I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


I spent today climbing the hills of Valparaiso, a crazy quilt of a port city about ninety minutes west of Santiago, and I'm too tired to deal with the pictures -- something to look forward to in February.

Instead, a few comments about the language. I had intended, as I always do, to brush up on my Spanish before this trip, but the craziness of life and work meant that my best intentions didn't get me very far, and I hadn't even looked at Spanish for at least a month before leaving for Chile.

It turned out it doesn't matter. Most of the people I've encountered in hotels, restaurants and other tourist-oriented locations speak perfect English of course, and not even a long-term total immersion course could have prepared me for the rapid-fire, highly idiomatic version of Spanish they speak in Chile.

First, they drop a lot of the letters, like final s's -- here it's Mucha gracia, rather than Muchas gracias. They also like to remove multiple syllables from adjoining words and smash the remaining sounds together into one blur of noise, like paya, which somehow means Go that way.

But it's the slang that has completely charmed me. ¿Cachai? for example, which means Understood? or Got it? and supposedly comes from the English word catch. My favorite so far is listeilor, which is used instead of listo, or ready. It's pronounced Liz Taylor, and sometimes spelled that way, so when you need to tell someone you're ready, you say Estoy Liz Taylor.

So I'm bumbling along, barring the occasional lapse into French. My brain apparently believes that all non-French Romance languages are really just mispronounced French, and at a certain point anything I try to say in Spanish or Italian comes out half in French. This has resulted in ¿C'est aqui? and Oui, entiendo, which I'm pretty certain left the impression that I didn't really understand as much as I was claiming.

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