Learning to speak Spanish while living in Costa Rica is extremely important. It will increase your enjoyment of life, decrease feelings of frustration and loneliness, save you money, and you will even be safer if you can communicate effectively.
In my humble opinion, I think it is just plain rude not to try to talk to the people in whose country you are a guest. That said, there is no getting away from the fact that it can take a lot of time and dedication to learn a new language. Anyone who says you can be fluent in Spanish in just a few months is lying. I have lived here Thirteen years and I am far from fluent but do pretty good. However, living in Costa Rica and learning Spanish does not mean you have to study every waking minute either. Here are a few pointers to get you going on your journey learning to be a Spanish speaker.
1. Learn a few words (please, thank you, have a nice day) and start using them from Day One. Before you run an errand, practice a phrase you might need and look for a chance to use it.
2. If possible, spend an hour each day learning either with a textbook or an online course. Websites such as duolingo.com, babbel.com, fluentu.com, rosettastone.com all offer courses for every level of learner. If a daily goal is unreachable, try to study at least once a week. If you let months go by without learning, you start to backslide.
3. Better yet, take a course at a local language school. This has the dual benefit of making friends while you learn.
4. Watch Spanish TV and movies with English subtitles or the other way around. It helps you get an ear for the pronunciation and cadence of the language. For the same reason, listen to podcasts and audio courses.
5. Volunteer in your community. You will be immersed in the language and the culture, and you will also accomplish something good.
6. Find a language partner–someone who wants to learn English as much as you want to learn Spanish.
7. the cheapest way to learn is by using a translator as in Google translate. Start texting with a Spanish speaking friend. Don’t know what to write? Type what you want to say in English in the translator, then read the Spanish so you start learning the words, then copy and paste in the text message. It is not the most grammatically correct but it is a start.
Fortunately for us, Spanish pronunciation rules are few and very consistent, unlike English. The vowels have one sound each, and there are no exceptions. Almost all consonants have only one sound. There is only one silent letter (H). The accent is always on the last syllable except when the word ends in n, s, or a vowel or there is a written accent present elsewhere. That’s about it!
Did you know you already know hundreds of words in Spanish? That is because of Spanish cognates–words that are the same in both languages. Since Spanish and English both have Latin roots there are hundreds of words that are the same or very close. They may not be pronounced exactly the same, but once you have the rules down for Spanish pronunciation (see above) you have a huge, instant vocabulary.
The website realfastspanish.com lists hundreds of these words. Here is a sampling: actor, admirable, agenda, alcohol, animal, area, auto, bar, cable, central, cheque, chocolate, club, collar, confusion, decision, doctor, extension, familiar, festival, final, gas, hobby, hospital, hotel, idea, individual, invisible, legal, local, material, menu, metal, multiple, musical, natural, normal, original, pasta, perfume, personal, popular, region, religion, rural, sexual, social, solo, superficial, taxi, television, terrible, total, tropical, universal, and visible.
Here is another interesting fact about Spanish words that will help you express yourself. Most nouns ending in ’tion’ in English can be coverted to Spanish by replacing with ’cion’. Words ending in ’ary’ can be converted to Spanish by replacing with a ’ario’. Examples: anniversary=aniversario, temporary=temporario, and so on. English adjectives ending in ‘ic’ can be converted to Spanish by adding an ‘o’–authentic=autentico, basic=basico, electronic=electronico and so on. And finally, English adjectives ending in ‘ous’ can be converted to Spanish by replacing the ending with a ‘oso’. For example, delicious is delicioso, and precious is precioso. Got it, it is not that hard learning Spanish
When learning Spanish or any other language the important to try to remember is to stay humble. But TRY to talk Spanish, this is the most important part. Your humility invites other to help you and their support, in turn, sustains you to stay motivated even when you think it is hopeless.
You may be embarrassed to stumble on your words, but Ticos love for you to try to speak their language. They will never make fun of you; rather they will encourage you to keep trying. So, stay humble and motivated, learning Spanish is a great way to make new friends!
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