Listen to Episode 25 of "Coffee with Gringos" here or on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and Soundcloud.


Paige: You're listening to Coffee with Gringos. I'm Paige Sutherland.

Mariah: And I'm Mariah Wika. Welcome back to the podcast! This week on Coffee with Gringos, we have a special guest with us.

Matias: Hey! I'm Matias Concha. I'm a friend of Paige. I actually lived in Boston for the past ten months.

Mariah: So, Matias is with us today because we always talk here on Coffee with Gringos about our experiences living in Chile, but it's not often that we here from a Chilean who's had a chance to live in the United States, and so today, we'll be hearing from Matias. And remember, as you listen, if you get lost, the transcript and vocabulary guide are on the website to help you out.

Paige: So, because you are new to the show, just introduce yourself f a little bit more... how old you are, where you're from, what you do you for work?

Matias: So, I'm 23 years old, and my name is Matias Cocha. And, I'm a music producer. That's the reason why I went to Boston for about ten months to learn from the music industry there, have the chance to work in a studio, and be more involved in the real music industry.

Mariah: Okay, so you say that you went to Boston to have a chance to get involved in the music industry - did you do an internship?

Matias: Yeah.

Mariah: Okay, where did you intern?

Matias: I interned in Soundtrack Studios, which is a very large chain of studios that are all over the United States. Also there's one in Mexico too, and they do the post-production of movies, series, and also they do the TV commercials and stuff. So, it's a lot of full post-production ADR, and it's a really, really great studio. And I had a great time there. There were a lot of people who were really nice to me, even though I had this accent of a Chilean person, they really understood everything I tried to say all the time. So, they were really nice, I didn't have a hard time about it.

Paige: And so, was that your first time in the US, or have you been there before?

Matias: I've been there about three times. I have an aunt there in Boston too. Actually, I lived there when I went the past ten months. And I have been there about three times for three, four months for vacations, mostly to see my family. That's where I met Paige.

Mariah: Small world!

Matias: So I learned English when I was really little. I wasn't really good at it, at all. I think that most of my English comes from movies, series, music - mostly. Because there were things in English. So, when you want to understand the lyrics of the song, you need to just go for it and try to understand everything.

Paige: And did you, before you took this internship and moved to Boston for ten months, how was your English before you arrived?

Matias: Um, not that bad, but the only problem I had was being good grammatically. Like, for example, sometimes I didn't use "an apple", I said "a apple." Stuff like that. Always the meaning of what I was saying was correct, or people could understand me, but I wasn't speaking really, really well. I was kind of Yoda for a little bit.

Mariah: Yoda! But I think that's a really good point is that you don't need to speak perfectly to be successful in another country. Right? And you don't need to speak perfectly to get your message across. Like, the most important thing is that you can communicate yourself, right?

Matias: Yeah, that's right.

Mariah: So, when you first arrived, I'm guessing that you spoke English almost the whole time, correct? When you were in the United States.

Matias: I mean, my aunt speaks Spanish, but she doesn't Spanish with me.

Mariah: Okay.

Matias: She just does it with my mom or people that don't speak English, so yeah, mostly all the time I was there, I was speaking English.

Mariah: So, what was it like to go from, y'know, obviously living in Chile, speaking Chilean Spanish, and then suddenly being in the United States and speaking English 24/7. Can you tell us about how that felt?

Matias: Okay, so it felt a little bit weird because usually when you are thinking, you are thinking in a language. So, when I was here, of course I was thinking in Spanish. So, every single time I had to talk to people or express something, I had to translate at the same moment that I was actually speaking. So, when time passed and I was involved with all English all the time, that started to change, so I started to think in English. So, it was really easy to speak in English. But now, I've been here for about a month and a half, maybe two months, and I'm thinking in Spanish again.

Mariah: It's amazing how our brain can change and transfer between languages in that way.

Paige: And how were you, like you said, you learned most of your English through the movies, through songs... when you arrived in the US, were there accents? I mean, Boston has a very distinct accent... was that difficult for you?

Matias: Yeah, it was. Like... for example, one time I went to Maine, and also New Hampshire. And there were some people that I really couldn't understand... like I kind of figured out some words, but the meaning... I couldn't really understand the people because their accent is really... it's not slang at all, but it's more connected between every single word, so it's like you're singing something.

Mariah: There's not space in between the words, yeah.

