Knowing some Spanish in Chile is essential. While you’re in Santiago, you’ll probably meet a few people who speak a little English, but generally, it’s not widely spoken. Whether or not you’ve had any background of learning the local language, brushing up your Spanish whilst in Santiago is a great idea. Chileans are renowned for their speed of speech and prolific use of slang, which can make understanding the local dialect a real challenge.
If you want to improve your Spanish, check out the local Spanish language schools. There are a number of options, and you can check out the location, prices, schedules and whether the school offers any extra-curricular activities – this will help you make your decision. Most school teach all levels, from beginners to proficient speakers. Intake times vary from being able to begin any Monday, to the start of any month. You can usually study there as long as you like and as long as you can afford to.
It’s a good idea to look for schools that have the ECELA (Español y Cultura en LatinoAmerica) endorsement – this means that belong to a larger organisation and therefore have a standardised curriculum and the teachers should have professional training. Check out these schools to begin with: Latin Immersion, Escuela Bellavista Chile, Natalis Language Centre and Tandem Santiago. I can’t speak for the others but I went to Latin Immersion for a month and it was excellent. The teachers are really friendly, capable and professional, and when the month was done I was much more confident and happier for having learned some of the basics.
ECELA can also help you combine your language courses with other activities and accommodation if needed – visit the site for information.