Languages

Spoken by 99.3 percent of all Chileans, Spanish, also known as ‘Castellano,’ is the official and administrative language of the country.

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The vast majority of the population speak the variety of the national language known as “Chilean Spanish,” or the Chilean dialect. Small numbers speak other varieties of the language including Andean Spanish in parts of the north and Chilote Spanish on the country’s large, southern island. Those with hearing disabilities, meanwhile, use Chilean sign language. In 2009, the literacy rates of the population were 98.6 percent for men over the age of 15 and 98.5 percent for women of the same age, while the rate for the 15-24 age range alone 98.9 percent for both sexes, demonstrating continued progress.

Indigenous languages are used by smaller numbers. Mapudungun is spoken by between 100,000 and 200,000 people, while Chesungun, a related language but one considered be distinct by experts is spoken by around 2000 native Huilliche people. In the north, speakers of Aymara number around 20,000 and those conversant in southern Quechua are estimated to total 8,200. The native tongue of the Easter Island is called Rapa Nui (also the island’s original name) and is spoken by 3,390 people.

Other languages such as Kawésqar and Yagán — both native to the country’s the far south, deep in Patagonia — are close to extinction. Unfortunately, many languages have already died. Among them, Aonikenk, Cacán, Caucahue, Chono, Gününa Këna, Kunza, Selk’nam, Allentiac and Millcayac.
Non-native languages found in Chile include German, Catalán, Croatian, English, Italian and Vlax Romani, all spoken by members of the diverse communities that emigrated to the country over many years.

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