Paige: Were you talking about my mom and aunt?!

Matias: No!

Paige: My mom and aunt have the thickest Boston accents.

Matias: I mean, I learned English with that accent.

Mariah: Right, that's true. That's a good point. So, a little shift from talking about language. When people in Chile who haven't been to the United States before ask you to describe the culture of the United States, what are some things that you say?

Matias: Okay, so, I have a little criticism about how people are in the United States. I think that the context of living in a city in the USA is really individual. For example, a little example that I have. When I got to McDonalds here, I have to talk to the waiter and say what I want and everything. And there's usually a little bit of chit-chat with the person. And people are more communicative with each other. You talk more when you go out. What happened to me in the USA is that I didn't have to because everything was programmed. Like, for example, I went to McDonalds, there was this screen, and I just ordered what I want, and they passed it to me. And I was like, okay... I didn't talk to anybody.

Mariah: Right, it's really impersonal.

Matias: Yeah, so, that actually has a consequence in how people are culturally. I believe people are more individualistic in the USA because of that, mostly. Because of how the economy and the merchandising is all about you not doing anything... you just being in the comfort of your home and having everything set.

Mariah: Right.. and efficiency and maximizing profit, right? Y'know, time is money in the United States, and I think you're right, I think that reflects negatively in the culture, in my opinion.

Paige: Was there anything else that really stood out to you? I mean, I know you've travelled to the US, but you'd never lived there and been part of the culture for so long.

Matias: For example, I had to take the train from Groveland to Boston, which is like an hour train. And sometimes, there were people that were really nice on the train... they sit next to you and they talk to you and everything, and it happened to me a lot that people started talking to me, and I started to speak in English, and they'd notice that I wasn't from the USA, and a lot of times, people just stopped talking to me.

Mariah: Really?

Matias: And I don't know why it was like that. I don't think it was like racial thing, it was maybe because they had a little bit of a hard time understanding what I said, even though I think I can express myself really good.

Mariah: Absolutely.

Matias: But, having to listen to a different accent is a little bit of effort for some people, and some people just don't want to make that effort. They prefer to be quiet.

Mariah: Right, right.

Paige: Did you pick up any slang in your ten months living in the US?

Matias: I think the bro thing! Like, when you talk to your friends, and you say, "Hey bro!"

Mariah: Hey bro!

Matias: That really stuck with me. I don't think I got stuck with a lot of slang because I was mostly working, and you don't talk like that when you work. 

Mariah: Do you think that people from the United States use more slang or Chileans use more slang.

Matias: Chileans. Absolutely. I mean, usually like the language of Chile is dominated by slang.

Mariah: Absolutely. So, when you... now that you're back in Chile, is there something that you miss about the United States?

Matias: McDonald's. 

Paige: You have it here!

Mariah: For real?!

Matias: But there it's different! 

Mariah: Well, what's special about it? 

Matias: I don't know, the burgers are better.

Mariah: Do you miss anything other than McDonald's? Because, Matias, that was the most stereotypical thing you could have possibly said to us!

Matias: I know, I know it was a joke. So, what I really miss about it is how people take stuff really seriously. Like, in the industrial way. For example, here, being a music producer is way harder than it was for me there in the United States, even though I was just doing an internship and taking little jobs. Because people don't talk about business opportunities without doing them. So, that's a really big difference, that here I need to take care of a lot of stuff, and half of that stuff is just in the air because it doesn't happen. And I think the professionalism in whatever industry is the same. In the USA, it's way better than here. And even, for example friends' things. Like, you say, "Hey, I wanna go to that place!" And people say, "Okay!" And it happens, y'know? So, here, people are more up in the air.

Mariah: Let's play it by ear! 

Matias: So, that's one thing I miss about it.

Paige: That makes sense.

Mariah: And when you were in the US, what did you miss most about Chile?

Matias: Parties. No, I missed my friends really. And my family. I'm really close to all my friends, and they are a part of my day-to-day, and not having them was really hard for me. I usually to my friends on facetime, like all the time when I was there.

Mariah: Right. WhatsApp, constantly.

Paige: And, y'know, now that you've been in the US ten months, you're back, what kind of advice would you give to our listeners who may be thinking of spending some time abroad in the US.

