This skinny and super long stretch of land in South America boasts a country of extremes. From glaciers to deserts, dunes to valleys, and forests to volcanoes, Chile holds travelers in its open-arms welcoming grasp from the Andes to the Pacific. Sail the Ruta Bimodal south to Patagonia’s Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, explore Sur Chico via the Pan American highway, and venture to one of the driest places on the planet and a stargazer’s paradise, northern Chile’s Atacama Desert. Take language courses in Chile while immersing yourself in a country with no shortage of linguistic and life adventures.
There are ski resorts, vineyards, surfing, Moai human figures on Rapa Nui (Easter Island), fjords, desert, lakes, mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, volcanoes, and beaches. To put it simply, Chile serves up an endless supply of buena onda (good vibes) from the Parinacota volcano in the Norte Grande region all the way to Punta Arenas.
As the capital and largest city, Santiago is where it’s at, and where about one-third of Chile’s population is, too. Take the funicular from Plaza Caupolicán to Cerro San Cristóbal get an expansive view of the city situated against the Andes, get a glimpse of Pablo Neruda’s poetic (and romantic) history during a tour of La Chascona, and satisfy your senses roaming the fish market at the Mercado Central. With tons of cosmopolitan delights, including restaurants, cafes, architecture, crafts markets, and wineries, to give you plenty of language practice, Santiago is a súper bakán (cool) place to enroll in language courses in Chile.
Colorful houses line steep hills in Chile’s main port city, Valparaíso. Take a lancha (boat) close to Plaza Sotomayor, check out some killer street art in Cerro Concepción and Cerro Alegre, eat chorrillana (huge plate of fries topped with meat and egg), hit up the busy Sunday feria on Avenida Argentina, or take a twenty-minute bus ride to beachy Viña del Mar. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Valpo has endless cultural options to kick your language studies into immersion overdrive. Visit Pablo Neruda’s house, La Sebastiana, do as the locals do and drink a terremoto (pineapple ice cream, grenadine, Fernet, and Chilean white wine pipeño), and don’t miss exhibits and events at the Parque Cultural de Valparaíso.
Branch out and sign up for language courses in Chile’s off-the-beaten track places. From Pucón in the Chilean Lake District to Iquique in northern Chile with access to the Atacama Desert to Viña del Mar, Valpo’s sister city, on the central coast, there are countless jaw-dropping destinations to learn a new language in Chile without the hum of the city.
Language Programs in Chile
Chile’s official language is Spanish, but the country prides itself on its indigenous linguistic influences, which make Chilean Spanish stand out among the rest. There are both Spanish and indigenous language course options in Chile, and even cultural and historical classes taught in English. You can also get a taste for Chile’s indigenous communities through language learning; it’s fun to observe where Chilean Spanish borrowed a few words (especially for vegetables and animals). As the biggest indigenous community, the Mapuche people speak Mapudungun in the south of Chile. Aymara is spoken in the Andes region of the north, Quechua in the north, and Rapa Nui is spoken on Easter Island.
The most popular place to take language courses in Chile is at a language school. From small group instruction for four to six hours a day to private courses to combination courses with dance, an internship, or volunteer work, Chile has all kinds of language learning environments. Language learners can also enjoy the flexibility to study for just one week or multiple months. Intensive or more laid-back, you can choose to get some private one-on-one attention or opt for a group class. Determine your own pathway for your language program in Chile, but be sure to leave some wiggle room to pick up on the many chilenismos.
Language programs in Chile often offer recreational activities alongside coursework, including paragliding, kayaking, surfing, sandboarding, diving, and biking. Can you see yourself studying Spanish during the day and going on city outings in the afternoons or on the weekends? If you choose to take language courses in Santiago, you could end up checking out Florestal Park and the Museum of Fine Arts as well as Isla Negra, La Moneda, and the Cousino Palace through your language school in Chile. You’ll definitely find a beautiful balance between Spanish language courses and time in the outdoors. You can even learn Spanish in Chile while climbing volcanoes and hiking through national parks. You’ll be adding po’, a shortened version of pues, to all your responses before you know it!
There are also university language courses in Chile for those wishing to do a semester, summer, academic year, or intensive month-long program at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso or Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez. You can take English or Spanish classes, with international students or Chilean students, depending on your level of castellano.
Costs & Affordability
Language programs in Chile span a diverse range of prices, but are flexible enough to suit anyone’s language goals, desired location, and budget. Most language programs in Chile are customizable, so you can choose if you’d like to include or exclude a bunch of options. Aside from, of course, location, you can also pick which type of housing, if you’d like meals included or not, if you’re into private or group classes, if you’d like to be picked up at the airport for an additional fee, and if you’re down to hop on the excursions and additional activities. Depending on your selections, your program cost will fluctuate and some costs will be up to you. Think about how you would like to experience language learning in Chile, and then how much your bank account can afford, before you go and you’ll be set.
Once you’re there, you’ll be carrying around some large Chilean peso bills. Spend them on inexpensive meals for about 4,500 CL$, a Coke for 750 CL$, or a beer for 830 CL$. Costs tend to be higher in Santiago as it’s the capital. Keep in mind that markets are abundant in Chile, and as it’s one of the biggest exporters of fruit, there’s fruit for every taste and occasion. Be sure to try some cactus pears, which Chileans (oddly) call tuna. And while you’re at it, spend some pesitos with local street vendors selling sopaipillas and completos, a.k.a. a Chilean hot dog with avocado, tomato, mayo, green chili, and cheese; woah!
Accommodation & Visas
Before you’re chowing down on porotos granados and lots of pebre sauce, it’s important to figure out the lay of the Chilean land in terms of where you’ll stay and how exactly you’ll get there.
Luckily, citizens of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia do not need a visa to enter Chile, given they plan to stay less than ninety days. When you arrive, you’ll get a 90-day tourist card; just hold on to that bad boy because they’ll ask for it on your way out of the country! Upon arrival, Australians must pay a reciprocity fee of $95 and Canadians are required to pay a reciprocity fee of $132. Double (and triple) check visa information on GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory to be sure you have everything prepared before arrival.
Once you’re through customs you’ll be wondering where you’re going to lay your head after it’s filled with si po, no po, and cachai. Depending on the language program you choose and your personal housing preferences, you can select from a few accommodation options. Universities and language schools in Chile typically offer homestays, student residences, and apartments.
Living with a host family means you’ll get your own private room in a Chilean household, some people to practice Spanish with, and daily meals to fill you up. Homestays are immersive language learners’ ideal living situation. If you’re looking for a little more independence, choose a language program in Chile that will give you the space to kick back in a private room in a shared apartment or a shared room in a student residence. You can even opt out of pre-arranged housing and find a living space that’s good for you, because the housing choice is yours!
Benefits & Challenges
As one of the hardest dialects in the entire Spanish-speaking world, chileñol proves to be pretty tough to understand. Even other native Spanish speakers have trouble with the Chilean dialect. Fear not! Some hard work and lot of listening will pay off. Chileans drop the endings of words, especially if a words ends in an ‘s,’ while also talking miles a minute.
The insanely diverse landscapes throughout this long and narrow country prove to be the perfect combination of language learning inside and outdoors. Tap into your appreciation for nature from Atacama to Patagonia while simultaneously learning a new language abroad.
Hunker down and be sure to pay attention before all the chilenismos whiz by you. You'll be getting used to the slower pace of life while discovering the Chilean charm documented by Pablo Neruda.