English in Chile

Use of English in Ads:

One thing that surprised me a lot when I first came over here was how little English most people spoke (my previous international experience was in Europe, where I was surprised at how many people spoke at least some English). It was great for me, because I spoke Spanish and I wanted as many opportunities to speak Spanish as I could get.

As time went on, I became more aware of the random flashes of English around the city. For example, there were a lot of shirts or jackets with English lettering on them. There was the stereotypical “I love New York” shirts, but there were also really random shirts that made me wonder if the people wearing the clothes understood what the words meant (the best example I can think of was when I saw a young man wearing an “I just pooped today!” sweatshirt. There would be shirts with horrible grammar (not the deliberate, but missing an article or something along those lines) or shirts that just completely did not make sense. It seemed almost to me like English shirts were something exotic, almost like how Americans get Chinese tattoos that look cool and are supposed to mean “Peace” or “Love” but actually end up meaning “Duck” or “Pool”.

The entire first month that I was in Chile, I was quite disgruntled because I knew that “Beauty and the Beast” was coming out in the States in March, and I wouldn’t be able to see it (I’m a rather high key Disney fanatic). Then I found out that it would be coming out in a theater very near my Chilean house, and I was hesitantly excited. I didn’t know if the movie would still be in English, or if it would be dubbed in Spanish. My friend and I ended up going to the mall where the movie theater was located to go see a movie there as a sort of “test run”. If the movie was subtitled in Spanish but the speaking was still done in English, “Beauty and the Beast” would be a go.

When we got to the mall, the first thing that I noticed were the advertisements. There were so many advertisements for all of these major international brands plastered around the store fronts as well as throughout the mall – but the advertisements were all in English. It seemed rather strange to me that companies would be advertising in English to a population that didn’t really speak English…

After asking some of my Chilean professors about this phenomenon, it seems that international marketers will use English in their advertisements to imply a sense of status and a sense of luxury. There was actually a campaign called “Lenga madre solo hay una” against this very same trend by the Real Academia Espanola. Apparently Anglicisms (English words and phrases) have become very popular in the Spanish speaking world, and products marketed with English words can often be viewed as “trendy” or “cool”. I found this trend to be quite fascinating, both from a cultural standpoint as well as a marketing standpoint. It doesn’t always pay off to have ads in the country’s native language (although if you want to advertise SALE, make sure you use “LIQUIDACIÓN” and not “SALE”, because “sale” means “he left” in Spanish.

And for the record, we found out on that excursion that movie theaters in Chile have Hollywood movies with Spanish subtitles in addition to having the movies be dubbed with Spanish voice. We did get to see Beauty and the Beast – and it was awesome!

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