Languages of Chile

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A Mapuche woman in traditional dress

The Republic of Chile is an overwhelmingly Spanish-speaking country, with the exceptions of isolated native and immigrant communities. According to Ethnologue, Chile has nine living languages and seven extinct.[1]


Of the 18 million Chileans, some 14 million speak Chilean Spanish as their first language.[1] It is a Spanish dialect which is sometimes difficult for speakers of the Castilian variant of Spanish to understand. It is very similar to Andalusian Spanish in pronunciation but it does have a lot of local slang.

Native languages[edit]


There are some 1,700,000 Mapuche living in Chile, of whom 114,000 speak Mapudungun.[1] Huilliche dialect or Chesungun is a divergent variety of Mapudungun that had 2,000 speakers in 1982, living in the Los Ríos and Los Lagos regions. As most of those speakers were elderly, it is uncertain if there are any existing speakers today.[1]


Chilean Quechua has 8,200 speakers in the far northeast high plains. It is believed to possibly be identical to South Bolivian Quechua or at the very least highly intelligible with it.[1]

Rapa Nui[edit]

Rapa Nui, the Polynesian language of Easter Island, is spoken by some 3,400 Chileans, whereof 3,200 live on Easter Island and some 200 live on the mainland.[1]


Extinct languages[edit]

Some indigenous languages of Chile now extinct are Diaguita, Kunza and Selk'nam.[1]


Although it is estimated that 150,000 to 200,000 Chileans have some German ancestry, the number who speak German has been in decline since the end of World War II. In the 1980s it was estimated that some 35,000 German Chileans spoke German,[1] but today it is spoken only by some 20,000, most of them living in Los Ríos and Los Lagos Region.[3]


Large numbers of Chileans, especially those from higher levels of socio-economic classes speak or understand English to some degree. British English schools are common and some have long histories that derive from English migrants in the 19th century.[citation needed]

Chilean Sign Language[edit]

According to the World Federation of the Deaf 2008 survey report for South America, Chile's official number of deaf citizens is 66,500.[4] The number who master Chilean Sign Language is uncertain, but if it follows the general norm of one in four deaf persons having learnt sign language[citation needed], the number of sign language users in Chile should be around 16,000.


External links[edit]