Matias: I would say... go with all the time to really get to know the place you're going to... like, don't be like the tourist that goes for a week to New York and just go to the normal places. Dig a little deeper because there are some really nice places. There are some really nice mountains, parks. Don't go there to go to a city and buy stuff. Go there to really get to know the culture and what's pretty. Because, for example, I went to the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and it was probably the most beautiful place I ever saw. And, I didn't know about it before I was there. There's a lot of beautiful places in the USA that people don't know about because of all the cities.

Mariah: Right, that's a really great point. And that's something that I wish people knew too because for example I'm from Minnesota, in you know, the center north of the US, and I've never been to New York, and I've never been to Miami, but I've seen so many national parks out west, and they're just some of the most beautiful places, but nobody has any idea that they exist because it's all about New York, New York, New York, Disney World.

Matias: Or going to Boston or going to Houston. There's more. There's always more.

Mariah: And what advice would you give to somebody who's learning English right now and they either want to live abroad or travel abroad, but they're feeling nervous about the language component.

Matias: I would say... just go for it. I mean, if you have a very small base of speaking the language, you're trying to speak and you cannot actually make words... and I don't know, you have to find the bathroom and stuff. I think the best way to learn English or any language is to be there, just to be with it 24/7, even when you go to sleep, say "good night" instead of "buenas noches." Being there is the best way to learn English, so you just need to go there, even though if you study, the best way to learn is to do that.

Paige: Thanks, Matias, for coming on the show, it really is so great to hear kind of the opposite experience.

Mariah: Right, and I have no doubt that it's useful for our listeners to hear from somebody who spent time travelling abroad and who took those risks and spoke English in that context because a lot of our listeners are learning English because they're interested in travelling or they're interested in living abroad. So, thanks for being an example for them! 

Matias: Thank you guys for inviting me!

Paige: A good example, a successful one.

Mariah: Yes, exactly, exactly. Thanks so much for listening, and we'll talk to you soon!


Actually (adverb) - honestly, really

Example: I actually lived in Boston for ten months!

Often (adverb) - frequently

Example: On Coffee with Gringos, we often share our perspectives on Chile.

Chance (noun) - opportunity

Example: It’s not often that we here from a Chilean who's had a chance to live in the United States

Internship (noun) - a temporary position to receive training in a business or industry

Example: Matias did an internship at a music studio in the United States.

Chain (noun) - in the context of business, a group of businesses owned by the same company

Example: I interned in Soundtrack Studios, which is a very large chain of studios that are all over the United States.

Post-production (noun) - the process of editing music, movies, or series

Example: Matias worked in Soundtrack Studios and did an internship in post-production.

ADR (noun) - Automated Dialogue Replacement, an audio editing process

Example: The studio that Matias worked in specialized in ADR.

Successful (adjective) - doing well, achieving results

Example: You don't need to speak English perfectly to be successful in another country.

Get your message across (phrase) - communicate yourself well

Example: Perfect English isn’t necessary to get your message across!

Lyrics (noun) - the words of a song

Example: Memorizing lyrics is a great way to practic English!

Weird (slang, adjective) - strange, different

Example: Sometimes it’s weird to switch between languages in your brain.

Thick (adjective) - heavy

Example: Paige’s mom and aunt have very thick Boston accents.

Chit-chat (slang) - casual conversation

Example: When I go to McDonald’s in Chile, there’s usually a little bit of chit-chat with the person at the counter when I place my order.

Impersonal (adjective): not personal, disconnected

Example: Sometimes in the US, things are more impersonal because services (like ordering at McDonald’s) are automated.

Maximize profit (phrase) - earning the most money possible

Example: In the economic system in the United States, people work very hard to maximize profit.

Hey bro! (slang) - “bro” is short for brother, an informal way of greeting a friend, particularly a friend who identifies as male

Example: Hey bro! What are you up to this weekend? Let’s go grab a drink.

Up in the air (idiom) - when plans are flexible, not fixed

Example: In Chile, when people make plans, they’re more up in the air. They don’t always happen!

Play it by ear (idiom) - to make a decision according to circumstances, rather than making a fixed plan

Example: I’m not sure what my plan is for the weekend, but I think I’ll have time to get a drink with you! We can play it by ear.

Dig deeper (idiom) - to explore more than just the most common or basic parts of something

Example: Dig deeper! Go to places in the United States that aren’t so touristy.

Go for it! (slang) - try something with enthusiasm and confidence

Example: My advice for English language learners is to go for it! If you have the opportunity to live in another country and speak English, you should totally do it.