On Saturday some gringas and Chileans were talking about how Chileans tend to think it’s so cute and endearing when gringos use Chilean slang. I’ve experienced this a lot, despite the fact that I try not to use “cachai” and “po” (it sometimes slips out). However, I do use a lot of other Chilean expressions because that’s how I learned to speak, and most of the time don’t even realize that what I’m saying is “Chilean”.
Case in point. Chileans shorten the common expression “para nada” (meaning “not at all”) to “pa na”. This is how I hear it, so this is how I say it too. It sounds funny to me to pronounce the whole thing. Last week during a break, one of my students asked me something in Spanish and I responded, “No! Pa na.” And the entire group of students said, “Mira! Eres toda una chilena. Que linda.” (Look! You’re such a Chilean. How cute.) I got the same reaction the next class when at the end of the break I told them, “Ya, chiquillos, vámonos” (Okay, guys, let’s go) because apparently “chiquillos” is very Chilean (Santiaguino, even, according to some).
My friends also think it’s cute when I say things that just come out so naturally, like “al tiro” or “guagua”. I have one friend who literally squeezes my cheeks when I say thing like that, because he finds it so charming.
I really don’t mind all this attention, but I find it puzzling.
You see, in the US I have had various friends whose first language was not English, but never once did it occur to me to tell them it was cute when they used slang or expressions that were typical to the Northeast. When they proclaimed it was “wicked hot” outside and wanted to go for a “creamee” it never even occurred to me to say, “Awww! Look! You’re learning the local lingo. HOW CUTE!” In fact, I don’t even think I noticed.