Learning a new language is often difficult, but necessary, if you want to get the most out of your stay. Try to start the learning process before you move. Listen to Internet radio stations in Spanish and read as much as you can in the language you want to learn.
If you live somewhere where there are native Spanish speakers, you might want to advertise for a language exchange partner to practise what you are learning. It is recommended, however, when travelling to any Spanish speaking country, to become familiar with the local Spanish dialect, since many words mean different things.
Often the same thing has different names in different countries. Of course you can understand what you are told and you will be able to communicate if you have studied another style of Spanish, but you may encounter some funny situations if you are not accustomed to Chilean Spanish.
After your arrival
Practice is the best way to learn the language. As soon as you arrive in the country, mingle with the locals. Talk to as many people as you can. Chileans are easy going, friendly and talkative. Don’t worry about making mistakes when talking; it is from your mistakes that you learn. Listen to the pronunciation, the melody of the language. A lot of vocabulary can be learned through daily contact. And don’t hesitate to ask people to speak slower, Chilean Spanish is quite fast.
Do not make the mistake most language students worldwide make. It is very tempting to speak Spanish in classes and talk other languages with your fellow students after class. Of course you should hang out with your fellow students, but if you really want to learn the language, establish contact with the locals too. It might be hard at first due to the fact that you will have to make more effort to communicate, but that is the best way to learn.
There are many language schools and courses you can take to learn Chilean Spanish. The larger cities have more schools and programmes but small towns often have Spanish schools as well.
The official international certificate of Spanish is DELE, Diploma de Español Lengua Extranjera, and consists of an exam with grammar, vocabulary, conversation, reading and writing tests. It has different levels from A1 to C2 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
The institution in charge of this exam is the Cervantes Institute (Instituto Cervantes), you can find at least one in every country of the world. You can find information online about the closest center to you or in Chile and about the conditions and dates for the exam. In some countries, other language centers have some agreement with the Cervantes Institute to pass the exam in their name although it is always corrected by trained teachers of the Institute.
Before going to Chile, and depending on whether you are going to study, work or just travel, you may want to obtain information on how necessary this certificate is going to be for you. The higher the level is, the more expensive the test. If it is absolutely required that you have a certain level of Spanish upon arrival, you should prepare with somebody familiar with DELE tests.