Is English important in Chile?

Postby mauricio » Sat Apr 03, 2010 3:35 pm

I am originally from Chile, but have lived in the US since I was very, very young. I now consider (and prefer) English as my first language. I can still speak Spanish, but my writing and reading are only mediocre. I have an undergraduate degree in Computer Science and a Masters degree in Business. I have worked for 2 of the largest American banks: Citibank and JP Morgan Chase so I have years of experience in large computer networks with global corporations.

My question is this, when I talk to people in Chile, they tell me that with my experience and language abilities that I would find a job without any trouble, making good money. I also have a friend that is an Electronics Engineer who tells me that if he could speak English, his salary would double.

With the influx of foreign investment in Chile, has English become that important that someone can make a decent living by having the ability to speak English alone?

In your experience as gringos there, has anyone offered you a job, just because they need someone that can communicate in English??

Any thoughts?

P.S.: I have an offer from an American company for $2 MM CLP a month. Can someone give me an equivalent to a US salary (Not looking for the exchange rate, but rather standard of living equivalent)
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Re: Is English important in Chile?

Postby allegro » Sat Apr 03, 2010 4:54 pm

Not sure about the English-in-Business aspect, but in terms of COL, if you are talking about Santiago, I would say the cost of living is around the same as a mid-sized American city. We moved here from Cleveland in September and our utilities have been running around the same as they did in Cle. Cable/internet/phone is about the same. Food ends up being more expensive because although ingredients are cheaper, there are fewer convenience products in the grocery store so I wind up buying more ingredients to make my own pasta, sour cream, sauces, seasonings, etc. Gas is way more expensive if you have to drive. I think I figured it to be around US$4.29 a gallon right now. Rent is inexpensive considering what you get for the money (at least in Cle, most rental homes or apartments are old if they are cheap). Great deals can be had for furnishings if you shop out in the country, but in the city it's overpriced and lots of bad quality junk. Cell phones are expensive but plans are cheaper. I haven't bought clothes here, so I can't speak to that, but prices for some brands seem to be similar (not so much for high-end or american brands). So in the end, I think the direct exchange rate is fairly equivalent to the COL in Santiago. No one has ever offered me a job here but among the stuffy upper-crust crowd we had the misfortune to fall in with (family ties), I think they expect that as a newly wed I should be brewing some babies soon instead of a job... heh.
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Re: Is English important in Chile?

Postby Miss Sally » Sat Apr 03, 2010 5:18 pm

Hi Mauricio,
I can't directly speak about the standard of living in Chile. But I CAN tell you that, last time I was there, I did some apartment shopping. I was looking at small one bedrooms in new buildings in Central Santiago. They were priced around $60,000 or less.

The same apartment here in New York would probably be over $200,000.

I've done voluntary English teaching down there and in virtually ALL the classes (from five years old through University age), in general, the interest in learning English did not seem to be very high. Even though it was explained to me that "American" companies are moving in there and are hiring English-speaking employees, the chilenos didn't seem very motivated to learn English.

I was amazed when I worked briefly in University classes for chilenos who were training to be English teachers because even their interest level wasn't much higher!

Good luck.
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Re: Is English important in Chile?

Postby Skraeling » Sun Apr 04, 2010 1:48 pm

I thought Chile was on a kick to have all school children speaking English in 20 years?
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Re: Is English important in Chile?

Postby Skraeling » Sun Apr 04, 2010 1:49 pm

I wonder if there is a niche for an engineer to teach technical English to other engineers? Just wondering.
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Re: Is English important in Chile?

Postby nwdiver » Sun Apr 04, 2010 2:19 pm

To get into the engineering school at PUC (Catholica) you have to pass an english entrance exam, some of the classes are in english and they realize it is an important part of the career. I think english is more important now than it was in the late 80s when I first moved to Chile.
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Re: Is English important in Chile?

Postby Miss Sally » Mon Apr 05, 2010 9:51 am

Apparently, the Chilean government has mandated that all Chilean school children must be taught English.

But I think it will be slow to catch on. From what I've seen, most kids (or even adults) don't see the value of it, don't see how it relates to them personally.

I presume that the government's goal is more global opportunities, better jobs, etc. It's a slow process and, until chilenos see that it benefits them, I think learning English will be undervalued.

p.s. I'm learning Spanish. What a long, arduous, frustrating (and rewarding) challenge---at least, for this old gringa!
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