Santiago de Chile, the cosmopolitan capital of Chile, has been emerging as one of the strongest countries financially in the Southern Hemisphere. With this new burst of financial power comes the need to communicate with other countries to further this upward motion, and this is where I fit in. I have lived in Chile for the past 6 years and have seen a steady incline in the need to speak english
. Many businesses hire teachers
like myself to help with conference calls, translation, and teaching their employees how to communicate well in english
. But during this time that I have been teaching I have noticed a problem that plagues a lot of Chilean speakers. It is the use of the -ch and -sh sounds.
In the beginning I did not understand why these sounds were so difficult to be made. Being as though they as well have sounds similar in spanish
, for example churros, chocolate, or even concepcion for that matter. So as time went on and I taught more people, the problem became more evident. I noticed that when I would teach people from the upper class per se, there would be a serious problem with pronouncing words with the -sh sound. Instead of saying "shop" they would say "chop". But when I would teach someone who was in the so-called lower class they would have no problem pronouncing these types of words. So I sought out to get to the bottom of this, and to figure out how I can help these students pronounce these types of words well.
One day while having class with one of the "upper class" students we stumbled upon the word 'showers' as in when it rains a lot, and the student pronounced it 'chowers' and I corrected him, then when he repeated it back to me he said it the same way. I then asked him, "why is this a hard word to pronounce"? He told me that in Chile when a person uses the -sh sound it is a sign of low class, and poor education. For me that was shocking, because I never would have thought something like that would prevent people from trying to pronounce words well. I then told him that those rules do not apply
and if he continues to pronounce the words that way, it will be difficult for people to understand him or they will misunderstand what he is trying to say. He took my advice, tried a couple of words, and from then on he had no problem with those types of words.
My next problem would be how to get the rest of my students to follow suit without sounding like a person who has no respect for Chilean culture. I decided to just make note of the students who are really having these problems and to just talk to them privately instead of explaining this to the whole class, which could cause embarrassment for all people involved.
Understanding the reason behind this pronunciation problem gave me a glimpse into a part of Chilean culture few outsiders ever get to see, the classist side. While no culture is perfect, and this being one of the few problems Chileans have, it can be said that living south of the equator truly has its perks. One of those perks is the fact that now, most of my Chilean students understand the difference, and why it is important to distinguish between the –ch sound and the –sh sound.