Fair warning: Just because you aced your foreign language classes in school, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to understand the locals in a foreign country. That’s because students in classrooms are generally taught a standardized version of the language. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s definitely a good starting point. But it’s rare that people actually talk that way. Real language is not standardized; it’s vibrant with local color and alive with slang words that will often leave you perplexed at best and embarrassed at worst.
That’s what happened to American Jared Romey he moved to Chile in 1997, according to an interview with AOL News:
“They didn’t speak the Spanish I was used to. It was fast, different and full of odd slang. I was totally lost.”
After weeks of confusion, Romey finally started to get the hang of it. Eventually, he parlayed his confusion into a series of guidebooks on Spanish slang. Currently, he has guides out for Argentina, Puerto Rico and, of course, Chile. He also runs a website, SpeakingLatino.com. And according to the site, he’s “still confounded by how many Spanish words exist for “panties.” My quest is to discover all those words.”
If you’re traveling to another country, it’s a good idea to learn some of the local slang if you can. This will not only help you communicate more clearly, it will also help you keep your foot out of your mouth. After all, a word that’s completely innocuous in one country can mean something much less innocent in another. When it comes to doing business in another language, these differences are yet another reason you need a professional, knowledgeable translator!