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Costa Rica Language Barrier

Living in Costa Rica – Although I know I am stating the obvious, one of the biggest obstacles you will have to overcome when living in Costa Rica is the language barrier.  This is a tourist country and if you are in a tourist one you will most likely be able to get by on limited to no Spanish.  If you decide to put down roots in Costa Rica you will need to speak the langauge.

learn-spanish-costa-ricaThe following is Kerry La’s experience with this and I will add a little bit at the end.

What can you expect to be the hardest part about living as a foreigner in Costa Rica? Allow me to share my experience with you. While many Ticos speak at least some English, I have found that the language barrier is the hardest thing about living here for me.

Costa Rican’s who speak English are often shy about it. They are afraid that it’s not advanced enough English or that they will make a mistake. I also don’t want to sound stupid when speaking Spanish so I hesitate as they do due to being shy or afraid.

I can do everyday things in Spanish such as ordering food or asking for directions. But when it comes to social activities and maintaining friendships I have trouble with my Spanish. People will be happy to talk to you in English when you first meet them but then they expect you to learn Spanish fluently by the second or third time you hang out with them. This unrealistic expectation to learn Spanish just by living here is really difficult to deal with. There are simply too many things to learn in only a short time.

I have been living here and trying to learn Spanish for two years. Some people come for a month and take intensive classes all day. They set the standard that people should be able to grasp a language in a month! Because these are expensive classes and I work during the day, I am unable to study so intensively. Ticos seem to appreciate that I’m trying but are easily frustrated by communicating with me. – Kerry La

I am going to add a little more about the necessity of learning Spanish in Costa Rica.

  • In order to date or talk to someone of the opposite sex you need to know the language, if not the limited dating pool gets really small quickly.
  • In doing business and in day to day activities like going to he mechanic or mom and pop stores in Costa Rica if you do not speak the language get ready to bend over and take it in many cases.  You will pay as they say down here “gringo prices” which are normally around double tico prices.  Gringos are stereotyped as rich whether they are or not and therefore send as a target to get screwed, not speaking the language makes you even more of a target.
  • If you are planning on living here and do not speak Spanish, honestly I think you are rude and egocentric.  If some one goes to the USA most expect them to speak English, same goes for a Spanish speaking country.

Take some Spanish classes. Try speaking and make mistakes. The only way you are going to learn is by trying.

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