Spanish is the most widely spoken language in Chile. The variant of Spanish spoken in the country is Chilean Spanish. It is a dialect of Spanish that is significantly different from the Castilian variant of Spanish, but is similar in pronunciation to the Andalusian Spanish. About 14 million Chileans speak the language. Several other indigenous and immigrant languages are also spoken in the country.
Native Languages of Chile
The language is spoken mainly in south-central Chile. About 114,000 of the 700,000 Mapuche people living in Chile speak the language.
About 8,200 Chileans living in the country’s northeast high plains speak Chilean Quechua, which is believed to be identical or highly intelligible with South Bolivian Quechua.
About 3,200 Chileans living on Easter Island and 200 living on the mainland speak the Polynesian language of Rapa Nui.
Also known as Chesungun, the speakers of this language live in the Los Lagos and Los Ríos regions of Chile. Only about 2,000 speakers of this language, mostly elderly, lived in the country in 1982. It is possible that the language is now extinct in the country.
The Aymaran language of Aymara is spoken by the Aymara people living in parts of northern Chile. The language is spoken by about 935 speakers in the Chilean provinces of Arica and Putre.
The critically endangered language of Kawésqar is spoken by the Kawésqar people in southern Chile. Only about 7 speakers of this language exist, most of who live on the Chilean island of Wellington Island.
Extinct Languages of Chile
Several indigenous languages of Chile have become extinct over the years. These include Selk'nam, Kakauhua, Kunza, and Diaguita.
Foreign Languages Spoken in Chile
German was once spoken by a significant percentage of the Chilean population, and about 150,000 to 200,000 Chileans are of some some degree of German descent. However, since World War II ended, the population of German-speaking Chileans has drastically fallen. Currently, German is spoken as the first language by about 20,000 Chileans, most of them inhabiting the Los Lagos and Los Ríos regions of Chile.
English is spoken by a large section of the Chilean population, especially those belonging to the higher socio-economic strata. Several British English schools also operate in the country.
Sign Language in Chile
It is estimated that there are about 16,000 Chilean Sign Language users in the country.