Do You Need to Learn Spanish When Visiting or Moving to Costa Rica?
My thoughts on this matter at hand. .
When I first visited Costa Rica in November of 2002, I didn't know any Spanish at all. Well, maybe, "Como estas?", and "Hola!". . but that was it. I look back and I remember that I didn't have too much trouble at all navigating by myself in a foreign country, 1.132 miles from my home in South Florida. I found, to my surprise, that many ticos here knew enough English to understand what I had to say. I have some Italian in my blood from my mom's side of the family and it was very easy for me to talk with my hands, which, as you know, is an international language!
I do remember that during my initial two-week vacation here, I learned quite a bit of Spanish and it seemed to come very easy for me. I think back and I believe the key to success for me was that I WANTED to learn the language. I had a desire to be able to speak fluently. This very strong desire to learn really made a difference. There was a high learning curve, but I literally could not wait to utilize the words and phrases the next day that I studied hard learning the night before.
My first trip here was so much fun. I stayed in San Jose the first night. . ONLY THE FIRST NIGHT! I 'accidentally' booked my hotel stay at the Hotel Del Rey. You may or may not know that this hotel is notorious for its 'legal prostitution' theme. Well, you don't know me, but I had no desire to act in this sort of fashion. I remember landing at the Juan Santamaria International Airport and taking a taxi to the hotel very early on a Saturday morning. I think it was about 7:30 am. I walked through the front door of the hotel and I immediately noticed that for so early in the morning, there were so many women at the bar. At this moment, I had no idea that this was a house of ill repute. . no clue whatsoever! As I walked through the hotel lobby to the check-in counter, I saw that many of the women were looking my way. . and smiling at me! I am not a vain person at all, but for a fleeting moment, I chalked their staring at me was the result of my being a very handsome man! HA! Well, that idea was shut down quickly when I asked the man at the front desk why all these women were here in the first place!
I couldn't find another hotel for that night. I checked into my room and spent the rest of the day walking around downtown San Jose, practicing my Spanish. . my three-or-so words that I knew. Didn't get too far that day. Went to bed early and immediately checked out on Sunday morning and traveled by taxi to downtown Heredia, just north of the city. I found a wonderful little hotel about a block from the main park. It was perfect. They spoke English and I remember staying in the hotel just about all day trying to learn a few typical touristy phrases in Spanish so I could expand my horizons during the upcoming week! I learned, "I'd like a cup of black coffee, please", "Where do you catch the bus to Jaco Beach" and "I appreciated your help".
The next morning, I remember exploring Heredia. What a town it is. . full of history and very friendly people. The central market is amazing there. I put into use the new Spanish words and phrases that I learned only the day before! I felt like I was making progress. . slowly but surely. It was my third day third day in Costa Rica and at least I could communicate just a little! My big Spanish mistake that day was funny. . I had the entire restaurant laughing at me. I went into a local soda (a Costa Rican diner) and ordered a "tia fria", which means, "cold aunt". What I should have said was, "Quisiera un té frío, por favor", which translates to, "I would like an iced tea, please". Instead I said, "I would like a cold aunt, please"! Ah, those growing pains hurt sometimes! In Spanish, if you're off just one letter, it could get ugly!
But, growing pains are necessary. When first learning Spanish and really, THROUGHOUT THE PROCESS of becoming totally fluent, you will make many mistakes. Some will turn out to be so embarrassing that you may want to just revert back to English when you find someone who you know will understand you and totally trash learning Spanish altogether! Many of my friends have done just this! And, from what I see, they honestly get along fine.
With all of the resources on the internet. . all of the FREE or very inexpensive courses, there is no good reason NOT TO LEARN Spanish. I may suggest downloading an app called, "Duolingo". It works so well, taking you through your first words, then phrases and then full sentences and full thoughts! In addition, and just as important, it teaches you how to LISTEN and how to UNDERSTAND the language. Because not only do you have to learn to speak the language, you have to understand the person to whom you're speaking!
Also, there are many free podcasts that teach you well. In addition, you can find books that have short stories both in English and Spanish. It is set up perfectly for the new student. The English version of the short story is on the left and the Spanish version is on the right as your book is opened. This way, one can compare word for word the English to the Spanish! It works very well and really accelerates your progress.
Now, here's my last words to you. . and. . your first lesson in learning Spanish:
Te agradezco mucho por tu tiempo aquí hoy. Espero que se tome el tiempo de comenzar a aprender español. Su tiempo en Costa Rica será muy satisfactorio y se sentirá muy orgulloso de sí mismo. Es un proceso. Ten paciencia y mucho éxito!
Pura Vida. .
Also, please enjoy our over 1,180 episodes of our "Costa Rica Pura Vida Lifestyle Podcast Series". We are found on all major podcast venues, including iHeartRADIO, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Radio FM, Anchor, Podchaser & many more. Simply search our name online and enjoy!
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About the author
Costa Rica is a magical place. Since November, 2002, when I first visited this country, I have been in love with the people, the culture, its biodiversity, the food. . everything about it makes me happy! Now I share my excitement with you!