|¿Cuánto cuesta esto?||How much does this cost?|
|¿Dónde está el baño?||Where is the bathroom?|
|¿Puede ayudarme, por favor?||Can you help me, please?|
|No entiendo||I don’t understand|
Learning these words and phrases and learning how to pronounce them will make your trip to Chile all the more easier, as you can have super basic conversations and get the gist of what someone is trying to tell you.
Not to mention that learning a language before visiting a country is a great way to immerse yourself in the country and get a true and authentic experience as you try to converse with locals in their language, rather than making them try to converse in your language, in their country.
If you want to learn more Spanish before visiting Chile, I recommend using Duolingo. It’s a fun way to learn languages disguised as a mobile game but you are still learning! I’m currently in the process of learning Spanish and I would feel confident to be able to have a conversation with someone in Chile.
Chile Pronunciation: FAQ
Below are some questions related to the correct Chile pronunciation along with my answers.
No, despite popular belief, Chile the country is not pronounced the same as chilli the fruit. Chile the country is actually pronounced “chee-lay”. It’s pronounced exactly how it’s sounded out. “Chee” is like the start of cheese and “lay” as the word lay.
Chilean is pronounced as “Chee-lay-uhn”. Chile the country is pronounced as “Chee-lay” so you simply add the “uhn” sound onto the end as you would with most nationalities, e.g., Brazillian also simply adds the “uhn”.
People commonly mispronounce Chile as “chilly” or “chilli”, and it’s simply down to the spelling similarities between the three words. In English, Chile looks to be pronounced the same as the other two words, whereas Chile is a Spanish-speaking country so it is actually pronounced “Chee-lay”.
No, Chile the country and chilli the fruit are pronounced differently. Despite popular belief that they are, Chile is actually pronounced as “Chee-lay” as it is a Spanish-speaking country.
Chile Pronunciation: Conclusion
And there you have it, a complete guide to the correct Chile pronunciation.
Remember, it’s not “chilly” and it’s not “chilli”, the correct pronunciation is “chee-lay”.
It’s important to get it right before any trip to Chile so you don’t show any disrespect.
Hopefully, you have learnt the correct way it’s pronounced along with other key phrases to learn for your trip to Chile. 🙂