That's exactly what happened to former Maryland resident Jared Romey, author of Spanish slang books "Speaking Argento," "Speaking Boricua" and the most recent "Speaking Chileno" (RIL Editores) -- guides to understanding current slang in Argentina, Puerto Rico and Chile, respectively.
Back in 1997, Romey moved from the U.S. to Chile thinking he could get by solely on the years of Spanish language classes he had taken.
He was wrong. So wrong.
Turns out his intensive studies -- including many Spanish courses while getting his MBA in international business at the University of Southern Carolina -- didn't mean squat when it came to actually living in Chile and communicating with Chileans.
"They didn't speak the Spanish I was used to," Romey told AOL News in an interview from his home in San Juan, Puerto Rico. "It was fast, different and full of odd slang. I was totally lost."
During those first few weeks in Chile, Romey said he found himself second-guessing his Spanish skills, constantly confused over the correct words for simple things like popcorn, underwear and traffic jam.
Chilean slang was all around him and he didn't understand a lick of it.
Luckily, a concerned friend slipped Romey a copy of "How to Survive in the Chilean Jungle," a popular Chilean slang guide written in 1996 by John Brennan and Alvaro Toboada. From there, he started getting hip to the native tongue.
Fifteen years later, Romey -- who now sells haircare products internationally, traveling mostly between Puerto Rico and Miami -- runs his own Spanish jargon database at SpeakingLatino.com.
The online lexicon includes more than 8,200 offbeat Spanish slang words spanning countries like Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and, of course, Chile.
Romey translates common colloquialisms into English so that Americans can actually understand what the heck locals are saying when they visit South American countries.
So, how about a little language lesson?
Romey wasn't kidding when he said Chilean slang is a language in and of itself. Here are some examples of weird words that could leave anyone scratching their head.
- A calzon quitado: Literally, this translates into "taking off your underwear." In Chilean slang, this is an expression that means to get straight to the point; to hold nothing back.
- Chupar: This word means "suck." In slang, chupar refers to drinking booze -- lots of it.
- Anda a lavarte el hoyo: This phrase translates into "go wash your hole," as in your -- well, you know. In slang, this phrase is used to tell people to scram or go away.
- Andar con el dragon: Roughly translates into "being with the dragon." Colloquially, it means you're so hungover from drinking all night that your breath is kicking. You're practically breathing fire, much like a dragon might.
- Rayarse la pintura: A Spanish translator might tell you this means to "scratch the paint." However, a hip, jargon-speaking Chilean would tell you it actually means to rub up against someone sexually.
- Lumami: This happens to be one of Romey's favorite Chilean words. It's a creative slang term used to describe leftovers in your fridge, a combination of the first two letters of the words "lunes," "martes" and "miercoles," or Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Lumami refers to a meal made of leftovers from those days of the week.
- Hilo dental: This could mean one of two things. It literally means "dental floss." In slang, it refers to a woman's tiny, barely there panties, like a G-string or thong.
- Pelo choclo: Translates into "corn hair," which makes no sense whatsoever. Hip Chileans, however, use the term when describing a blonde.
- Gordo or Gorda: In traditional Spanish dictionaries, this translates into a fat man or woman. In Chilean slang, it's a term of endearment used to refer to your boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse or kids. It's as common as calling your loved ones "babe" in America.
- Pokemon: No, not the little yellow anime cartoon. In Chile, a pokemon is the term given to alternative, edgy teenagers who dress in skater tennis shoes and baggy pants that are about to fall off. Pokemons usually sport long hair, lots of piercings and listen to Reggaeton music.
- Tragarse un tony: This means to "swallow a clown." Um, awkward. In slang speak, however, this actually means to die of laughter.
- Mas doblado que Chino con visitas: Another Romey favorite. It translates into "more bent over than a Chinese man with visitors." In slang, it means you're so drunk, you're tipping over, much like a Chinese man bowing to visitors. "This one is hilarious," Romey said. "It really captures the Chilean spirit and the playfulness of the language."
Clearly they don't teach this type of Spanish in school.
I visited Santiago last month -- speaking fluent Spanish since I'm Chilean -- and found myself baffled by certain words and phrases. Pokemon, for example, had me asking lots and lots of questions.
Although there are hundreds of slang terms, Romey said you only really need to know two basic words to make it in Chile: "huevon" and "cagar" -- mild but extremely common curse words.
"There is just so much you can express in Chile with those two little words. Everybody uses those two base words when they're happy, upset or whatever. They come up in every conversation."
Romey said he's perplexed by the range of a word like "cagar."
"'La cago' means something is awesome, while 'me cago' means someone screwed you over. It goes from great to awful just like that," he explained with a laugh. "It's a powerful word."
Another word to look out for in Latin America: "bicho."
"It's amazing how much Spanish differs from country to country. Always be aware of that," he warned.
Despite the ever-changing slang in Latin America, Romey is determined to keep up with what the kids are saying these days. He said living in four Spanish-speaking countries over the years and constantly traveling has helped him stay abreast of word trends.
Currently he's taking submissions of new slang terms on his website from Spanish speakers. He's in the process of revamping the forum to include more handy tips for English-to-Spanish learners.
In time, Romey hopes Americans will get completely comfortable -- and confident -- speaking Chilean slang and realize how fun wacky wordplay is.
Make your life more weird! Follow AOL Weird News on Facebook and Twitter.